No, you don’t have to buy everything on Amazon. While the freakishly large online retailer offers convenience and speed, it’s worth it to support local and family-run businesses that serve transparency and ethics alongside quality craftsmanship.
Some of the best small businesses are family-run food and drink producers, like farmers, cheesemakers, and chocolatiers. It’s these independent grassroots vendors who offer a true sense of place in their goods and craft their products with love and attention. Especially when shopping for thoughtful holiday gifts, that should count for something.
To get you started, we’ve put together a guide to 15 of our favorite small food and drink businesses in the U.S. From sweets to nut butters and some kitchen-friendly workwear, here are some of the best fantastic small businesses to shop for gifts or holiday cooking.
Southern Illinois’ famed barbecue destination is helmed by father-daughter duo Mike Mills and Amy Mills, whose family have been in barbecue for 100 years. These days, they’re also selling their house sauce recipes, including the Mike’s Original, a spicier Little Kick, and a sweeter Apple City Red. There’s also a “Magic Dust” dry rub made with Hungarian paprika, garlic, cayenne, chile powder, dry mustard, and cumin.
“Acater” is an archaic name for a supplier of provisions, while “oliter” refers to those who tended to the kitchens. Created by Connecticut-born Ryan Curran along with his parents, Acater and Oliter spotlights centuries-old methods of preservation in products like a preserved Meyer lemon vinaigrette ($16) and a MacDonald rhubarb conserve ($14). The line is available nationally via Snuk Foods.
This Bay Area-based, female-owned company focuses on a wide range of small-batch caramels. Founders Courtney Peters and Celia Glowska source the finest local ingredients, including butter from Gilt Edge Creamery, cream from Clover Sonoma Cream, and chocolate from Guittard Chocolate. To get the holiday spirit, try the seasonal peppermint caramels ($8 for four), layering creamy caramel with crushed, naturally-flavored peppermint candy canes. You can also purchase a caramel subscription for $18 a month.
The Catskills region of New York State is renowned for its artisanal food products. Catskills Provisions in Sullivan County offers an Ultimate Gift Box ($140) that includes three types of 100% raw wildflower honey, honey truffles, non-GMO pancake and waffle mix, premium maple syrup, aged New York apple cider vinegar, and organic ketchup.
Founded by veteran Los Angeles bartender Eric Tecosky, Dirty Sue will instantly upgrade your dirty martini game. One busy night working behind the stick, Tecosky ran out of olive juice as guests clamored for dirty martinis, causing him to realize that no one was bottling the stuff for cocktails. That led him to create the Original Premium Olive Juice ($16.99), a fantastic product that brings the taste of real olives to your stirred (not shaken) martini. Since then, Dirty Sue has also launched a line of whole olives with stuffings like pepperoncini, garlic, and even pimento cheese.
What’s better than a product that tastes good and does good too? Founded by Julie Sullivan and Carolyn Cesario, Ground Up takes aim at Portland, Oregon’s homelessness crisis by providing employment for women at risk of homelessness—every jar of Ground Up supports job training and mentorship. Crafted by their team of motivated and capable women, Ground Up’s sugar-free, gluten-free, nut butters include a coconut-cardamom flavor with chia seed, an Oregon hazel-almond butter, and a seasonal salted eggnog coconut-cashew butter.
Looking for premium, American-made cookware at a reasonable price? This Austin-based company partners with the best local manufacturers, sells direct to consumers, and creates products based on in-depth interviews with home cooks like you. Childhood friends Jake Kalick and Chip Malt were inspired to launch the company after years of hosting dinner parties with hand-me-down pots and pans. Standout products include the Universal Lid ($49), named the 2018 TIME Magazine Invention of the Year, and the Blue Carbon Steel Pan ($69)—a multi-functional cross between a cast-iron skillet and stainless steel frying pan.
While canned cocktails can be hit or miss, these organic, wine-based cocktails tastes like a summer day in a can. Created by hospitality veterans Ross Graham and Simon Benstead, the brand’s sangria, bellini, margarita, mimosa, and paloma spritz are all crafted by fusing fruit juices with rosé wines and pulque, rather than hard liquor. At 4.2% ABV and 110 calories per can, you can crush them all night long.
Opened in 2016, Cleveland’s only cheese shop specializes in raw cow’s milk cheese made locally. Sourcing non-GMO certified milk from Hartzler Family Dairy in Wooster, Ohio, the shop offers products like the Treadway Creek ($23 a pound), a semi-soft tomme-style curd, and the Wino Red, a semi-hard cheese aged in red wine and cave-aged for a minimum of 90 days.
Brothers-in-law Josh Miller and Tyler Holland founded this premium mixer company in New York. The name comes from their great-great grandfather, Owen Woods, who operated a bar in Maine. Sold nationally via Walmart, varieties include mint, cucumber, and lime and the best-selling lime and ginger beer—ideal for a holiday punch.
Brooklyn-based oven-to-door bakery sells their treats exclusively online—all items are available in New York City, with some desserts shipped nationwide. Pastry chef Clarice Lam’s creations include pies ($35 for a 9” pie) like a salted-caramel apple pie with a four-ounce jar of salted caramel sauce and an ube pie with a coconut crust and ube cream. Cakes (starting at $45 for 6”), meanwhile, range from carrot, orange, and ginger to black forest with cherry compote.
Some of America’s best hot dogs can be shipped straight to your door. If you’re having a cookout or football night this holiday season, consider upgrading to these all-natural, grass-fed beef and pasture-raised pork wieners. Orders start at $37 for a three-pack, and flavors include pepperoni, buffalo, gyro, and classic smoked and uncured.
Inspired by the legendary long drinks of Finland, The Long Drink offers a refreshing, grapefruit-forward citrus soda with a boost of gin. Products include a traditional version and sugar-free Long Drink Zero.
This NYC-based workwear label crafts stylish yet functional uniforms specifically for the hospitality industry. Consider the French Kitchen Workshirt ($80) that comes with a hidden sharpie slot, armpit vents, and an apron strab tab, or the fantastic Mason Hereford x Tilit Work Overalls ($165) made of nine-ounce herringbone denim.
Hatch chiles can only be harvested once per year and are grown in the Hatch Valley of southern New Mexico due to its high altitude, dry climate and rich soil. This is a terroir-driven product to rival French Champagne and Oaxacan mezcal. Founder Nate Cotanch, whose family history in New Mexico dates back seven generations, founded the company with Elliott Anderson to bring the flavor of Hatch to New Yorkers. Their red and green chile sauces are sold nationally.