Business Overview


A jam business makes different flavors of jams and jellies, which are packaged into jars for distribution. Businesses may sell their jams to customers directly, or they might sell to retailers. These spreads are put on toast, used in cookies and cakes, and incorporated into many other foods. Jam businesses make different flavors of jams and jellies, which are sold to customers either directly or through retailers.

According to a report published by the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food in Canada, the jam and preserve industry in the United States brings in over $1 billion annually. Most impressively, it’s grown steadily -- even through the Great Recession. The market for jams, jellies, and preserves is strong, growing, and has many opportunities for new start-ups.

Who is this business right for?

Anyone who likes canning and jarring may enjoy running a jam business. Jams and jellies are frequently packaged in jars, and mot small jam businesses jar their jams by hand.

It’s also helpful to have good people skills. Being able to connect with people can, of course, help business owners develop relationships with individual customers and wholesale purchasers. It also can help establish relationships with local farmers, which may lead to unique opportunities to purchase local produce.

What happens during a typical day at a jam business?

To maximize efficiency, most jam business owners spend different days focusing on different tasks. For example, a business owner might:

  • Sell jams and jellies at a farmer’s market 
  • Make jams 
  • Deliver jams
  • Market their business and take care of administrative tasks 

What is the target market?

A jam business’ ideal customer is a local business that regularly uses jam or jelly, such as a restaurant that wants to serve up locally made jams with breakfast or a small bakery that needs jams for certain baked goods. Such a business won’t pay retail prices for jams and jellies. A business will, however, place regular orders that can provide stable income.

How does a jam business make money?

A jam business makes money by selling jams, jellies and preserves. When sold retail, jams may be sold individually or in variety packages (e.g. three jams together). When sold wholesale, jams may be sold in larger jars (e.g. for use by a bakery) or in lots of small jars (e.g. for resale by a grocer).

What is the growth potential for a jam business?

Many jam businesses start out as small operations, with many business owners making jams, jellies, and preserves in their kitchens. Business owners may initially sell only by word of mouth or at a roadside stand where customers pay on their honor.

As a business grows, business owners may purchase a stand at a market or open a retail location. Most businesses don’t open multiple locations. Instead, they grow beyond a single location by acquiring more and more wholesale clients.

(When starting a jam business from home, it’s important to abide by all your state’s cottage food laws. PickYourOwn.org has compiled a list of each state’s applicable laws.)

Getting Started


What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful jam business?

In order to run a jam business, it’s necessary to know how to safely jar them. Many online companies, local canneries and online companies offer courses on canning and preserving foods. For example, Taste of Home Online Cooking School and Universal Class both offer online courses on the subject. Glass Rooster Cannery in Sunbury, Ohio and Fresh from the Gardens in Dallas, Texas offer in-person classes. Healthy Canning maintains a directory of university extension classes, which are often free or have a minimal charge.

After completing a course, business owners may want to purchase a couple of books to keep as references. Canning and Preserving for Beginners, and the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving are two popular works.

What are the costs involved in opening a jam business?

Since a jam business can be started from a residential kitchen, the costs associated with starting a business are quite low. The expenses can be categorized into equipment costs and supply costs.

Business owners who have extremely tight budgets may be able to open a business using only equipment that’s already in their kitchen. Jams, jellies, and preserves can be made in one pot, and jars can be sterilized by boiling water in a large pan.

Business owners who have a little capital to work with, however, may want to invest in some basic equipment. Nabanita Kundu recommends getting a juice extractor, slicer, mixer/grinder and pulper, none of which costs too much.

The supplies that business owners need include:

  • Juice extractor: $50
  • Fruit slicer: $20
  • Mixer/grinder: $100
  • Pulper: $35
  • Jars: roughly $1 per jar in bulk
  • Pectin: $3 per box
  • Fruit: $1-5 per pound
  • Sugar: $23 per 50 pound bag
  • Additives

Business owners can reduce their initial supply costs by purchasing jars and pectin through wholesale suppliers, who typically charge much less than retailers do.

Business owners can also pick the fruit they need themselves, Jo-Ann Monconduit of Jo’s Jellies says. Going to you-pick farms when the fruit is in season. not only lets business owners greatly reduce their fruit costs -- which are one of the biggest supply costs -- but it also provides an opportunity to use local ingredients in jams.

What are the steps to start a jam business?

Once you're ready to start your jam business, follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:

  1. Plan your business. A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. A few important topics to consider are your initial costs, your target market, and how long it will take you to break even.
  2. Form a legal entity. Establishing a legal business entity prevents you from being personally liable if your jam business is sued.
  3. Register for taxes. You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
  4. Open a business bank account. A dedicated checking account for your jam business keeps your finances organized and makes your business appear more professional to your customers.
  5. Set up business accounting. Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
  6. Obtain necessary permits and licenses. Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
  7. Get business insurance. Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
  8. Define your brand. Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
  9. Establish a web presence. A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.

Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.

Where can I find a business mentor?

One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.

Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.

Recommended: Fizzle.co offers video courses and a supportive online community of like-minded entrepreneurs. Try one month membership for for free.

What are some insider tips for jump starting a jam business?

When developing jam, jelly, and preserve recipes, business owners should come up with unique and complex flavors. In Jo-Ann’s experience, these sell much better than plain flavors do. For example, she had a peach jam that hardly sold at all. She revisited her recipe and added bourbon and vanilla. The resulting jam is now one of her best sellers.

Growing Your Business


How to promote & market a jam business

The most effective way to promote and market a jam business is through samples. Whether given out at a farmers market or grocery store, people love free samples -- and many customers won’t purchase a jam, jelly, or preserve unless they know what it tastes like.

Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.

How to keep customers coming back

A jam business can set itself apart from similar businesses by continually developing unique flavors. Another business may copy a single popular flavor or even two. As long as business owners continue creating new recipes, though, they’ll be one step ahead of copy cat businesses.

How and when to build a team

Many jam businesses start out as one- or two-person operations, and some business owners never hire employees. Those that do typically bring on employees once the work becomes too much for them to handle by themselves. At this point, a business’ revenue can usually support an employee’s salary.

Legal Considerations


State & Local Business Licensing Requirements

In most states, it is necessary to obtain a jam business license. Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a jam business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.

 

Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, check out our informative guide, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.

For more information about local licenses and permits:

Food Regulations

When selling food, you will need licensing from a local health department; all establishments serving food are required to pass a health inspection. Tips for faring well on a health inspections.

There are federal regulations regarding what can and cannot be added to, sold as, and processed with food. Attached is a resource from the Food and Drug Administration detailing the process of starting a food business: How to Start a Food Business.

Reduce Personal Liability

Structuring your business as a limited liability company (LLC) ensures your personal assets are protected in the event your business is sued.

What is an LLC?

Form an LLC in 5 easy steps

Earning Potential


How much can you charge customers?

Jams, jellies, and preserves are normally priced according to margin. Michael Adams recommends seeking a margin of 40 to 60 percent over the cost of making a product when selling through distributors. On top of this, distributors add another 30 percent margin, and retailers typically add a final 30 to 50 percent margin. The end result is that a jam that costs $1.48 per jar to make has a retail price between $6.04 and $8.46.

What are the ongoing expenses for a jam business?

The ongoing expenses for a jam business are relatively low. Business owners must purchase additional jars, fruit, and pectin, and they need to pay for the electricity or natural gas used when preparing jam. The other significant ongoing expense is the cost of shipping or delivering jams to customers, but this cost is usually built into the price that customers are charged.

How much profit can a jam business make?

How much a jam business owners can make depends on how well they market their products and how many distribution channels they have. Reagan Boon, a small but successful jam business owner, makes about $25 per hour after all the work required to run her business is taken into account. Working full time, this would equate to an income of $1,000 per week.

How can you make your business more profitable?

A jam business can increase its sales and revenue by offering jams in unique packaging. For instance, customers may purchase variety packs as gifts, or brides might buy customized sample-size jams as wedding favors.

Next Steps

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