WI choice spreads a little joy for a family of jam-makers

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Wheldrake-based jam and chutney manufacturer Mercers of Yorkshire has fought off tough competition to be selected to produce for the eagerly anticipated new food range from the National Federation of Women’s Institutes (NFWI).

Mercers of Yorkshire has been named as the only producer in the UK to meet the exacting standards of the NFWI to produce its new range of WI jams, marmalades and chutneys – with the jam and marmalade available in Waitrose from March. Two other producers have been chosen to make flour and biscuits.

The family-run company, owned by Paul Mercer and his wife Lizzie, was put through its paces by the NFWI – the largest women’s organisation in the country – with a rigorous round of visits and taste tests. Three jams, two chutneys and their English Breakfast Marmalade will now be available under the “WI Foods” label.

“We are over the moon to have been chosen by such a prestigious organisation,” said Lizzie. “If there’s one group of people you want your jams to get the approval of, it’s got to be the NFWI – after all, they are experts in preserving! To have the NFWI interested in our products shows we are obviously doing something right.”

Paul and Lizzie took over the jam making business in 2007 and their dedication to producing high-fruit jams and marmalades and delicious chutneys with real provenance obviously impressed. Where possible all the ingredients are locally sourced – strawberries and blackberries for the jams come from Yorkshire, raspberries from Scotland, and carrots for the chutneys come from the fields in the next village – even the sugar is British.

“Our jams and chutneys are just like those you might make in your own kitchen,” says Lizzie, whose four young children regularly (and messily!) taste test the products. “What’s more, many of the recipes that we use today originally came from an old Preserves and Preserving WI cookbook, so it seemed the perfect fit.”

The NFWI has been producing quality food for nearly 100 years, and since its formation in 1915 has grown to encompass 208,000 members spread across 7,000 groups in the UK.

Ruth Bond, NFWI Chair, said: “We would like everyone to bake at home but recognise that this is not necessarily an everyday activity for busy working mothers.

“We will be launching products which we feel are representative of the heritage of the WI and allow people to enjoy a little bit of something good. I have tasted and re-tasted these products and hope that our members and new customers will enjoy them as much as I do!”