‘Butter Tart Trail’ brand stays with Wellington North Township

KENILWORTH – The Butter Tart Trail belongs to Wellington North Township and it will stay that way, at least for now.

On June 24, Wellington North councillors unanimously voted to defeat a motion that would have had the township sign its trademark of the Butter Tart Trail brand over to Wellington County.

Councillor Sherry Burke was the first to speak up on the issue, wondering “why we wouldn’t try to rejuvenate the Butter Tart Trail on our own with some of our partners … and what that might look like.”

According to a staff report, the Butter Tart Trail was officially trademarked by the township in 2006.

Ten years later, the township created a regional tourism initiative in collaboration with the Town of Minto and the Township of Southgate in Grey County. It was called “Butter Tarts and Buggies: Explore the Simpler Life,” and it effectively replaced the Butter Tart Trail.

But Wellington North manager of community and economic development Mandy Jones told councillors the brands have been largely dormant in recent years.

“For the past number of years, there hasn’t been a lot of effort put into the Butter Tart Trail or the Butter Tarts and Buggies Trail,” Jones said.

“The County of Wellington economic development department did reach out to our economic development department to see about the possibility of taking over the trail as an opportunity to market it and brand it on a larger scale.” 

She added township staff would be supportive of the county taking over the brand.

For the past few years, through its Taste Real initiative, the county has offered a curated list of butter tart locations, and this list has become associated with the Butter Tart Trail, the report stated.

“By officially adopting the Butter Tart Trail brand, it allows the county to leverage the brand’s name recognition, showcase an attractive density of product/locations, and offer an exceptional visitor experience,” it explained.

Though Jones said staff members support the idea of turning the brand over to the county, she noted they would also be open to working with local partners, including local business improvement areas (BIAs) and chambers of commerce, to promote it locally as well.

“We would follow the direction of council as it relates to the Butter Tart Trail conversation,” Jones said.

Burke expressed reluctance to turn over the reins to the county.

“I think we’ve learnt . . . that culinary tourism is very big at this time,” Burke said. 

“I can appreciate the fact that Wellington County has more resources, but if we can partner with our economic development partners and the chambers, I think that this could be the success that it once was.”

CAO Brooke Lambert asked, should council prefer the township to continue in the lead role, that staff be allowed to prepare some recommendations as to how that would happen.

“It would involve developing a program essentially to really support it,” Lambert said. “I think we would need to have the discussion around additional resources to support the initiative.”

Mayor Andy Lennox suggested the township would benefit from the county’s help in promoting the brand.

“One of the problems I think this program ran into before was maintaining a critical mass of enough participants to keep it viable,” he said.

“I’m happy to retain the trademark but should we be widening the umbrella a little bit?”

“I don’t mind widening the umbrella, just so long as we’re not lost in it,” councillor Steve McCabe replied.

In an emailed statement to the Community News, county manager of economic development Christina Mann stated, “A county-wide food tourism trail centred on butter tarts,” is what the county was offering to create when it proposed taking over the dormant brand.

But she said if the township wants to retain the trademark, revive the trail and keep it geographically focused on northern Wellington, the county could appreciate that.

“We support culinary tourism development across Wellington County and will assist the township with their endeavour where possible,” Mann stated.

In an email to the Community News, Lambert stated township staff will prepare a report on how the brand might be renewed, and what the program would look like.

“Council can decide how to proceed from there,” she said.