The Jam (S)Pot: Jo’s Jellies — Tips for Starting a Small Jam-Making Business

Jo-Ann and husband at farmers market booth

Jo-Ann Monconduit, creator of Jo’s Jellies, with her best helper and husband Rick at the Gretna Farmers’ Market

Jo-Ann Monconduit, creator of Jo’s Jellies in New Orleans, did not grow up in a jam-making family. They had a fig tree and her mother would cook the figs down every year until they became jammy, but that was it.

One day a few years ago her husband brought home a jar of wine jelly his co-worker had made, and Jo-Ann was hooked. She wanted to learn how to do it. Once she got started, she couldn’t stop, and had so much jam she had to give it away. When she went to the farmers’ market one day and realized there was no jam-seller there, her business was born.

She grew up eating cheap strawberry jam from the grocery store, and didn’t like it. She resisted making strawberry jam for quite a while, but when she finally tried making her own, her reaction was “Wow, that is good!”

She started learning everything she could about proper procedures and canning safety, which is essential if you want to make jam to sell. She has now learned enough to be able to teach canning classes at local community centers.

Jo-Ann comes up with new recipe ideas by searching around on the internet. She is looking for supporting flavors that complement the fruit flavor without overwhelming it. For example, when she made a plain Peach Jam, it didn’t sell. She did her research and now adds a little bourbon and some vanilla to the peach, and it sells like crazy.

Jo-Ann with customers at the farmers' market

Jo-Ann explaining to several customers the ingredients in her Caramel Apple Jam and the various ways to use it . Putting it in puff pastry tarts is one of her favorites.

 

Jo-Ann’s 10 Tips for Jam-Selling Success

1. Go to your local farmers’ market and explore the possibilities – both for purchasing fruit and for selling your creations. Jo-Ann has found everything about the farmers’ market extremely rewarding. She has made life-long friends, both with other vendors and her customers. Plus the market is a perfect outlet for her jam obsession.

2. Learn the legalities – you need to learn about your local Cottage Laws, what you can and can’t do. For example, in Louisiana, she can’t sell wholesale or on the internet.

3. Know your costs and make cost-effective decisions – for Jo-Ann, this is where Pomona’s Pectin comes in. Jam manufacturers can buy Pomona’s in bulk at wholesale prices. And best of all, it’s reliable. You won’t be wasting your fruit on unjelled product.

4. Use local fruits as much as possible – work with the farmers at your farmers’ market to get the best price on a large lot and freeze it. Find other cost-effective sources like U-pick farms, for example.

5. Find a Jar Wholesaler – ideally somebody local that you can pick the jars up from. If you don’t have that, check out Fillmore Container. They will ship and have excellent prices.

6. Relate to your customers – which means responding to their requests for particular types of jam or jelly but also educating them about the variety of ways to use your products: for example, to make salad dressings, as a glaze for meats, put on ice cream, and so on.

7. Give samples – people love sampling her flavors on crackers. And Jo-Ann loves it too, even if they don’t buy right away or at all. Keep everything looking good and tasting good, and most likely they will be back.

8. Freeze fruit when it’s in season – Jo-Ann freezes bags containing the exact amount of what she uses for a batch. When she’s ready to make jam, she can just defrost and go. Freezing can change the texture and the measured amount of fruit, so be sure to measure or weigh before freezing, not after. This kind of prep work really pays off for her.

9. Keep a list of what’s in your freezer – you want to know at all times what you have in stock and ready for jamming, so keep the list up-to-date as you take things out.

10. Inventory, inventory, inventory – managing inventory is key. Know what sells and what doesn’t sell so quickly. That tells you how much of each type of jam/jelly to keep in stock. For example, Jo-Ann knows she sells an average of 5 fig jams each weekend, so she always makes sure she has 10 on hand. Take stock of your inventory after each market. That will tell you what to make next.

This link will take you to Jo-Ann’s recipe for Pepper Jelly with Agave and Stevia.

This link will take you to another short article about Jo’s Jellies and how she got started making and selling low-sugar and sugar-free jam at the farmers’ market.

 

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