Mustard Girl LLC
Manufacturing location: Pleasant Prairie
Jennifer Connor has always loved mustard.
Growing up, Connor used basic yellow and Dijon mustards in her cooking, but when she arrived at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, she got her first taste of a gourmet Wisconsin mustard line called Rendall’s.
“It was like a Fourth of July on my tastebuds,” Connor said. “I used to have it all the time.”
When Connor, an art history major, heard the mustard company would be closing, she contacted the owner to learn his recipes and business acumen.
Connor worked carefully to learn and adjust the recipes, some of which weren’t fully written down, and founded Mustard Girl LLC in 2007. Her recipes are manufactured and bottled by a private company in Pleasant Prairie. She declined to name the firm that produces the mustard.
Mustard Girl has five products made with brown, white and yellow mustard seeds and a variety of other ingredients. They are: Sweet n’ Spicey Honey Mustard, Stone Ground Mustard, Sweet n’ Fancy Yellow Mustard, American Dijon and Zesty Horseradish.
“All of the mustards are made with the highest grade of mustard seeds, and that is why the flavor tastes so good in my mustards,” Connor said. “I wanted to make a mustard that had no fat, had no high fructose corn syrup in it, had no eggs, no dairy. To have an alternative that was healthier for you than other mustards was important for me.”
She sources the whole seeds from Wisconsin and Canada. The tiny seeds are milled into a powder, with the exception of the stone ground variety, and mixed with water, vinegar, honey, sugar and spices.
The process takes about 10 days, because once the mixing is completed the mustard must sit for a while to get to the right pH level, viscosity and consistency, she said.
“The mustard seeds all taste different,” Connor said. “Some are a little hotter than others, but each one serves a different purpose.”
On the back of each bottle of Mustard Girl, Connor explains the biblical account of the “faith of a mustard seed” and encourages customers to tap into their inner gifts.
“We all have our special mustard seeds inside of our hearts and it’s up to us to tap into that,” she said. “I just want everybody to not give up and hang in there. Their gift is important in the universe.”
Connor has been gradually growing her base of distributors by presenting her products to grocery store buyers using the expertise Rendall’s owner passed on to her.
“They want to know that you have had some sort of success,” she said. “The prior track record that Mr. Rendall had helped give me leverage to grow my business.”
Mustard Girl products are now sold in Roundy’s, Copps and Sendik’s, and other local specialty stores, restaurants and grocers, including every Whole Foods in the Midwest.
“I start building up in the stores that I’m in, get the sales going,” she said. “Once I get into one store and show the sales, then it’s easier to have an opportunity and get into these other stores.”
The company recently started doing Costco “road shows” and may eventually add the major store as a distributor.
Mustard Girl is growing at an annual clip of 30 percent, and has sold more than 1 million bottles, Connor said. Further growth plans are underway.
“I would love the opportunity to be rolled out at a national level, and that’s why right now I’m currently in the process of major capital fundraising,” she said. “I’m meeting with investors at this time and then also working on getting some grants.”