Belfast Telegraph

Jams going from kitchen to stores

By Lisa Smyth

It started in the kitchen of their family home - but now couple Mark and Jayne Paget are owners of a flourishing business. Erin Grove Preserves, based in Co Fermanagh, produces a range of jams, chutneys and marmalades and even though they now stock shops around Northern Ireland, the produce is all handmade.

Mark (47) believes this is the key to the success of the business.

"Jayne started out doing this as a hobby in the kitchen at home and it really grew from there," he said.

"She has a degree in home economics and is a qualified teacher and it is something she always wanted to do.

"Fourteen years ago she decided to step up and make it into a proper business.

"We try to source as many ingredients as we can from the local area.

"A lot of the recipes have been handed down through the family and would have been used by Jayne's mum and grandmother.

"Everything we do is still handmade, even though it isn't still done in the kitchen at home, and I think that's really important.

"We don't use any artificial colours, preservatives or setting agents, just fruit and sugar.

"It definitely has an effect on the flavour and it is something our customers notice and appreciate."

Jayne started by approaching some shops near the farm where they live in Enniskillen.

In the beginning, they produced a number of flavours of jams, including raspberry, strawberry and rhubarb and ginger, as well as three-fruit marmalade and orange marmalade.

As word spread, so did the demand for the products and they looked to expand into bigger, more suitable premises.

Mark himself became involved in the business when he was made redundant.

"I offered to help Jayne out, because she had more work than she could cope with and I've been helping out ever since," said Mark.

They now spend an average of three days a week making their products and the rest of the week is spent packaging, labelling and delivering.

"It has been a mix of going out with the products and having retailers come to us, but it gradually became more and more busy.

"We couldn't keep up with the orders in the kitchen so we renovated a couple of sheds on the farm.

"We got a loan from Ulster Bank. Since then we have expanded the range and we produce nearly 50 varieties. We have 11 different varieties of jam, five marmalades and 10 or 11 chutneys.

"We also have seasonal products, like cranberry sauces that we do at Christmas."

While they all sell well, it is their sweet chilli jam, launched two years ago, that is their most popular product.

"People seem to want chilli in everything nowadays," he said. "We do try and keep up with the trends, people's tastes change.

"The food industry has come on leaps and bounds in the last few years. People still want the traditional flavours, like strawberry and raspberry, but they also want new flavours.

"We are always looking to develop new flavours and develop products that will meet that demand."

Most recently, they launched a new artisan product to complement all varieties of cheeses.

They believe they are the only company in Ireland to sell such a range of products.

"It is things like this that give us a point of difference and make us stand out from competitors," Mark (right) said.

"We took them to the Balmoral Show and they went down really well. It's a really nice feeling seeing people enjoying something you have made yourself."

With the success of the business, Jayne and Mark have increased the size of the premises where they produce their jams, chutneys and marmalades.

The company is growing at a rate of up to 30%, a trend Mark and Jayne want to continue.

"We are looking at the branding of our products and are currently working with a design company, because we want to target some of the bigger retailers," said Mark.

"There is a lot of competition out there these days and you need to make sure that your packaging and labelling stands out.

"There are changes coming with regards to legislation as well and we will have to include the nutritional value on all our products, but that is something we just have to deal with.

"Our products are gluten-free. They may have some allergens in them so we have to highlight them in bold.

"We hope the rebranding will be complete by the second half of the summer."

But it hasn't been easy, Mark said: "It's been a lot of hard work. It's definitely not a nine to five job but it's worth it, because it is our own business and it's very satisfying seeing people enjoying something you have made yourself.

"For me, there is the added security because I have been made redundant in the past and I don't want to be in that position again, so we enjoy being in charge of our business."

Belfast Telegraph

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