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British Reserve Is Put in Preserves

Traditional jam-maker Tiptree's motto is `We want to do it ourselves'

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BLACKBERRY, apricot, strawberry, raspberry, a clear honey, and an orange marmalade: These are the jams served to guests at the Ritz Hotel, Piccadilly, London. They are all made by the same long-established maker of jams, jellies, conserves, and preserves - Wilkin & Sons Ltd. of Tiptree in Essex. Keith Stanley, head chef at the Ritz, assesses Tiptree jams succinctly: ``They are far superior, I think.'' To the Ritz, he says, they are the ``best quality we can offer to our clients.'' And adds: ``Since we serve 150 afternoon teas every day, our strawberry jam must be quite good - it should be - and it is!''

Tiptree jam, named after the village in which the family company has operated for over a century, could hardly ask for a better endorsement. At a time when the jam industry in the United Kingdom has been declining for decades, the popularity of Tiptree continues to grow. Although it commands a mere 2 percent of the British jam market, and remains almost obstinate about the smallness of its operation, Tiptree is so efficiently marketed that it seems ubiquitous here.

The Ritz is only one of about 350 British hotels (150 in London alone) that buy Tiptree jam - not to mention delicatessens, fine food retailers, and, to a lesser extent, supermarkets in 50 countries. The company's own distinctive green, gold, and black elegantly other-era vans deliver special orders daily to London hotel clients, and its larger trucks cover the whole of England and Wales once a week - Scotland once every two weeks.

There is no band of salesmen. The smallest shop orders direct from Wilkin & Sons. The policy, as sales manager Ian Thurgood says on a tour of the factory and fields, is virtually the company motto: ``We want to do it ourselves.'' This approach, he says, ``gives you the satisfaction of knowing you've got it right.''

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