Eggnog, pumpkin, lemon, black licorice, cashew, raspberry, peanut butter, very hot cinnamon, mango habanero, and pineapple habanero. What do these have in common? These are just some of the flavors of caramel JulieAnn Caramels makes to tantalize your taste buds. Keep reading to learn more about owner Rowena Montoya and the story of how her delectable sweets came to be!
UMLF: Tell us about yourself and your background?
Rowena: I am a wife of 35 years, mother to 5 children, grandmother to 17 grandchildren, an aunt, neighbor, friend, and business owner of JulieAnn Caramels. I have always loved caramels, they’re one of my favorite treats! Anywhere I could buy a caramel to try, I would but I was always disappointed. The taste was never what I remember as a child. As an avid baker and chef, I know the difference that quality ingredients make on the final product. So, I would always look at the ingredients in the bags of caramels I would buy and discover that half the stuff in the caramels I could not pronounce, let alone know what they were. I knew there was a better way, so I went to work using the basics of uncompromising quality ingredients and creating a recipe that would bring back the flavor, texture, and experience I fell in love with when I was younger.
UMLF: What inspired you to start JulieAnn Caramels?
Rowena: I wanted to create a caramel with ingredients anyone can understand and know what they are. When my mother died at the age of 15, I spent a lot of time with Julie, who is in the culinary industry. Julie spent most of her life working with food. I loved being with her and her outlook on life. She gave me a love for fine foods, and creativity with food.
I am a true believer that when life hands you lemons, you make lemon caramels with it! Just like everyone, I am accustomed to having downs in life. When I can't change what is going on around me, I know I can change the way I look at things. I learned this lesson after my mother passed away. Having faith, hope and believing that things will work out is what I have done.
Little did I know the future would be bright when I went and lived with my aunt, NancyAnn Jones. She and her family changed my life. I will always be indebted to them. Whenever hard times arise, I simply remember where I came from and look forward to what I could create!
UMLF: You obviously have high standards for your products, can you tell us about how you choose ingredients and your philosophy behind what you put out?
Rowena: I love having the right ingredients. I want the best sugar, did you know there are different kinds of sugar? Each kind will bring with it varying levels of taste and textures, and I’ve learned over time which type makes the grade. My caramels have a clean, not sticky, finish. Next, it’s crucial to use the best butter. High in butter fat makes a big difference in how it all comes together, but that alone isn’t enough. I use a local dairy so the butter is not only more fresh, but I love supporting other local businesses. Once we have the basics covered, I like to keep it simple but then add a little twist to create something fun and new. If I am going to have a treat I want it to taste good and make it memorable!
UMLF: What are some of your favorite or unique flavors we need to try?
Rowena: We have over forty different flavors of Caramels. In fact, our Pineapple Habanero won an award in New York, it is a fun caramel! I love our Maple Bacon; it has Pancetta bacon in it. We love coconut and have several varieties, such as Coconut Lime, Coconut Dream, and simply Coconut Caramel. The fun thing about our take on coconut caramel is that we use coconut milk! We have tropical caramels like Tahitian Treat, which includes coconut, mango, and pineapple. I have so many favorites right now. I think my love is pineapple because it is so fresh! You could choose a different caramel every day, depending on your mood. Here at JulieAnn Caramels, your favorites can change with each season!
UMLF: Where can customers find your products? Do you ship nationwide?
Rowena: You can find us locally in Harmon's and Associated Foods stores Peterson, Lee’s Market. Plus, we have a small storefront at 9493 S. 560 W. in Sandy. However, we do ship all over the United States if you have loved ones who need a pick-me-up!
UMLF: Every business has its highs and lows. Tell us about a challenge you faced as a small business owner and how you overcame it?
Rowena: Business is hard and can even be lonely at times when all the final decisions fall to you as the owner. I don't think I have ever worked so hard physically. I have learned plenty of concepts through the road of hard knocks. I am not perfect, but I keep trying and move on. Right now, the hardest thing for me is ramping up our wholesale business. I have been working on machinery in-house and just got it up and running, so we're ready to go! Our new “Cut and Wrapper” machine is amazing, which helps us deliver faster than ever before. With COVID, our wholesale orders stopped because our wholesale partners had to close their doors. I feel like the girl who got ready for the prom, and then it got canceled. Now we're pivoting trying new ways to share our caramels with the world.
UMLF: How do you believe the Utah Microloan Fund has helped your business?
Rowena: In the last couple of years, I have had several large orders that I turned away simply because we could not afford the ingredients or machinery to fulfill them. The Utah Microloan made it possible for us to take one of those big orders. It was so liberating to know I could do it. Now I want more! We are more ready than ever before for big orders! It is our time to move forward for JulieAnn Caramels!
Thanks Rowena! To stay in touch with your newest caramel obsession visit: