Sustainability in Work Culture Differentiates Racine’s Butter Buds

Butter Buds Food Ingredients, a Racine manufacturer of concentrated food-flavoring products, is among businesses statewide that are most committed to sustainable practices.


Butter Buds Racine owners

The company’s commitment to sustainability is demonstrated by achieving “Green Professional” status in the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council’s Green Master’s Program.

Green Masters is an assessment and recognition program for Wisconsin businesses interested in improving their sustainability initiatives. It also gives companies a benchmark to compare their sustainability performance to other businesses in their sector.

The family-held company also earned a “Gold Medal” for the second year in the EcoVadis audit of corporate social responsibility. This means Butter Buds ranks among the top 5 percent of companies participating in the global scoring system for socially responsible practices.

Butter Buds is a founding entity of the Racine Sustainable Business Network (RSBN). RSBN, a Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council affiliate, provides Racine County businesses and other organizations with resources to enhance their environmental and economic impact while fostering the well-being of employees and the community.


Butter Buds trash compactor

Besides the state and national recognition they recently received, Butter Buds incorporates and emphasizes the importance of sustainable and energy saving practices on a regular basis.

Don Drea, Butter Buds director of sustainability, is one of several employees who rides a bicycle to work. The roundtrip commute from his home to the Butter Buds facility at 2330 Chicory Road covers about four miles.

Tom Buhler, Butter Buds director of business development, said he is proud of his business’s commitment to sustainable business practices, including a code of conduct for its suppliers.

“This commitment incorporates the potential effects on workers, biodiversity and the environment… when making operational decisions for all raw materials we procure, whether plant- or animal-based.”
Tom Buhler Butter Buds
Tom Buhler
Director of Business Development, Butter Buds

“Suppliers are also required to adhere to all applicable laws and regulations regarding human rights, workplace safety, and worker compensation and treatment” Buhler said. “Our sustainability program additionally includes a ‘good jobs pillar’ with a focus on professional development, equitable compensation, and opportunities for advancement.”

Six managers comprise the Butter Buds sustainability team. Their goal of the team is to communicate the sustainability practices to the company and its employees.

Sustainability training is offered to employees as well as Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership (WMEP) sustainability consultants for production projects. Buhler said the topic of sustainability “is on our customers’ radar and is of growing importance.”

Butter Buds “Green Sheet” summarizes sustainability efforts and is distributed to all customers, many of which require sustainability efforts or corporate social responsibility policies to do business with.


Butter Buds outside sign

Butter Buds provides concentrated dairy flavors to global food manufacturers. Its concentrated dairy powders are made with butter, cream and cheese using a proprietary enzyme modification process, resulting in full-bodied dairy flavors with minimal fat and cholesterol.

Non-dairy specialty flavors capture the essence of cocoa, olive oil, bacon and beer in powdered form to provide healthy ingredient alternatives for a variety of foods, according to the company’s website.


butter buds waste water management

Butter Buds has an onsite wastewater facility that removes oils and grease before the water is released to the Racine wastewater treatment plant. Like other area production sites, Butter Buds is mandated to report the amount of fat, oils, and grease sent to the wastewater plant.

Buhler said Butter Buds is consistently 95 percent below the allowable limit of those materials released to the plant.

Butter Buds recycling practice

In other areas, the company uses a sprinkler control system so landscape is not watered on rainy days, and cardboard, paper, and plastic waste is bailed and processed to recycling companies.

“The bailing reduced our garbage pickups by 70 percent,” Drea said. “Our next steps in sustainability are to upgrade our lighting systems to LED, convert to programable thermostats, and collect data on water usage to create a baseline for future projects to reduce water consumption.”

Non-dairy specialty flavors capture the essence of cocoa, olive oil, bacon and beer in powdered form to provide healthy ingredient alternatives for a variety of foods, according to the company’s website.