My advice for other women entrepreneurs is that you must have a passion for what you’re doing and believe it has the potential to be as big as you want it to be.
— Bonnie Shershow
Inspired by Fruit
For more than two decades, Bonnie’s Jams has been focused on one thing: making the best fruit jams, jellies and conserves—all created to pair perfectly with cheese.
From Harvard and Public Policy to Jam!
After obtaining a degree from Harvard and building a successful career in politics and public policy, Bonnie Shershow was ready for a new challenge. Bonnie began experimenting in her kitchen, creating new jams and conserves, using fruit purchased from local farms. Inspired by the vivid memories of her mother making jam in the kitchen, using hand-picked fruit from trees growing near the house, or the ripe, juicy strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries, growing in the garden nearby, Bonnie created jewel-toned jams that showcased the true flavors of the fruit, sharing them with family, friends, and colleagues.
“I have always made jam,” Bonnie shares. “First as a child (with my mother of course), using just ripe and delicious fruit that grew around our house. When I moved to the East coast with a young family, I sought out neighboring farms where I could count on the same quality of small-farm produce to continue turning out jars and jars of jams always made simply—good fresh fruit, a little sugar, and a squeeze of lemon. I never used pectin or any other fillers or strange ingredients. This is what sets my jam apart from most jams in the market today.”
Further inspired by her travels to France and Italy, Bonnie also started creating unique combinations of flavors, and paired them with the artisanal cheeses that she found in her favorite cheese shop, Formaggio Kitchen. When she found just the right bite—the perfect pairing that enhanced the qualities, aromas, textures, and flavors of the cheese, but also highlighted the clean, pure flavors from the fruit jams—she would excitedly share her pairings with the cheesemongers. Soon, Bonnie was collaborating with the staff, creating new signature flavors and recipes that would provide that perfect complement to their signature cheeses. Not long after that, Bonnie convinced the owner to let her make the jams in their back kitchen and to begin selling the jams alongside their cheeses.
“I was lucky to live near a world-class specialty store, Formaggio Kitchen, where I thought my jam would be a perfect match for their artisan, farm-house cheeses,” Bonnie says. “The simple ingredients and fresh fruit flavor were a natural fit. The owner of the store graciously agreed to sell my jam and allowed me to use his commercial kitchen (I found out I needed one!). I cooked and stirred while the mongers scooped and cut rounds and blocks of cheese. They tasted the batches as I stirred and let me know if the balance of flavors worked with their cheese.”
In 1999, Bonnie’s Jams hit the shelves of Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge, Massachusetts. News of the quality of her products spread quickly among the retail industry, and within a few years she found opportunities to sell at gourmet markets in New York. Soon, Food & Wine, The New York Times and other well-known publications began mentioning her products and the requests came pouring in. Even Oprah took notice, including Bonnie’s Peach Ginger on her list of Favorite Things. And in 2007, Bonnie’s Jams experienced its biggest breakthrough—Whole Foods Market had discovered her jams and wanted to put them in stores.
“We were thrilled to have been selected by Whole Foods, first on a regional basis, and then as a global brand in 2018,” Bonnie says. “Whole Foods Market supports artisan businesses and has made it their mission to discover emerging products and brands. Our relationship is a true partnership and has given us the opportunity to develop unique, delicious new jams that customers love!”
Bonnie’s Jams makes fruit focused, artisan jams, jellies, and conserves, all made with simple, clean ingredients—with twice the fruit and half the sugar of most jams on the market. The company starts with fruit picked at the peak of ripeness, add to that a bit of sugar, a little lemon juice, slow cooked with no shortcuts. Because the fruit jams use only the pectin naturally occurring in the fruit, the company cooks its jams longer to create more concentrated fruit flavors and allow the jam to set naturally.
Built for Boards
Before cheese and charcuterie boards dominated our social feeds, Bonnie was in the kitchen crafting high quality jams made to be paired with gourmet cheeses. Around the globe, fruit has been paired with cheese since the beginning of cheese-making.
“The more time I spent in the store, the more I noticed that the options for fruit spreads were limited,” Bonnie says. “In other countries, you’d rarely find a cheese plate served without a fruit-based accoutrement next to it. I saw this as an incredible opportunity to create a product line that the customers would enjoy.”
Adding a little sweet to the salty, creamy, acidic, savory flavors and texture of cheese brings out the best in both the cheese and fruit. Starting out at Formaggio Kitchen gave Bonnie an immersive education in pairing perfection. Since those early days, Bonnie has made it her mission to share that knowledge with others, working with other brand partners, independent retailers, culinary professionals, and retail associates—educating the specialty food industry on pairing complementary flavors to elevate the tasting experience. Bonnie’s jams, jellies, and conserves are specifically made to pair with cheese, highlighting and enhancing every cheeseboard experience.
The team at Bonnie’s Jams keeps a close eye on the changing tastes of the U.S. market, creating new flavors to reflect current trends. They also work closely with Whole Foods Market’s Product Innovation team to identify new products and flavor combinations specifically designed for the Whole Foods customer.
“I love the challenge of mixing unique flavors, and I’m always happy to get back to the pot. We are thrilled to be launching a new flavor for Whole Foods this Fall, our new Cantaloupe Peach Black Pepper that is incredible, surprising and delicious!”
Commitment to Quality
From the beginning, Bonnie created jams with the focus on letting the true flavors of the fruit shine through. Starting with a higher percentage of fruit, using less sugar, and cooking the jams longer extracts the natural flavors of each ingredient. Jams made with added pectin are cooked for shorter periods of time, which means more water is included in the finished product and more sugar is needed to create the right consistency—diluting the natural fruit flavors and using twice as much sugar. Starting with twice as much fruit costs more than including more water and sugar, but creates a superior jam that pairs perfectly with cheese, allowing pure fruit flavors that do not overpower the cheese.
All of Bonnie’s Jams fruit jams and conserves are made with pure simple ingredients: fruit, sugar, and a hint of lemon juice. The Red Pepper Jelly is made with red bell peppers, fresh habanero peppers, sugar, lemon juice, vinegar, and includes pectin, as peppers do not contain pectin naturally. All of Bonnie’s Jams are gluten-free, vegan, and non-GMO certified whenever possible.
Supporting Women Entrepreneurs & Artisan Producers
From the early days when Bonnie made jam in Formaggio Kitchen, Bonnie’s Jams has been owned, operated and managed as a women-owned business. Throughout Bonnie’s career, she has also collaborated with the industry’s top female leaders, entrepreneurs, and artisan cheesemakers.
“It’s important to build a network of people that you can trust and have the confidence to ask for help when you need it,” Bonnie says. Over the years, Bonnie has made many valuable connections in the food industry and has actively sought input and advice to help grow the business. “It’s critical and inspiring to see how women support each other today more than ever.”
Bonnie is still the driving force behind product development and recipe testing, which remains one of her favorite aspects of the business. Through expanding her team and fostering relationships with specialty buyers, she aims to increase brand visibility to key audiences. Training remains a focus, and marketing efforts aim to continue developing engaging, informative content for consumers and industry professionals.
Words of Wisdom
“My advice for other women entrepreneurs is that you must have a passion for what you’re doing and believe it has the potential to be as big as you want it to be. Keep it simple, but be able to grow with the business. Know your values and have them reflected in your product. Don’t try to be what you are not. Embrace who you are and what you believe in.”
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NOTE: WholeFoods Magazine is a business-to-business publication. Information on this site should not be considered medical advice or a way to diagnose or treat any disease or illness. Always seek the advice of a medical professional before making lifestyle changes, including taking a dietary supplement. The opinions expressed by contributors and experts quoted in articles are not necessarily those of the publisher or editors of WholeFoods.