She started to ‘spread’ the goodness of her homemade jams and pickles to friends. Soon, she was deluged by demand for her products and started cooking up batches of bottles filled with sweet jams. Balancing home chores and production schedules, Fouziya Kutty has established herself in Chennai’s discerning consumer’s mind as the Lady of Jams.
Read on to find out how she did it…
How did the idea of making jams commercially germinate in your kitchen?
I have always made pickles and given it away to friends. My kids go to Abacus School where they encourage snacking on fresh fruits and vegetables. So, I began to make jams from fresh fruits for my kids, which was a healthier option to buying branded synthetic stuff. Gradually, the word spread in my friend’s circle and they requested me to give them these jams. Thus ‘Fouziya’s Cooking’ was born and I began to market the produce.
How long have you been making these jams?
It is five years since I began to market my bottles of healthy jams and preserves, but it was on a small scale. I really went commercial only a year and half ago.
Are you running the business by yourself?
Initially yes! Now my husband, Abdul Tahir has joined me.
What is his area of expertise?
He was a partner in an ad agency. Gradually he began to experience symptoms of burnout. He has always loved cooking. He was excited to see the way the business was beginning to expand. So now he is taking an active part in the business, especially the marketing side of it.
How is it to have a husband as a partner and to share the kitchen too?
Oh! The kitchen battles are on all the time!! We literally just tolerate each other. But we have systems in place now. He focusses on his core competence, I on mine. I confess that I often tell him to chill and to let me do my job!!
What is the range of products that you are offering?
We have quite a few interesting products that are being marketed. The flavors are traditional like strawberry, mango, apple and fig, banana… Orange marmalade and hot mango spread are variations. We call our produce ‘spread’ for we cannot call it ‘jam’, because our sugar content is much lower than the prescribed levels of commercial products. I only add extra sugar to augment the natural flavors and sweetness of the fruit.
My range of pickles includes lime and date pickle and sun-marinated mango pickle. We also have a Schezwan sauce, a tomato ketchup and an Arrabbiata sauce. I have made a cocoa beans and peanut butter spread and a natural peanut butter and both are very popular.
What is your production like?
I make the produce according to orders. The stock has to be made fresh as the shelf life is limited. I supply to some special shops that sell organic produce. I have also taken up a dedicated kitchen space away from home to prepare the spreads.
Is your product organic?
Yes, in that we do not add anything artificial to our products – like preservatives, color or artificial flavors. Some of our fruits are organic while others are farm fresh. What’s more, we use only organic sugar, organic oil and organic spices. And yes, we use only unprocessed salt in all our preparations.
Do you have anything special for diabetics?
No, not really. I have had enquiries though and many people have asked me to make special spreads for diabetics. I need to research and experiment before I venture into this segment.
What is your day like?
I am a mum and wife…so all those multitasking chores happen just like anybody else. I have two helpers to make my commercial products. We are now making about 200 bottles of spreads and pickles per day. Abdul pitching in with the marketing side is a huge help.
Where do you source your containers? How did you design your labels, logo etc.?
I just buy the bottles in bulk in the market. Remember, Abdul had all these graphic artists and creative people in his agency. It was more or less an ‘in-house’ job!
Fouziya shares her do’s and don’ts in running a home-based business:
- One of the life lessons that I learnt was to stock up my pantry on a regular basis.
- When you work from home, especially with food, hygienic conditions have to be maintained rigidly.
- People are particular about vegetarian preferences. So, I have a separate kitchen in a new location and my unit is strictly vegetarian.
- You must have licensing permits in place. Earlier it used to be tedious to get permits and you had to go here and there before you got the certification. Now it is easier as it is all done online.
- The official food testing must be in place. There are limits set for traces of chemicals that can come from even the fruits, sugar, etc.
- It is better to be frank about products not being organic as it is difficult to source regularly. After all, we need to buy fresh fruits, etc in the regular markets. The price also goes up a great deal for any organic product.
- Don’t be scared to experiment. And when it is time to expand, do your homework and then set about expanding your business and market.
- Reliability and timely deliveries are very important in this field.
- Feedback is extremely important from customers and tasters. You should also be open to new ideas.