There’s a good reason why Debbie Brand hasn’t marketed a sugar-free version of her sweet-and-spicy jellies: She hasn’t found the perfect recipe.
“People say they don’t care,” Brand said. “Well, I do. I want it to look good and taste good.”
Brand plans to keep experimenting, which sums up her slow-and-steady approach to business.
Since starting Brand’s Fine Foods 13 years ago with one flavor of jelly and a stand at a farmers market, Brand has grown both her product line and the number of places at which it can be purchased.
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Today she makes more than two dozen varieties of jellies and syrups, ranging from pineapple-coconut-jalapeno jelly to blackberry syrup. They are sold in a dozen specialty stores such as GreenAcres Market and The Spice Merchant, and Brand recently added her first full-service grocery, The Fresh Market in Bradley Fair, to the list.
Brand said she started her business using a pineapple jelly recipe given to her by a friend who had been making and selling it. Brand had always enjoyed cooking but had never worked in the food business.
“I thought: ‘If the pineapple works, could I do strawberry?’ I took that one jelly recipe and it just expanded from there.”
Two years ago, she started preparing her jellies and syrups in the kitchen of Wild Thyme Gourmet-To-Go in Maize. Because that kitchen is certified by the county health department, Brand was able to start selling her products in places other than the local farmers market.
Brand produces about 200 jars each Sunday.
“If I have to make one batch, I’m confused,” she said. “But if I’m doing eight, that’s a breeze.”
To get Brand’s Fine Foods in The Fresh Market, a national retailer, she had to obtain a bar code. She also had her products’ nutritional content analyzed by Kansas State University’s agriculture school.
That pays off when potential customers read the labels. Her peach-jalapeno jelly contains five ingredients – sugar, peaches, jalapeno, vinegar and pectin.
“With mine, there are few ingredients. You can pronounce everything on it.”
Brand stores her products in a back room of her house, grows the jalapenos she uses herself, and makes her own deliveries and sales calls.
She works four days a week as a receptionist for a chiropractor but looks forward to the day when she can devote herself full time to Brand’s Fine Foods,
“It’s a product I love,” she said. “Being able to sell something like this, doing the craft shows and the sampling and farmers market, it’s great.”