LYNDONVILLE, Vt. (AP) — Vermont's locally produced, quirkily used Bag Balm ointment long ago moved beyond the bovine, but now it's going corporate.
The 115-year-old family business was sold last week to a group of investors who are promising to expand the brand, but not change the formula of the gooey, yellow-green ointment.
Bag Balm began as a staple for dairy farmers treating the inflamed udders of cows, but over the generations, the salve sold in its signature square green tins has been used for everything from sunburns to the paws of dogs searching the World Trade Center's rubble after 9/11. It's been known to ease the loading of ammunition in firearms, take the squeak out of bedsprings and soothe pruned trees.
According to Bag Balm lore, the salve went from barns to bedrooms when dairy farmers' wives noticed how smooth their spouses' fingers were after using it on the cows. The wives were jealous.
The family decided to sell because it was "the right match at the right time," said Barbara Norris Allen, the granddaughter of John Norris, who founded the company in 1899.
She said although selling it was bittersweet, her father and grandfather "would be very proud to have our company, that has been in the Norris family for 115 years, be given the opportunity for continued growth and success."
New CEO John Packard said Wednesday that they could quadruple Bag Balm products over the next four years, creating different sizes and packaging. They plan to get into more national retail stores and veterinarians' offices, while seeking younger customers via social media.
"It is a national brand. People know it. We need to expand the brand," said Packard, 68, a University of Vermont alumnus whose grandparents used Bag Balm.
The new company — Vermont's Original LLC — plans to stay in Lyndonville, where the ointment is produced and packaged with one shift Monday through Friday. It has just seven employees but that could grow, although Packard expects much of the growth to be in sales and marketing, positions that don't necessarily have to be in Lyndonville.
Packard said he's one of two individual investors and two firms, Timepiece Capital Inc. of Scottsdale, Arizona and Gemini Investors of Wellesley, Massachusetts, who bought the assets of the family-owned Dairy Association Company, Inc.
In 2015, the company plans to expand distribution, possibly into national hardware, pet and home improvement stores, Packard said. The following year it plans to make a re-sealable version of the balm, perhaps like a toothpaste tube, that's easier for hikers and bikers to pack.
It may add different flavors or scents for a possible lip balm, along the path of Burt's Bees, whose founders started creating candles made from beeswax and then developed a line of lip balm and skin care products.
"We're not going to be Burt's Bees, but we'll certainly look at what kind of packaging product is being demanded from our customer," he said.