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Function Meets Flavor: Matha Figaro Of ButACake On 5 Things You Need To Create A Successful…

Function Meets Flavor: Matha Figaro Of ButACake On 5 Things You Need To Create A Successful Functional Foods Brand

An Interview With Wanda Malhotra

Clear Brand Identity and Mission: Establishing a clear brand identity and mission is the first big one. Consumers should understand what sets your brand apart and why it resonates with them. For ButACake, our mission of crafting cannabis-infused functional foods with a focus on taste and purpose stems from my personal journey in hospitality and my passion for wellness and sharing with the community. This clarity of purpose has helped us connect with consumers on a deeper level, fostering trust and loyalty.

As the appetite for foods that offer health benefits beyond basic nutrition continues to grow, the market for functional foods has exploded. Consumers are no longer just asking for delicious flavors; they demand that their foods also support their lifestyle, health, and well-being. This intersection of function and flavor is not just a trend; it’s a movement towards a future where every bite counts towards better health. As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Matha Figaro.

ButACake, founded in 2016 by visionary Matha Figaro, stands as the inaugural Black woman-owned cannabis brand in both Delaware and New Jersey. Renowned for redefining the functional foods landscape, ButACake offers premium buccal cannabis products that seamlessly blend function and flavor. Positioned as trailblazers in innovation and health, ButACake looks forward to expanding its influence to other East Coast states where cannabis is legal in 2024.

Thank you so much for joining us! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?

My journey into the world of functional foods and cannabis-infused edibles began unexpectedly for me. Initially, I embarked on my culinary path, earning a degree from Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts in 2010 and honing my skills as a fine dining chef. In 2015, I launched ButACake as a baked goods business, offering non-infused butter cakes and seasonal sauces at farmers markets in Jersey City.

The pivotal moment occurred when a customer approached me with a unique request for a cannabis-infused cake to help his mother cope with chemotherapy side effects. Moved by the opportunity to use my baking expertise for a meaningful purpose, I delved into experimenting with cannabis-infused products in the kitchen. The positive response led ButACake to evolve into an exclusively edibles brand.

Amidst the evolving landscape of functional foods, I saw the potential to create cannabis-infused products that not only delighted taste buds but also served functional purposes. This perspective fueled my determination to navigate the challenging regulatory environment in New Jersey, where ButACake faced many hurdles. Despite setbacks and financial challenges during the licensing process, I remained committed to transitioning from the legacy market to legal operations.

My focus on creating functional, health-conscious cannabis-infused products aligns with the growing demand for foods that offer benefits beyond basic nutrition. With my ginger peach-flavored oral dissolvable strips, I aim to not only meet consumer expectations but also pioneer as the first independent operator and minority woman-owned business owner to introduce an edible cannabis product of this caliber to dispensaries in New Jersey. This exciting chapter in my journey underscores the intersection of my culinary background, commitment to innovation, and the evolving landscape of functional foods within the cannabis industry.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?

The most intriguing story from my career involved a customer request that marked a significant turning point for ButACake. A woman approached me, seeking a cannabis-infused cake to assist with coping with the side effects of chemotherapy. This heartfelt request inspired me to explore the therapeutic potential of cannabis in my baked goods, ultimately leading to ButACake’s evolution into an exclusively edibles brand.

The valuable lesson from this experience is the profound impact that food, infused with purposeful ingredients, can have on people’s lives. It reinforced the idea that culinary creations can transcend mere indulgence and serve as a source of comfort and relief for individuals facing challenging circumstances. This pivotal moment guided my commitment to crafting functional and health-conscious cannabis-infused products, emphasizing the positive intersection of flavor and purpose.

In essence, the takeaway is that the culinary arts can be a powerful tool for creating meaningful connections and contributing to the well-being of others. This lesson continues to shape ButACake’s mission as we navigate the cannabis industry, always mindful of the impact our products can have on individuals seeking both enjoyment and functional benefits in their food choices.

You are a successful leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

Three character traits that I believe were instrumental to my success are resilience, adaptability, and empathy.

  1. Resilience: There was a critical moment in my journey when facing legal constraints in New Jersey threatened the very existence of ButACake. The prolonged and demanding regulatory process imposed financial strains and pushed me to the limit. Confronting adversity, I exemplified resilience by persisting through challenges, and remained unwavering in my dedication to the vision. To sustain the business, I sought alternative avenues, even temporarily relocating to Delaware. This unwavering determination not only helped us navigate obstacles but also positioned ButACake for success in the dynamic and evolving cannabis industry.
  2. Adaptability: The dynamic nature of the cannabis market demands constant adaptation. Early in my career, ButACake was primarily a baked goods business, but recognizing the shifting landscape, I adapted by focusing on cannabis-infused edibles. Later, as regulatory hurdles emerged, I further showcased adaptability by diversifying into contract manufacturing with CannPowerment to navigate the changing legal landscape. This ability to pivot and embrace change has been crucial in staying relevant and successful in a rapidly evolving industry.
  3. Empathy: A core tenet of my leadership approach is empathy. This trait is exemplified in the customer-inspired journey that propelled ButACake into the cannabis-infused functional foods realm. The request for a cannabis-infused cake to aid a chemotherapy patient highlighted the power of empathy in understanding and addressing the unique needs of individuals. This empathetic response not only deepened our connection with customers but also guided the development of products that cater to both pleasure and purpose, reinforcing the positive impact our offerings can have on people’s lives.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that might help people?

We’re expanding our ButACake Strips line to introduce innovative variations, including live Rosin strips. These strips stand out by eliminating all chemically extracted cannabinoids, ensuring a more natural and pure product. Our goal is to provide consumers with an option that aligns with their preference for minimally processed cannabis products.

Moreover, we’re experimenting with exciting new flavors to tantalize taste buds. Chocolate Mint and Blue Blizzard are among the enticing additions we’re working on, aiming to offer a diverse and enjoyable experience for our customers.

In line with our commitment to holistic well-being, we’re also exploring the incorporation of specific cannabinoids into the strips to address distinct ailments. For instance, we’re considering introducing CBN-infused strips tailored to promote better sleep. By harnessing the potential of cannabinoids in this targeted manner, we aspire to provide individuals with not just a delightful indulgence but also a product that caters to their specific wellness needs. It’s an exciting journey of innovation and exploration, and we can’t wait to share these new offerings with our valued customers.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of our interview. To begin, let’s start with a definition so that all of us are on the same page. What does Functional Food mean to you?

As someone deeply involved in the cannabis-infused functional foods industry, functional food, to me, signifies the potential to redefine how we perceive and experience edibles. It’s about crafting products that not only delight the senses but also contribute positively to one’s health and lifestyle. In essence, functional food is a dynamic and transformative concept that resonates with the growing awareness of the profound connection between what we eat and how we feel.

What inspired you to get involved in the functional foods industry? How does that relate to your personal life and values?

My journey into the functional foods industry was unexpectedly sparked by a customer’s heartfelt request and that inspired me to take ButACake to the nest level. The prospect of using my culinary skills to provide comfort and support to individuals facing health challenges aligned perfectly with my personal values. This inspiration became a driving force as I recognized the potential of functional foods, particularly in the realm of cannabis-infused products. I saw an opportunity to create edibles that not only delighted the palate but also served a purpose beyond mere enjoyment. Crafting functional foods became an extension of my commitment to holistic well-being and the belief that food can be a source of healing and nourishment.

In my personal life, health and wellness have always been paramount. Being a first-generation Haitian-American, the cultural importance of nourishing the body and soul has been ingrained in me. The transition into the functional foods industry allowed me to integrate my cultural background, culinary expertise, and a genuine desire to contribute positively to people’s lives.

Furthermore, the values of innovation, resilience, and empathy that guide ButACake are deeply rooted in my personal ethos. By embracing the potential of functional foods, I am not only aligning with the evolving needs of health-conscious consumers but also fulfilling a sense of purpose in providing products that resonate with my core values of compassion and well-being.

Can you share your insights on the growing demand for functional foods in today’s market? How has this demand evolved over the years, and what do you attribute this change to?

In the cannabis-infused functional foods sector, changing regulations and broader acceptance of cannabis contribute to the demand for edibles with both enjoyable flavors and potential therapeutic effects. As a result, consumers are actively seeking products that align with their health and lifestyle goals, driving the evolution of the functional foods landscape to not just foods but to cannabis infused foods. More people are attempting to proactively manage their health. There’s a growing awareness of the link between nutrition and overall well-being, prompting individuals to seek foods that offer specific health benefits beyond mere sustenance. This trend is fueled by increased access to information, a focus on preventive healthcare, and a heightened understanding of the mind-body connection.

Can you discuss the process of balancing taste with nutritional value in product development, ensuring that flavor does not take a backseat to function?

In developing functional food products at ButACake, I meticulously balance taste and nutritional value to ensure that flavor and function coexist harmoniously. Starting with premium, flavorful ingredients, our process involves rigorous testing and refinement, considering different flavor combinations and adjusting ratios. Actively seeking consumer feedback allows us to tailor our offerings to diverse taste preferences. Leveraging culinary techniques and expertise, we create products that not only meet nutritional goals but also excite the taste buds. Importantly, ButACake strips are crafted to deliver functional benefits without the distinctive taste of cannabis, redefining the perception of health-conscious choices as a delightful culinary experience.

What innovative ingredients are you most excited about in the functional foods market, and how are they transforming consumer health and wellness?

I am particularly enthusiastic about the innovative ingredients transforming the cannabis-infused functional foods market. Unique cannabinoids, such as CBG and CBN, are garnering attention for their potential therapeutic benefits, ranging from sleep aid to anti-inflammatory properties. Terpenes, the aromatic compounds in cannabis, add a flavorful dimension while also contributing to the entourage effect, enhancing the overall impact of the product. Additionally, the exploration of novel extraction methods and precise dosing technologies is reshaping how we deliver cannabinoids, ensuring a more tailored and controlled experience for consumers. These advancements not only elevate the functional aspects of cannabis-infused foods but also provide consumers with a more nuanced and customized approach to incorporating cannabis into their health and wellness routines.

Based on your research or experience, can you please share your “5 Things You Need To Create A Succesful Functional Foods Brand”?

  1. Clear Brand Identity and Mission: Establishing a clear brand identity and mission is the first big one. Consumers should understand what sets your brand apart and why it resonates with them. For ButACake, our mission of crafting cannabis-infused functional foods with a focus on taste and purpose stems from my personal journey in hospitality and my passion for wellness and sharing with the community. This clarity of purpose has helped us connect with consumers on a deeper level, fostering trust and loyalty.
  2. High-Quality Ingredients: Using high-quality ingredients is non-negotiable when it comes to functional foods. Each component should not only contribute to the flavor profile but also offer tangible health benefits. At ButACake, we prioritize using only high-quality, natural ingredients. We carefully select nutrient-rich components and avoid artificial dyes, adhering to all local, state, and federal guidelines to ensure the best possible ingredients are sourced. As the CEO, I personally oversee our ingredient selection process, ensuring that nothing is used in our products that I wouldn’t ingest myself. This commitment to quality and transparency is fundamental to our brand ethos and helps us deliver delicious and functional products that our customers can trust.
  3. Innovation: Innovation is key to delivering quality functional food products to market. Whether it’s through unique product formulations, novel ingredient combinations, or innovative delivery methods, differentiation is what sets this brand apart. I introduced ButACake’s oral dissolvable strips as a product that offers consumers a discreet and convenient way to enjoy the benefits of cannabis without compromising on taste, yet offering a zero calorie, sugar and gluten free product that is also vegan friendly, setting us apart from traditional edibles.
  4. Transparency: Educating consumers about the benefits of functional foods alongside the health benefits of cannabis and being transparent about ingredients builds trust and credibility. At ButACake, we prioritize consumer education through informative packaging, posting our nutrition facts and ingredients on our website making the information easily accessible. By empowering consumers with knowledge, we enable them to make informed choices that align with their health and wellness goals.
  5. Responsiveness: Responsiveness is crucial in the dynamic functional foods market. We must adapt to consumer preferences and market trends swiftly. Openness to feedback and willingness to create products based off that feedback is essential for sustainable growth. At ButACake, we continuously refine our product offerings based on consumer insights and market trends. As CEO, I personally engage with consumers in retail stores, a practice uncommon in many industries. This direct interaction ensures that we stay attuned to evolving consumer needs, keeping us responsive in the ever-changing landscape of functional foods.

How do you navigate the regulatory challenges associated with health claims on food packaging, and what advice would you give to new entrants in this space?

Navigating regulatory challenges associated with health claims on food packaging requires a meticulous approach and the support of our legal and compliance teams. Advice I would give to new entrants in this space is to prioritize compliance from the outset and invest in knowledgeable legal counsel. Understanding regulatory requirements and staying abreast of updates is crucial for building trust with consumers and mitigating risks. Additionally, being transparent and conservative in health claims can help avoid potential regulatory pitfalls while still effectively communicating the benefits of your products.

In what ways have consumer preferences shaped the evolution of your product offerings, and how do you stay ahead of the curve in such a dynamic market?

A consumer preference was the catalyst that transformed ButACake from a traditional baked goods business into a cannabis edibles brand. When a customer requested a cannabis-infused cake to aid with chemotherapy side effects, it sparked a realization of the potential to meet a growing demand for functional cannabis products. Since then, consumer preferences have continued to shape the evolution of our product offerings. We actively listen to feedback, conduct market research, and stay attuned to emerging trends to anticipate and meet consumer needs. By remaining agile and innovative, we stay ahead of the curve in this dynamic market, constantly refining our offerings to deliver products that resonate with our audience while maintaining a commitment to quality and compliance.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If I could start a movement, it would focus on fostering mutual aid and ensuring access to pay-what-you-can-if-you-can food programs. This movement would aim to address food insecurity and promote solidarity within communities. By encouraging individuals to support one another and providing access to nutritious food regardless of financial means, we can alleviate hunger and strengthen social bonds. This grassroots movement has the potential to empower individuals to take collective action, creating positive ripple effects that extend far beyond alleviating immediate food needs. Together, we can build a more equitable and compassionate society where everyone has access to essential resources and support.

What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?

instagram @ ButACake

X @ButACakeTweets

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.

About the Interviewer: Wanda Malhotra is a wellness entrepreneur, lifestyle journalist, and the CEO of Crunchy Mama Box, a mission-driven platform promoting conscious living. CMB empowers individuals with educational resources and vetted products to help them make informed choices. Passionate about social causes like environmental preservation and animal welfare, Wanda writes about clean beauty, wellness, nutrition, social impact and sustainability, simplifying wellness with curated resources. Join Wanda and the Crunchy Mama Box community in embracing a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle at .

Function Meets Flavor: Matha Figaro Of ButACake On 5 Things You Need To Create A Successful… was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.