MANILA, Philippines – A Frenchman is helping uplift the image of jam in the Philippines from just another breakfast item into a gourmet food product that is now being enjoyed in the five-star tables of top hotels.
Pierre Marmonier, the owner of the local brand, The Fruit Garden, has come a long way since he debuted his jam line in neighborhood bazaars three years ago. His products are now being used as the house jam in the country’s top hotels including The Peninsula Manila, the InterContinental Manila Hotel and the New World Manila Hotel.
Just recently, he began exporting The Fruit Garden to hotels in South Korea and is now eyeing to do the same in Japan.
The Fruit Garden is being positioned as a “luxury jam” and it’s easy to see why. Even before one tastes the product, it’s obvious that Marmonier wants to differentiate himself from the many mass brands displayed in supermarket shelves.
“For me, either you’re cheap or you’re high-end,” he said about his business strategy at the beginning. And since he can’t afford to invest in a mass-produced product, he decided to go luxury. “I don’t believe you can be in the middle. But then if you’re high end, while it’s easy to make natural jam, how do you pack them?”
Marmonier recalled meeting with the top local bottling companies in the company but most of their bottles were used for products like “sardines and pickles.” “We said maybe we should look for something different. So we found a supplier in Italy. I found through the Web a supplier in Italy. And we stuck with them,” he said.
This luxury packaging also includes special gift boxes since several companies have used The Fruit Garden as stylish corporate giveaways.
The French way
Marmonier said he decided to get into the jam business when after a trip to a local supermarket, he couldn’t find one that he liked. “I decided that this could be an opportunity. That’s how the idea came about and I said, let’s try it,” he said in an interview with reporters.
He said his mother used to make jams when he was growing up in France so he was familiar with the process. “My mom never bought jam. She would always cook jam in the summertime …cherries, raspberries then we put it in the cellar,” he recalled.
But despite this, he said he set up a meeting with a professional jam-maker in France “just to see how he does it” and he also took up formal courses at a school before starting his business.
The Fruit Garden includes in its label that the jams are “cooked in copper couldrons in small batches as per the French tradition.”
Marmonier also stressed that he does not use any preservative -- only natural fruits and sugar – and to maximize the fruit flavor, “we impose on ourselves a minimum of 60 grams of fruits for 100 grams of jam.”
As for the fruits, he said he tries as much as possible to use local produce. “The mango, passion fruit and pineapple, they’re all local. But the blueberry is not local. The strawberries, half, half. I cannot always find strawberry here,” he said.
What also differentiates Marmonier’s jams is that he mixes up flavors and even adds spices to create creative combinations such as Mango-Ginger, Mango-Lavender, Pineapple-Coco Rum and Strawberry Mint.
He also comes up with seasonal flavors, including two new flavors for Christmas: Berry Dream, a mix of blueberry and strawberry with violet flowers; and Tropical Paradise, which combines passion fruit, pineapple and mango and took over six months of testing to perfect. Both holiday jams are bottled in an :artsy” wave glass jars that can be stacked one on top of the other and are pretty enough to be used for other things.
(Speaking of jars, The Fruit Garden has a recycling program, where customers can return their empty jars at their stall in the Legaspi Sunday Market in Makati City.)
Marmonier admits that the main business of The Fruit Garden are the hotels and airlines. “The retail is not big,” he admitted, noting that big supermarket chains have “many conditions” that don’t jibe with the artisan-style of jam-making. Aside from the hotel shops, his products are also available at high-end delis such as Bacchus Epicerie in Rockwell, Market Deli in Salcedo Village and Deli Boys in Greenhills.
He is also partnering with several restaurants to show that jam can be enjoyed not just as a partner to bread. Chef Jessie in Rockwell recently came out with a special menu that incorporates jam in hot dishes such as grilled chicken and roast pork.
The Fruit Garden website also has a page with recipes created by celebrity chef Bruce Lim using the jams in dishes like banana leaf prawns and pork belly.
During the small press lunch, Marmonier worked with the chef of XO 46 Bistro Filipino to feature the jams in the salad dressing and in the marinades.
The Fruit Garden has also branched out into non-jam products such as a 100% pure Philippine honey from Abra, a Chutney line and even chocolates.
The individually crafted Belgian chocolate squares have jam fillings that come in a box of 16, with eight flavors such as peppered strawberry with dark chocolate, strawberry peanut butter with milk chocolate, pineapple coco rhum with dark chocolate and strawberry mint with white chocolate.
So what’s next for Marmonier?
The Frenchman said he hopes to come up with French-style mustard, as well as an artisanal ketchup hopefully next year.