Chobirico. Jam Laboratory is a jam producer started by owner Sugawara Keiko in 2008. Sugawara started making vegetable jam when she purchased a bunch of daikon radishes in bulk.
“When I was a child, my grandmother made jam from strawberries from her garden, which was so delicious that I started hand-making jam myself. It used to be just regular fruit jam, but one day I found some excellent daikon radishes and bought too many, so I decided to make jam with them. This was the first time I made jam out of vegetables.”
She discovered that adding a little fruit to daikon radish makes it taste surprisingly good. The first jam she made was a mixture of daikon radish and apple, which has since become a staple item. After that, a friend invited her to a small sales event, and she decided to put out a stall.
“When I offered free samples of my jam, people bought it, saying it tasted great, which made me happy. I then got serious about making jams from various vegetables.”
Sugawara, who was working for a company at the time, quit when the company relocated and casually started her jam business.
She started selling the jam online, and as she opened stalls at various events around the country, she began to develop business relationships with wholesalers such as department stores and souvenir stores. She handles everything by herself, including purchasing the vegetables, as well as production, sales, and delivery.
In the 15 years since opening, she has encountered many people and gained a large fan base. Her fans include not only customers who buy jam, but also suppliers of ingredients and wholesalers.
For example, a man at an orchard in Yoichi who grows the variety of apples called Akane, which are essential for the Daikon Radish & Apple Jam, saw a newspaper article introducing Sugawara and contacted her, saying, "I want to meet this jam producer." She was invited to come to Yoichi and found many fruits that she wanted to use for jam, such as apples, prunes, and quinces. Akane apples are especially large compared to average-sized apples, and she decided to purchase a year's supply of them every fall.
She has also made friends with foreigners. Sugawara says, "The best thing about being a jam producer is that I get to meet all kinds of people."
The current lineup of jams includes about 10 varieties, changing slightly with the seasons. The Celery & Quince jam gives you the crunchiness of celery. The Onion & Strawberry and Onion & Raspberry jams can be used in sauces for meat dishes to add depth to the flavor with ease.
All of the jams are made with vegetables, which account for about 80% of the ingredients. Even when sweetened as jam, the genuine taste of the vegetables remains evident, and the jam is packed with highly concentrated goodness.
The process of making jam is simple. She prepares the ingredients, puts them in a copper pot, and simmers them slowly. The resulting product is always gentle and sweet with a beautiful color. She has changed her recipes many times over the past 15 years to preserve the colors, aromas, and textures of the vegetables and fruits.
One feature of the jams is that each package is small at only 40 grams, making it easy to purchase several varieties at once. When she first started selling the jam, it was also available in larger jars, but customers often asked to try all different kinds of jams, so she switched to packets, which can be consumed in only a few portions.
“I want to make packets of one or two serving sizes so customers can enjoy the freshness. I've had an increase in customers who buy several different kinds.”
The price of the jam is uniform because she wants people to choose what they like without worrying about the price.
"I want to make jams that will linger in the hearts of the people who enjoy them."
Chobirico. Jam Laboratory
Minami 11-jo Nishi 8-chome 2-40-1001, Chuo-ku, Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan
E-mail: chobiricojam*gmail.com (Please change * to @)