The Damson Collection’s Margie Chambers shares her tips on starting a jam business

Her orchard may be small, but growing a specialist crop and turning it into carefully crafted preserves makes this a plum job for a corporate business consultant, now artisan food producer. 

Words: Jane Wrigglesworth

Who: Margie Chambers
Land: 3ha
What: The Damson Collection, producing plum products and gourmet treats
Where: Havelock North, 20km south of Napier

Margie Chambers has an orchard of 400 damson plums and the whole 3.5 tonne crop is harvested in just one mad week in February. These are unique plums, inedible fresh but the perfect preserving fruit due to their very high pectin levels. Margie and her team then cook them up into carefully tested gourmet products which are sold in supermarkets and specialist food stores nationwide.

“We had an existing block of land and were already growing apples. To diversify a little, we started growing damson plums commercially.

“To begin we undertook a lot of research to understand what was and wasn’t available in the marketplace, and where our products could or would fit. When we decided to produce products from our damson plums, we ran a series of test markets on the product and the prospective logo. The feedback we received was invaluable.

“Before you start, building a pricing model to include all your costs (including your time) and to understand the true cost of production is important. Labelling and packaging is just as expensive as making the product.”

Other things Margie says to think about before you start are:
• Who is likely to buy the product?
• Where can you sell it?
• What margin will retailers require?
• What price will customers be prepared to pay?
• Who will distribute the product on your behalf?
• Who will undertake the sales and marketing activity?

“We spoke with other producers who provided a lot of good information and we visited many websites: the IRD website, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, etc.

“Lastly, before we actually started, we thought through how the business would actually work on a day-to-day basis, like finance, budgets, product development, website sales etc.”



NZ Lifestyle Block This article first appeared in NZ Lifestyle Block Magazine.

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