The brand Stonewall Kitchen is familiar to many. The American gourmet food company is widely known for its high-quality and delicious sauces, jams, aiolis, and more. To this day, the company, headquartered in Maine, USA, sells its products in over 40 countries. Among the most well-known products from Stonewall Kitchen are jams, chutneys, jellies, barbecue sauces, aiolis, mustards, dessert sauces, and pancake mixes. But who is behind the company Stonewall Kitchen, and how did it all begin? We aim to delve into these exact questions.
Stonewall Kitchen - From Local Farmers' Market to International Success
We're in the year 1991. It all started with a jar of jam made by future partners Jonathan King and Jim Scott from blueberries in their own garden. After a short while, the current founders of Stonewall Kitchen began making jams for friends and family members. Encouraged by their response, the two decided to sell their homemade jams at a local farmers' market. And so they did. Within a few hours, Jim Scott and Jonathan King had sold all the jams – the demand was enormous. From that point on, they decided to expand their jam sales to farmers' markets across New England. This helped them quickly build a loyal fan base. After a few years, Jim Scott and Jonathan King also achieved their first successes with major retailers. For instance, in 1993, the company "Crate & Barrel" took notice of the young founders and ordered 2,500 jars of Orange-Cranberry Jam. It took an entire month for them to produce the jams. To be prepared for larger orders in the future, they needed to increase their production capacity. So, the two founders of Stonewall Kitchen bought an 18th-century barn in Kittery, Maine, and renovated it. A bit later, they moved to an even larger property in nearby York (also in Maine), which remains the headquarters of Stonewall Kitchen to this day. Over the years, Jim Scott and Jonathan King developed many new gourmet products and steadily expanded their range. Nowadays, the company produces over 75,000 jars per day and supplies more than 8,000 retail locations – in the USA alone.
Flexibility Was the Key to Success
The story of Stonewall Kitchen sounds like the American Dream – "from rags to riches," starting from humble beginnings and reaching great success. However, it was by no means as easy as it sounds. Especially at the start, when Stonewall Kitchen was still in its infancy, the two founders went through challenging times. The newly created recipes didn't always turn out as fancy as planned. Moreover, dealing with different retailers often brought about challenges related to pricing strategies and inadequate advertising.
Jim Scott and Jonathan King quickly learned that flexibility is the key to success. Especially in product development, the two founders had to improvise more than once. Need an example? When the two young founders were selling their products at farmers' markets, they soon realized that their homemade strawberry jam wasn't setting properly and had a more liquid consistency than desired. So, Jim Scott and Jonathan King simply sold the product as strawberry sauce. This is, by the way, also one of the main reasons why labels at Stonewall Kitchen were handwritten. This way, the product name could be quickly changed if needed. Even today, the handwriting of Jonathan King graces the Stonewall Kitchen labels – albeit in digital form. Back then, each label was handwritten. Jonathan King always used a green pen to write the product name on the cream-colored label. If you take a closer look at the Stonewall Kitchen labels, you'll notice that the green writing and cream-colored labels have remained consistent to this day. In the office of the two Stonewall Kitchen founders, there's a large collection of original labels. All of these were scanned and digitized. Using these writings, Stonewall Kitchen created a proprietary font that is not only used for labels of new products but also by the internal design department.
Quirks in Product Development at Stonewall Kitchen
At the beginning of a product is the product idea – I'm sure we can agree on that. But did you know that when it comes to product development at Stonewall Kitchen, not everything always went smoothly? The founders were working on a new recipe for a savory onion compote. Due to an accident, Jim Scott and Jonathan King added sugar to the compote. The result? The Roasted Garlic Onion Jam – just as we know it today. By the way, the Roasted Garlic Onion Jam remains one of the most popular items in the entire Stonewall Kitchen range and even received an award at the Fancy Food Show in New York.
Especially in Stonewall Kitchen's early years, the two founders had to learn to deal with the current situation and somehow adapt to it. The company hadn't yet made big profits, so Jim Scott and Jonathan King initiated bartering at local farmers' markets. They exchanged their homemade jams and marinades for crates of fresh fruits and vegetables that went unsold by the end of the day. From the "traded" goods, the two eventually developed new products. In retrospect, you could say that the newly created products were a result of what they could negotiate in the market.
Afterwards, Jim Scott and Jonathan King used every trip to discover and try new ingredients. The development of new products was, to a large extent, dependent on the travels and experiences of the two Stonewall Kitchen founders.
Milestones of Stonewall Kitchen
- 1991 – the birth of Stonewall Kitchen at the farmers' market in Portsmouth, New Hampshire
- 1993 – the large order from "Crate & Barrel" puts the founders to the test
- 1995 – Stonewall Kitchen receives the "Best in Show" award
- 1998 – The first Stonewall Kitchen catalog is sent out
- 2000 – Stonewall Kitchen permanently moves to York, Maine
- 2006 – Stonewall Kitchen establishes its own cooking school
- 2013 – Astronaut Chris Cassidy takes Stonewall Kitchen's Wild Maine Blueberry Jam (packed in a space-worthy container) to space
- 2016 – Stonewall Kitchen celebrates its 25th birthday
- 2018 – Stonewall Kitchen acquires Tillenfarms and agrees to a licensing agreement with Legal Sea Foods
Stonewall Kitchen in Germany
We at American Heritage are thrilled to be a small part of this impressive story of Stonewall Kitchen and the remarkable journey of the gourmet food company. Since 2005, we have been exclusively importing the delicious gourmet products from Stonewall Kitchen from the USA and have been supplying numerous retailers and end customers in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and other European countries. In doing so, we also contribute to making the Stonewall Kitchen brand more known in Germany and Europe. Moreover, we are very proud to offer our customers the sauces, aiolis, jams, etc. from Stonewall Kitchen, allowing them to experience the high quality and excellent taste of the products for themselves.