French jam and the art of showcasing fruits of the season01-08-2017
French jam is an intrinsic part of the culture of sweet foods in France. Whether homemade, for the luxury market, made on an industrial scale or to fight food waste, there’s a jam to suit everyone.
The French simply adore jam. It’s one of the memory-rich foods they look back on with nostalgia. So much so in fact that according to the FIAC, the French Federation for processed foods, 70% of the French population purchase jam 7 times per year, with each household annually consuming 3.87kg of jam – around 11 jars of shop-bought jam alone! But the French also love to make their own jam, with 60% of the French dabbling in homemade jam (Opinion-Way-Collective du Sucre Survey, 2013). Lovingly crafted from sugar and fruit, jam is a simple, authentic and highly-symbolic product. According to a survey by Nielsen, strawberry, apricot and marmalade top the table as France’s 3 favourite jams. What we tend to overlook however, is that jam also comes in a vast spectrum of flavours in tune with the very latest eating trends.
Bonne Maman, the flagship of “Made in France” jam
Bonne Maman jam jars have become a true icon of the French food industry. The company was established in 1971 by Jean Gervoson, who realised that leftover, unsold fruit could be put to alternative use and made into jam. “Bonne Maman” was the name he affectionately gave to his grandmother. Pierre Roche-Bayard, co-creator of the brand, came up with the idea for the distinctive red and white gingham pattern on the lid and classic font on the label. The story is all the more endearing when we learn that the inspiration for the famous red and white check lid came from the curtains hanging in the family farm, and that Pierre Roche-Bayard designed the original “Bonne Maman” label with his old school ink pen.
Nostalgia aside, the brand has continued to expand for more than 45 years and has gained prominence in retail, hotels and restaurants worldwide. Retaining a 35% share of the domestic market, Bonne Maman has a firm grip on France’s jam market, while 30% of annual production is sold in export markets. In international markets, the distinctive gingham pattern has blazed quite a trail. As a result of its undeniably “made in France” image, the jams are stocked by retail giants such as Tesco in the UK and Walmart in the United States. American socialite, singer and social media star Lindsay Lohan was even photographed, jam jar in hand, in a US supermarket. The most stylish hotels, whether in China, Italy, Russia or Canada, only have eyes for this archetypal French jam brand.
Re-belle: fighting food waste with jam
Whoever said misshapen fruit did not taste good? Certainly not start-up company Re-Belle, who decided to give a second chance to millions of “ugly” fruit and vegetables otherwise consigned to landfill because of their odd shape or imperfect appearance. Re-Belle recuperates unsold fruit and transforms their finds into delicious, artisan jams. The French company currently offers three lines of jams: a range of single or duo-flavours, a second range focusing on fruit and spices, and lastly, a fruit and vegetable medley. The flavours can challenge the status quo – think apple, grape and star of anise – but are proving very popular. And on the back of the huge surge of interest in the concept, the brand has signed a deal with French supermarket Monoprix, with the Re-Belle team collecting 150kg of fruit and vegetables every week in the company’s stores. And with an astonishing seven tonnes of fruit and vegetables re-used over the course of the year, that’s certainly food for thought.
La Chambre aux Confitures jam emporium: haute-couture of the jam world
This relatively youthful French company was launched in 2011 and is attracting food lovers the world over. Having already successfully rolled out the brand throughout France with a chain of 9 stores, Lise Bienaimé, its founder, has also broken into Iceland, Japan, the Ivory Coast, Australia and Norway. In the latter, home of the world’s biggest jam consumers, a dedicated boutique operates under franchise in Oslo. The house speciality is a subtle fusion of exquisitely refined flavours, where apricot-lavender, effusing typical aromas of Provence, is proving particularly popular. Cassis-violets, lemon and pear-praline complement the line-up, while the real crowd-puller is raspberry and Champagne. To discover the other flavours available, pop in to the boutique to enjoy in-store tastings.
In this ultra-competitive market, what is the secret to the brand’s success? Unsurprisingly, it all boils down to the luxury target market. Aside from the La Chambre aux confitures shops and listings in fine food specialists, the former L’Oreal luxury marketing guru has focused on upmarket venues such as Paris’s Plaza Athénée and Hotel Bristol. And her other ingenious tactic is a range of 100g pots specifically targeting tourists which can fit easily in their luggage.
Did you know?
Commercial jams in France are defined by the ratio of fruit and sugar contained in the recipe. Standard or “simple” jams contain less than 45% fruit (and 55% sugar), while “extra” jams are packed with more than 45% fruit.
Three top tips for tasting jam
Provided by La Chambre aux confitures:
-Avoid brushing your teeth, drinking coffee or eating spicy foods before tasting as it will mask your tastebuds.
-Don’t try to taste more than 5 or 6 flavours as your tastebuds will soon become saturated.
-Taste using a teaspoon, or on bread or plain crackers with butter.