When Yeti was founded in 2006, many people scoffed at the idea of a $300 cooler. Sure, the company was promising a product that could last a lifetime, but you could snag an ice bucket from Coleman for a fraction of the price. That gripe didn’t last: in the first nine months of 2023, Yeti made over $1 billion in sales. Now they’re expanding into another product people initially scoffed at: the $300 cast-iron skillet.
This week, Yeti announced the acquisition of Butter Pat Industries, a company founded in 2013 that produces cast-iron pots and pans in a way that seeks to replicate the cookware of historic brands like Griswold. Like Yeti, their products elicit sticker shock from first-time buyers, but upon actual use, people seem to come around (I certainly did).
“We’ll be making new products and scaling to reach new audiences and cooks,” Yeti said in its short announcement. “Butter Pat Industries will focus exclusively on manufacturing with YETI, and together we’ll help people discover how easy it is to use and love the greatest cast iron on earth in their homes, offices, or out in the wild.”
Dennis Powell, the founder of Butter Pat, wrote a longer note on his brand’s website, noting that the people behind Yeti have been “trusted advisors” since a meeting since 2017. “Their advice back then?” he wrote. “Make a product that keeps its promise. Make the best, and the rest will follow.”
The Inconceivable Case of the $100,000 Cast-Iron PanWhy did Butter Pat’s Dennis Powell spend six figures trying to replicate 100-year-old cookware?
What initially followed from this relationship was a collaboration. Last summer, Yeti released a branded, 12-inch cast-iron skillet made by Butter Pat that cost $400. Would it work? Would Yeti customers, who bought expensive coolers, also buy expensive pans, when they could get one from Lodge for a fraction of the price? (Deja vu.) As you may have guessed, the answer is a resounding yes: the initial batch sold out within a day, as did subsequent batches. That successful test run seems to have paved the way for this acquisition.
“After working together this summer to craft the ultimate 12” campsite skillet, we saw an opportunity to expand Dennis’s vision and reach new customers and fans while also accelerating and strengthening YETI’s expansion into the culinary community,” Matt Reintjes, president and CEO of Yeti, told InsideHook in a statement. “Following the acquisition, together we will develop a new line of YETI cast iron cookware and accessories that we plan to introduce later this summer. Dennis will act as our strategic advisor [to] support our commitment to designing premium, quality cast iron products under the YETI brand.”
(The Butter Pat team declined to comment until a later date.)
What exactly the new line of cookware will look like remains to be seen, but there is something important we can draw from this experiment turned buyout. When Yeti sold their first Butter Pat skillet, it was a version of a model from the cast iron brand called the “Joan.” That 12-inch skillet, when I tested it, went for $295, which was already a hefty price to pay, even knowing all the work that went into this revived manufacturing process. In March of 2023, the price had increased to $345. When Yeti sold their version of the pan in July, it went for $400. (The Yeti skillet included a rag made of metal rings for scrubbing, scraper card, cotton storage bag and free shipping, which were not all included when buying a Joan from Butter Pat; but Yeti didn’t offer an option to buy just the pan.)
I love my Butter Pat skillet and I plan on actually using it for my entire life, and then passing it on, so I highly recommend their products. My biggest question for this acquisition isn’t about quality, it’s about a publicly-traded company whose goal is to grow sales significantly every year and what that means for this cast-iron cookware that was already expensive to begin with.
Update – 3:35 p.m., January 18, 2024: This story was updated to include a quote from Yeti President and CEO Matt Reintjes and clarify the $400 price tag of Yeti’s skillet.
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