Interview with a person who developed FamilyMart’s Butter Coffee
FamilyMart’s Butter Coffee enabled us to access and drink butter coffee. Butter coffee has gone viral recently. Are there any secret stories behind the scenes? We interviewed the person in charge of its blending technique.
Difficulty making a totally new product
—So first, what was the role of your company in the development process of FamilyMart’s Butter Coffee?
Sunami: We, Fuji Seiyu, prepared all the ingredients for the butter coffee by“emulsifying” grass-fed butter with MCT, the medium-chain triglyceride oils, we gathered. The end products are finalized as packages after mixing coffees from the coffee manufacturer with our ingredients.
Yuzawa: Being able to make butter coffee requires a special technique to mix the coffee with the two kinds of oil, grass-fed butter and MCT oil, and make it stable without oil-water separations. It is hard to add the butter and MCT oil to the coffee and stabilize the mixture, so we mixed water with the oil in order to first emulsify them. This first process makes it easier to mix them with coffee later on. Emulsification is the separation of liquids, such as oil and water, and they are mixed and made stable by dispersing them. For example, imagine well-hand shaken dressings and sauces for pasta. Milk is actually emulsified liquid from fat and water in the cow’s body. Our company has been making products such as whipped cream and chocolate and has accumulated techniques for the emulsification of oil and water. That’s why we joined the product development.
—What did you think about the development plan for Butter Coffee at first?
Yuzawa: I was in the trial-and-error process because it was a totally new product for me. The team leader at FamilyMart had a clear-cut image of the end product from the very beginning, but we had no idea. We had not even seen a butter coffee!
—Making a totally new product. That was the challenge.
Yuzawa: Exactly. In the usual development process, we buy end product samples and examine them. But this time, it was the first time for us to make a product without any model. We started with the research using books and articles and figured them out, but the information in these books varied considerably, like the accurate amount of butter or MCT oil. So, we made many estimate sheets on cost-and-product balance and discussed them with the project team.
Using grass-fed butter was priority #1. “Grass-fed” means grazing in the grassland. Almost all the dairy cattle these days are raised using the grain-fed method. Few use the grass-fed method. We had not dealt with grass-fed butter at this point. We needed to search for a company we could ask. Finally, we found a dairy manufacturer in New Zealand to make the quality grass-fed butter.
—What about MCT oils?
Sunami: We have been dealing with palm oils manufactured in the southern islands. Some of the companies we are working with also make MCT oils .In terms of source and distribution, it is important to keep a stable supply.
—How do you emulsify the butter and the MCT oil?
Yuzawa: We use a piece of equipment called a“homogenizer” at our factory. You may know the mixing process for homemade dressings or pasta sauces that use beaters. Our products range from ones that add oils into water, such as mayonnaise or whipped cream, to ones that add a small amount of water into the oils or vice versa, like chocolate. We obtained accumulated techniques and the know-how through these emulsification products.
—Which part did you feel was especially difficult?
It was difficult to build long time span stability and achieve the creamy feeling on the tongue because the rates of butter and MCT oil were so high. The emulsification itself was easy. Through much trial and error, we improved the amounts of the ingredients, the order adding them, and how to produce and so on.
Buying in bulk, drinking every day. Going on a diet with it.
Yuzawa: It was the enthusiasm that the FamilyMart team had for making a great product. They had a clear blueprint for what they wanted to make from the very beginning. So, to meet their enthusiasm and expectations, we made many proposals.
—What was your opinion of the product when you first tried it?
Sunami: I drink it every day. I am a dessert product developer as well. I need to sample desserts so many times. I am getting fat around the belly, and in the past, I sometimes received bad results on health checks. I thought this Butter Coffee job was a great opportunity to try the diet from the book. Now I drink it at breakfast every day. I have continued to drink it since it was released. The feeling of satiety is long-lasting. I don’t feel hungry even after lunchtime. I keep about twenty bottles in the fridge. I always buy it in bulk at the FamilyMart nearby. The staff at the shop may think, “What’s going on?” Ha! Ha!
—How is the taste?
Sunami: Great! I don`t usually drink black coffee. I usually drink a Matcha Latte or a sweet Café Latte. For me, this butter coffee is so good because it is unsweetened but very rich.
Yuzawa: In my case, I love black coffee. But drinking so many black coffees sometimes make me sick to my stomach, so it must be good for this kind of situation. Adding milk can make it too sweet for me. Butter coffee is creamy but not so sweet. That’s the perfect balance.
—Please give us some final comments on the end product?
Yuzawa: After I joined the company, it was the very first time for me to make a product without an end product in the market. Making a totally new product was so exciting. It was quite different from other projects that exceed targets or make the product better. I am thankful for the chance to join the team. I recommend this product for people who feel black coffee is too strong, but sweetened ones are also too much. Butter Coffee is not sweet, but creamy. I think it is best for them.
Sunami: At the beginning, I couldn`t imagine what butter coffee was. I wondered how people would feel about it and if they would like it. I just believed in the idea of the FamilyMart team members and investigated how the development could achieve their vision. I was totally satisfied. Now I see people at shops sometimes purchasing it in bulk. To be honest, I was skeptical if it would work for health because it has butter in it! I believe so many people may think like me. But we made the product based on both the knowledge in the books and our own experience. I hope people will try it once, and spread the word about Butter Coffee through the social media.
—Thank you very much for your interesting stories behind the scene!
※Article information as of Jan 16, 2018