An exceptional jam from a small Belgian company with an even more exceptional story! Read along to learn all about Wildiers, the wonderful company that produces the Peach Jam made specially with Belgian Beer in our new Belgium Box. For this piece, we chatted with Emilie, who tells us about how this special family company began, why she decided to pursue work in the family business, and her plans for the future.
Hi! Can you tell us about the origins of Wildiers?
My parents were chicory and vegetable farmers when my brother and I were born. They sold the chicory & vegetables at local farmers markets and they made jams and pickles with the leftover fruit & vegetables. They started to sell more and more jam each week, so my father decided to start a small jam factory. They also started to make elderberry syrup. As children, my brother and I went on small airplane flights to look for wild elderberry in the neighborhood, and then we would go pick them afterwards.
Sales grew, year by year, and the products all got a nostalgic labeling, with paper on top of the lids. Our house expanded with more and more room for the jam making. When I was 6, my parents separated and my father did the business on his own.
When I was 15, my father died and my mother decided to take over the business until my brother and I were old enough to decide to run it. At 18, I didn’t feel like going in the jam business, and my brother didn’t, either. Instead, we both went to study. I studied product development at Antwerp for 5 years and in my final year, I got a bit bored with school and started to help out more and more in our little factory. I realized that I didn’t want to be a product designer anymore, so I went for an extra year of business management in Leuven and then decided to work full time at the family business. My brother became a (wedding) photographer.
My mother said that I had to take it over completely from day 1, so I started in September 2006. Now, there are only 2 other workers besides me in the kitchen, and my mother worked alongside me until her retirement in 2011.
Our jams are made in the same 5 copper kettles as in 1985. We cook everything with a maximum 3 kg per kettle. This way, cooking time is shorter, so color and taste are better preserved. Our assortment has grown over time to 20 classic jams with 50% fruit, 9 spreads with 100% fruit, 6 jams with 70% fruits, 5 confits, 1 mango chutney, Nicole’s Pickles (we made these as a gift for my mothers retirement, with a picture of her on the packaging) and our elderberry syrup.
How was it decided to add beer to the peach jam?
Our factory is close to the 3rd largest brewery of Belgium (Brouwerij Primus Haacht) and we thought it might be fun and tasty to combine beer and fruit in a jam. We tried the Peaches and peach beer and everybody was instantly enthusiastic about the flavor. It is also perfect to combine with cheese.
We recently had our whole branding updated by the American company Peck & co. It now is a mix of our old homemade style packaging with a fresh touch. We are very happy with the new look and decided to focus the next few years on more exporting and shipping outside of Belgium. So, we also recently bought an automatic filling and capping machine so we can add 2 copper kettles. The making of the jams will still stay the same, though, with a maximum of 3 kg of fruit per kettle.
We also keep developing new flavors and products. For the summer, we hope to launch a hot sweet chili sauce and a honey mustard sauce.
Our goal is to work more efficiently each day without losing our homemade character. We don’t have the intention to become too big. We want our workers to be happy and proud of our company, so they come to work with great pleasure.