Profit in preserving, no longer just a hobby

For Marlene Baroli-Turati, life has become an obsession with sugar and fruit.

After working two decades as a project manager for Boeing Co., she was laid off during a round of recession-fueled cutbacks in 2008.

"I had always made jams and jellies as gifts," said Baroli-Turati, 44, who lives in Lake Forest and launched a line of preserves under the brand name DaSweetZpot. She sells the products at her online store on Etsy.com and at area food festivals and trade shows.

"I figured, why not start making them as a business?" she said.

While home food preservation thrives as a cultish hobby, the slow economy has helped launch a cottage industry for homemade preserves.

Boutique businesses such as Baroli-Turati's are using old-fashioned methods to make small-batch jams, jellies and other preserved foods.

Start-up costs can be low. The products have a relatively long shelf life. And even in tough times, consumers still seek out comfort foods.

No one keeps track of the number of such tiny start-ups. But scores of websites and ads on Craigslist have cropped up across the U.S., hawking jewel-like jars of jam or bottles of homemade pickles.

Officials with Etsy.com said they have seen the number of preserves being sold remain healthy over the last year: As of this month, there were more than 1,300 items for sale, with flavors as varied as walnut butter and lemon drop pepper jam.

Sales of Jarden Corp.'s Ball and Kerr glass canning jars are booming; domestic sales in 2009 up 20 percent over the previous year after rising 60 percent in 2008 from 2007.

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