Yes, jams have trends and Vicki Williams discovers how important it is to make the right impression at breakfast.

For many it is the little things in life that make a difference. One of the little things that can make a difference to the hotel guest, especially during breakfast and afternoon tea, is jam. Be it on toast, croissants, scones, cheese or fruit, this humble food item is the crowning glory.

Establishing its necessity is one thing, but what about flavours. Is strawberry still king or have more Asian influenced jams taken rule? Are sugar-free jam or organic products gaining in popularity?

Strawberry Fields

Matee Kavewongsunthorn, regional director Asia, for long established international food group, Hero, (which focuses on high quality natural products), says strawberry is still the most popular flavour for its Asia based customers. These customers include leading international five star hotel groups, as well as leading airlines. “Strawberry (as well as honey) is the most popular in general,” he says. Adding, “Strawberry is the best selling all over the world.” A comment that supported by numerous studies.

Kavewongsunthorn refers to its range as fruit spread, which is 100 per cent natural. The company works closely with the farmers who grow the fruit that goes into its products to ensure consistent quality, taste and colour; and products come in a range of sizes.

One of the reasons for the love of strawberry in Asia, he says, is the preference for berries over other fruits.  “Asian guests like flavours of berry, but do not like options such as apricot. Whereby in Europe apricot is popular.”

Executive pastry chef, Roy Ma of Cordis, Hong Kong says that a strawberry combination is the most popular jam at this five-star hotel. “We offer five jams for guests, including Banana jam and Hibiscus and Strawberry jam, which we have both made in house. The hibiscus strawberry jam is the most popular jam in our hotel.”

First impressions

The hotel is always looking for ways to engage guests through point of difference, while understanding what will be popular. This is one reason it chooses to make its range of jams in-house. “Both jams are unique and would be difficult to purchase in the market.”

One property that is bucking the trend, a little, is Kata Rocks in Phuket. While it does serve strawberry, this luxury resort also highlights tropical fruits.

“At Kata Rocks we serve four jams on a rotating basis and right now tangerine is the most popular among resort guests,” says Tim Sargeant, marketing and events manager.

Other flavours include papaya, and pineapple. “The flavours and choice of fruit is changed seasonally. We buy in because of the high quality of the product and it is also easy to prepare.”

Bring on the sugar

While Hero has heard talk of demand for sugar-free the company itself has not found it to be so among its customers. “As sugar is a natural preservative for jam if that is taken away the producer has to add preservatives or/and other artificial ingredients. Hero’s philosophy is to provide only the best from natural ingredients.”

Ma agrees regarding demand, “We don’t see much request for zero sugar jam, or organic jam, however, we are planning to explore this further as we are a hotel devoted to guests’ well-being. Healthy food is certainly a big part.”

The same is true for Sargeant. “We haven’t had many requests for zero sugar.”

When it comes to trends Kavewongsunthorn says that for the Asian market the demand for honey is outweighing that for jam partly due to versatility. “Honey is always more popular than jam for the Asian market. A Malaysian might use this as spread; Hong Kong people love to add into drinks (water, tea, etc.). Personally, I love honey in my salad with/without lemon juice.” This preference for honey over jam is also due to finding fruit spread too sweet for their palates.

While it seems unlikely that strawberry jam will lose its place as the world’s number one most popular jam flavour anytime soon, manufacturers are exploring more unique jams. Obviously there is enough of a demand from some sectors for something a little different. At the largest UK fruit processor and commercial jam manufacturer for bakeries, Fourayes, it is continually exploring new tastes and flavours. Some of what the company calls its “latest jam innovations” include Apple and Lavender, Rhubarb and Elderflower, and Apricot and Chilli. There are also descriptions given to each by official tasters. Flavours that they are now currently experimenting with include Vanilla and Peach, and Peach, Coriander and Chilli.

It would seem the key to success – guest satisfaction – is two-fold. It is without question wise to provide the standard favourites and timeless classics and it may make a business stand out from the crowd by getting creative and going beyond the strawberry patch.