The Raye family has been milling mustard for four generations. In 1900, J. Wesley Raye, a 20-year-old sea captain’s son, founded the business in the family smokehouse to make mustard sauce for Maine’s burgeoning sardine industry. But then came canned tuna, and the public’s taste for the salty little fish ebbed like the outgoing tide. “The sardine industry died off,” says Karen Raye, who bought the business with her husband, Kevin, from his cousin in 2006. “We had to figure out, ‘How do we keep this company going?’ We knew the mustard the sardines were packed in was really good, so we decided to make Raye’s gourmet and specialty mustards.”
“Nobody still makes mustard the old-fashioned way like we do. Our website and social media help tell our story.”
Karen Raye, Co-owner
The Internet opened up fertile new fishing grounds to market Raye’s gourmet mustards. About 25 percent of sales are online. Karen and Kevin relaunched their e-commerce website twice, using Google Analytics to figure out what netted the best results. “It’s important to have a crisp-looking website with appetite appeal and a shopping cart that makes it easy for people to make their selections,” Karen says. “Google Analytics lets us know how customers are finding us,” she says. “Customers who find us through Google are now customers for life.”
Raye’s Mustard has been in business for 116 years.
The couple has doubled sales and production, employing six full-time people and another three or four over the holidays. Raye’s Historic Old Stone Mill still stands as a working museum. “When we started out, we had about three flavors,” Karen says. “Today we have upwards of 25.” They offer gourmet blends such as Brown Ginger and Garlic Honey Wine, but their original Down East Schooner remains a bestseller and gold-medal winner in worldwide mustard competitions. The company founders would be proud. “It’s fun to watch the company grow and progress,” Karen says. “But it’s really about preserving jobs in our part of Maine.”
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