Last Thursday, Giselle and I visited one of our suppliers and local business, INNA jam, and the drive to their Emeryville kitchen proved to be a nice escape from what would have been just another dreary overcast day in the city.
Shelves and shelves of jam!
When we arrived, we were greeted by Liz, one of INNA jam’s employees who promptly equipped us with fashionable hair nets. She led us past shelves of soon-to-be-filled jars and brought us into the kitchen where the rest of the staff were already prepping fruit. They had just received large batches of raspberries and peaches to work with for the rest of the day. INNA jam sourced these fruits (along with all the produce they use) from local farmers within 150 miles of their Emeryville kitchen. In fact, as we came in, one the farmers was on his way out, shaking hands and saying his goodbyes with a smile and a “see you next time.” According to Liz and to Dafna Kory, the founder of INNA jam, the personal relationships with local farmers are very important. Dafna also explained to us that, because of their dependence on local resources, their schedule always changes; they depend on farmers, which means they also depend on the success of their seasonal crops. But in the end, it results in honest, great quality (and great tasting!) products that not only benefit their own business, but also the farmers who they rely on.
Smiles all around in the kitchen.
Lovely local raspberries.
So far, 2013 has been an exciting year for INNA jam, especially after their “Pretty Spicy” Fresno Chili jam landed the Good Foods Award earlier this year. 2013 also marks the third “birthday” of INNA jam, and within these past few years, it has grown from a one-woman team making all the jams and delivering jars by bike, to a fully-staffed commercial kitchen distributing jams to stores and other locations all over the Bay Area and beyond. Dafna, in fact, has no “official” business degrees to show, but her natural knack for business can be traced back to her younger days, selling fruits (from her neighbors’ yard) to passersby on a street corner. I asked her what advice she had for any aspiring entrepreneurs, and she gave me two points: (1) just GO FOR IT, and (2) have another job. She explained the necessity of a resilient optimism balanced with a realistic understanding of what a business needs.
(above) Dafna with a jar of "plenty spicy" Jalepeno jam (the jam that started it all)
and (below) the spicy jams, including the award-winning "pretty spicy" Fresno Chili jam.
In terms of what new things have been going on from their kitchen, a recent venture in fruit preservation has resulted in the recent debut of their newest product, called INNA shrubs. The process of making this sweet-tart fruit syrup originated in Middle Eastern and West Asian countries. By carrying on this age-old fruit preservative method, INNA jam is able to use bi-products of the jam process that would otherwise be thrown away. But lately, the shrubs have been getting so popular that now they are beginning to take in batches of fruit for the shrubs alone. It’s an exciting time for the business, and Dafna actually mentioned making efforts to “reign in” the growth, which, I think, is a fantastic complaint to make for such a young business.
We stayed at the kitchen for only a short while since they had a lot of prepping and cooking to do. But on our way out Giselle and I wanted made sure to grab a few jams for our own pantries. As we chose from the variety of flavors, I couldn’t help but notice the 2013 Good Foods Award (with a medallion in the shape of a jam jar, of course) pinned proudly to the wall.
Hope you enjoy the jams as much as we do, here at Rare Device. More artist interviews and studio visits to come!