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Toffee talk

Chatting with Newport Beach confection entrepreneur Betsy Thagard

Catalina Island spiny lobster graced the table at Nyesha Arrington's restaurant without walls.

When Betsy Thagard’s children started college, the bubbly brunette had no plans of becoming a bored empty nester. Instead the Newport Beach mom harnessed her culinary passion and launched her own business, B. toffee.

Thagard’s buttery confection melds a sugary caramel crunch with a layer of chocolate coated in toasted pecans. It’s exactly what you want when you crave toffee. It is also an addicting snack for candy connoisseurs. Before the holidays,Coastcaught up with Thagard and asked her about B. toffee’s secret recipe, her plans for the future and how 2,000 elite Robb Report subscribers discovered it.

Coast: We see your toffee everywhere. Are there any new partnerships you can share with us?

Betsy Thagard: We actually just got into Bristol Farms. We are now officially in all 14 stores and 50-plus Whole Foods. We are also in Dean & DeLuca, from Napa to the East Coast. Locally you can find us at Hi-Time, A Market and so many specialty stores. … Ron Salisbury, the owner of The Cannery, loves our toffee. He was like “Why aren’t we serving this?” Now the toffee is on The Cannery’s dessert menu.

For the longest time it was just me building these relationships. On my own I got B. toffee into Whole Foods. I pounded the doors of local stores. It was an eight-month process. Dean & DeLuca is the same thing. I’ve been to Napa a lot of times because my sister lives up there. She’s actually a dentist. “It’s forgiving on your teeth,” she says. So now we joke it’s the only dentist-recommended toffee on the market.

Coast: Besides making toffee, what are your other aspirations?

BT: One of these days, when I have time, I would love to come up with a cookbook. Simple things like dipping strawberries with sour cream and sprinkling it with toffee or mixing toffee-tinis (an espresso-infused martini with toffee syrup). I’d like to write about entertaining and share easy recipes.

Coast: Speaking of recipes, is the B. toffee recipe a family secret?

BT: It is a secret. It wasn’t a recipe that was already in the family.

I loved to make something special during the holidays for friends and family. I looked up different recipes and I tweaked it so that it was my own. So that when people taste it, they can detect that the consistency is forgiving on the teeth. It doesn’t feel like it’s going to pull your filling. That is because of the process it takes to make it – and that is a secret.

Coast: What does your toffee have to do with the Robb Report?

BT: Robb Report sends out these Robb Vices boxes to an elite group of members. They don’t just approve anybody because they want it to be special. They pursued us this year for their holiday box. For the Robb Reportto hear about us, it’s just amazing to me.

Coast: It sounds like somebody at the Robb Report must be addicted to B. toffee.

BT: We were thinking that Goldman Sachs out of New York – one of our corporate accounts – maybe someone over there gifted it to them. That’s the great thing about the snowball effect. A corporate client might send out 500 gifts, and those people potentially become new clients for us.Robb Report is sending our signature canister, which is our most popular item, to 2,000 people. It’s the size that most of our specialty stores carry. We’re pretty proud of it. It won the top gold honors at the Taste Awards in San Francisco for best packaging and top toffee.             

Coast: What other partnerships are you excited about now?

BT: We started a giving initiative. So we choose different charities and philanthropies that we want to be a part of, and for this fourth quarter we have chosen UCI MIND, which benefits research for Alzheimer’s disease. It’s very near and dear to my heart since my father passed away from Alzheimer’s disease in April. He was a doctor and he was doing clinical studies and trials for the disease with a group of doctors that specialize in that. His dream was to donate his brain for Alzheimer’s research. Now his brain is at UCI. So we’re honored to be a part of UCI MIND. They’re doing a big gala at the Balboa Bay Club. We’re providing party favors and donating a portion of our sales to the cause.

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