A FAMILY-run business near York with a back-to-basics philosophy is celebrating a decade of sweet success making jams and preserves the traditional way.

The Fruity Kitchen, based in Sutton on the Forest, has expanded into new markets, which has helped to boost sales over the past 12 months. In addition, a collaboration with Harrogate-based retail sourcing specialist The Great British Exchange has opened up new retail opportunities.

As a result of the tie-up with The Great British Exchange the company’s preserves are now in welcome hampers for guests at Forest Holidays lodges across the UK.

Owner Julia Colebatch, 55, started the business in her kitchen at home in 2008 before renting a bigger kitchen in a local pub for one day a week and selling the produce to nearby businesses including cafes and farm shops.

Within six months Julia had been joined by her sister Denise and, in 2009, by her daughter Hannah, 31, who brought her experience of working in the hospitality industry to the expanding business. Now they employ a team of 10 people to meet growing demand for the jams and preserves which are still made by hand using the tried and tested open-pan method.

Julia said: "Our family background was in farming and baking.

"I'd always enjoyed making jams and chutneys, so I decided to set up in business doing that. My ethos has always been back to basics – I just wanted to make really good strawberry jam! That's still our focus: we don't do strange flavours or ingredients, we keep a core range and focus on quality."

The business uses locally-grown produce, from raspberries and strawberries grown and frozen by a local farmer to last through the winter, to elderflower hand-picked in season from nearby hedgerows.

Expansion into new markets has helped to boost awareness of The Fruity Kitchen and bring new customers directly to its door. Some companies used to take the produce and put their own name on it, but a rebrand has seen many of them start to sell under The Fruity Kitchen's label.

"We’ve been approached to create a gifting option for ready-to-buy gift sets,” Hannah said.

“We do some bespoke products for weddings and events, and we’re collaborating with a brewery in York to create a collection of products with them.

"We’re hoping to have an e-commerce site up and running at the end of the year, too. It's a huge team effort to bring all of these elements together, without losing our focus on the quality of what we produce."

Sales really took off thanks to the collaboration with The Great British Exchange, which helps British producers stock their goods with retailers. The organisation works with over 3,000 retailers, from high street department stores to small independent gift shops and delicatessens.

The number of cafes and delis using catering supplies from The Fruity Kitchen has grown rapidly, as has the availability of its jars on the shelves of farm shops across the North of England.

Hannah said: "It's hard to believe that it all came from my mum wanting to make really good jam in the kitchen at home – but here we are, 10 years on and still focusing on making the best produce we can, but on a completely different scale. Who knows where the next 10 years will take us?"