Crystal Israel had her brandied vanilla pear jam. Tucker Juan had his white chocolate toffee. There were also pickles, tea and bakery treats for dogs.

 

The North Florida Food Alliance set up in a room just off Unity Plaza in Riverside on Monday to show off its wares to stores and anyone else who might be interested in selling them. Mark Patterson, owner of Naturally Smart frozen dessert, started the group about 10 months ago.

“I started networking,” Patterson said, “but there was nobody there with food.”

It has grown to 10 members now, and he said the rules are simple: Members must produce food items that are store ready, they can’t compete with other members and they must participate in monthly meetings.

Much of the discussion is about marketing.

“Distribution is our biggest issue,” Patterson said. “When Lucky’s Market comes to Neptune Beach, rather than us going to them one at a time, we can all meet with them together.”

Israel makes eight types of jams and jellies in her kitchen on Old Kings Road, and she’s getting them on shelves. She’s in 78 stores, including Winn-Dixies, but says being part of the group has helped a lot.

“There’s lots of support on different levels,” she said. “You can get advice on finding a printer for your labels.”

Charlotte Tzabari, who owns Olive My Pickle with her husband, Shai, said the members will talk about where to find employees.

“We shouldn’t all be going it alone,” she said.

So most of the members gathered Monday with their products. Suzannah Ratfield and Rhonda Ryan started producing Bold City Pops two years ago, selling them in street markets and festivals. They’ve gotten into a few stores and now are selling 60,000 pops a year. But now they’re branching out.

“There’s a lot of pop makers in this town,” Ryan said.

Their newest product is The Ice Box, a 2-inch frozen cube made with fruit and other flavors.

Justin Stubblefield was there with the 10 honey products from Stubbees, the company he started four years ago. Keep in mind that he’s only 21 now, but he harvests his own honey and buys from others across North Florida. He’s in 150 stores.

Tucker Juan makes all the Topsy Toffee himself, using his mother’s recipe. He got lucky when he first started contacting stores about carrying it.

“The first 10 said they would,” he said. “But then I went to a hospital store and they said it was too expensive for them. That was my first rejection and it really hurt.

“But then I realized that it’s just part of the business.”

 

Roger Bull: (904) 359-4296