By Kara van der Berg
Christynn and Nigel Jacobs bring a literal meaning to the saying “money for jam” with their jam business that started in their kitchen four years ago. The company has since grown out of its home and boasts of a factory located in Ceres that employs ten workers.
The couples’ previous professional experience has equipped them with the skills to run a food company. Nigel worked in marketing in the food industry including for Parmalat, Pioneer Foods and then Ceres Fruit Processors and thus got an insight into agriculture and agro-processing.
Christynn is a food scientist who worked in product development and food safety compliance. “It’s amazing because we as a small business would never have been able to afford Christynn expertise.” Their work in the fruit industry also gave them access to contacts that have helped them establish the business. “Our network and contacts helped us a lot.” The couple says they have wanted to start a food company for the last decade. Jacobs Jam was started with funding from different sources including the Small Enterprise Finance Agency (SEFA), the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA), the Western Cape Department of Agriculture and a cash injection from Hortfin. “We started experimenting in our kitchen over the weekends because we both still had full-time jobs,” explains Christynn.
So why did they decide on jam? “If you look in any pantry in South Africa, no matter the income, there will be a jar of jam. It is a highly consumed product,” says Nigel. Christynn says that they wanted to focus on something that people already knew. “Jam is used every day and from a marketing perspective, it was easy. We don’t have to introduce people to something new.”
Though the company is relatively small, they’ve achieved impressive milestones and have no plans of slowing down. They recently signed a deal with the Shoprite/Checkers group and Food Lovers Market meaning Jacobs Jam will soon be available almost nationwide. “Our goal is to be the third largest jam producer in South Africa,” says Nigel. “The major jam producers haven’t put energy into marketing their product in years so that we can disrupt the market.”
They’ve also received several awards. They hold the Western Cape Entrepreneurs of the Year award. The award highlights small businesses making an impact on the economy. Last year over 400 businesses entered. “We are proud to have brought the award home to the countryside,” Nigel says. They are also part of the FNB Social Entrepreneurship impact lab which is a type of incubation programme that helps small businesses by providing leadership and a platform to learn from industry professionals.
Jacobs Jam currently has three flavours: apricot, strawberry and pomegranate. All the fruit used in the jam is sourced from the Western Cape. Their business also adds to the fruit value chain by creating more jobs in the local economy. “Our factory is built for 25 people. The more our sales increase, the more people we can employ.”
The couple plans to add different flavours and a variety of other products, like tomato sauces and ice lollies, to the Jacobs Jam range. For now, their goal is big but simple: To be a household brand that can be found in every home in South Africa.
Picture: Christynn and Nigel Jacobs with their proud products.