The Untold Truth Of Bonne Maman

There's something that feels luxurious about Bonne Maman preserves, even though they're widely available in U.S. grocery stores and affordable at less than $5 a jar. Maybe it's the small-batch look of the red-and-white gingham lid on the hexagonal jars. Or perhaps it's the label's looping script that reads "Product of France." Or it could be the whiffs of whole fruits like strawberries and golden plums you get as you spread generous spoonfuls of preserves on your morning toast or afternoon PB&J.

The half-century-old Bonne Maman brand claims that not much has changed about its preserves since its founding in 1971 by Frenchman Jean Gervoson. He started the business in Biars-sur-Cère, "a little village in the heart of the Lot, a beautiful region filled with fruit trees at the confluence point of the Cère and Dordogne rivers," the website reads. Gervoson named the brand Bonne Maman after the affectionate term that French families use for grandmothers, and fittingly, the preserves still contain ingredients "found in your grandmother's kitchen cabinet:" fruit, sugar, fruit pectin (a natural thickener), and lemon juice.

Bonne Maman makes preserves and jellies, but not jams

It's tempting to slap the umbrella term "jam" on any fruit-based spread that comes in a jar, but Bonne Maman actually doesn't make jam. Its main product offering is chunky preserves, which are made by cooking whole fruits — skins, seeds, and all — with sugar, resulting in larger pieces of fruit and a "fuller fruit flavor," the website explains. Jam, on the other hand, is made with crushed fruit. Bonne Maman also makes a few jellies, which are smoother and clearer than preserves since they're made with all fruit juice.

The brand doesn't stop at preserves and jellies; it also sells fruit spreads and curds. Its spreads, such as Quince and Purple Fig, are made similarly to the preserves but have a thicker, smoother texture and are meant to be enjoyed with cheeses, cold cuts, and crackers for charcuterie hour (via Think Distributors). Bonne Maman's lemon curd is made with lemon juice, eggs, sugar, and butter and is ideal for baking pies and tarts. If you find yourself across the northern border, check out the brand's Canadian offerings like chestnut spread and rhubarb compote.

Bonne Maman offers 23 flavors of preserves, jellies, and spreads

Bonne Maman's offerings run the gamut of fruits, from berries and tropical crops to stone fruits and citrus. While some Bonne Maman executives are partial to green plum or wild blueberry flavors (via Broma Bakery), consumer preferences are all over the map. Bon Appétit ranked all 23 variations and named the Apricot Preserves the best for their "height-of-summertime" taste. The rarer Golden Mirabelle Plum Preserves, which have a "soft" flavor and "pleasantly syrupy consistency," and not-too-seedy Raspberry Preserves came in second and third.

You'll find classic Bonne Maman preserves like fig, strawberry, and four fruits in most supermarkets year-round. If you keep an eye on the website during holiday seasons, though, you'll be able to snag limited-edition flavors, like the Pumpkin Spice Spread and Cranberry-Cherry Preserves in the brand's autumn twin pack. Bonne Maman's advent calendars often contain more adventurous flavors, like Purple Fig with Cinnamon, Strawberry and Verbena, and Raspberry and Lychee, as Food & Wine reports.

Bonne Maman makes the preserves of choice for many chefs and food personalities

While specialty stores and farmers' markets are abundant with high-quality, small-batch jams in forward-thinking flavors (via Serious Eats), even the professionals still approve of bigger brands like Bonne Maman. For example, Chef Alex Guarnaschelli is a fan, she revealed in a Food Network roundup of star-approved groceries, and likes to use the preserves seasonally. "I put a small dollop of the wild blueberry in my summer blueberry pies. I eat the four-fruits flavor on toast in spring. In fall, I go for the marmalade, cherry, or fig," she revealed.

Bonne Maman is also consistently included in top publications' best-of lists and is carried by specialty stores for chefs and serious home cooks. New York Magazine even declared Bonne Maman's Orange Marmalade, "perfect for spreading on burnt toast with a sprinkle of sea salt," naming it one of the best jams of 2020. The chestnut spread also has all five-star reviews on an online French food marketplace called Simply Gourmand.

Did the family behind Bonne Maman help protect Jews during the Holocaust?

You may have seen a viral Twitter thread back in February of 2021 by St. John's University professor Michael Perino, who helped an elderly woman reach a high-up jar of Bonne Maman Raspberry Preserves at a New Jersey supermarket. The woman told Perino, the professor claimed, that she's loyal to the Bonne Maman brand because she's a Holocaust survivor. "During the war, the family that owns the company hid my family in Paris. So now I always buy it," she reportedly said.

Neither journalists nor internet sleuths were able to verify the story that the Gervoson family hid Jews during the Holocaust, according to The Times of Israel. Their names are not listed on the heavily-researched database of righteous gentiles (non-Jews who rescued Jews during the war, the publication explains), and Bonne Maman didn't offer any confirmation. "The family prefers to maintain privacy and does not comment on inquiries about personal matters," the company said in a statement to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 

While Perino's story hasn't been verified, it has convinced many new customers to buy Bonne Maman, whose products are almost all kosher, The Times of Israel noted.

Bonne Maman is looking toward a health-conscious future

Bonne Maman as a brand is nostalgic — think about all those references to "Grandma's" kitchen, "just like Grandma made," etc. However, it's adapting to changing food preferences. Its most striking development was the 2017 rollout of "Intense" fruit spreads, which contain more fruit and 38% less sugar than the "common jam," according to a press release. Bonne Maman made its original quartet of Intense jams, as well as two new additions later on, in response to data that showed that nearly half of consumers were avoiding sugary foods.

If the press response was any indication, the Intense spreads have been a hit. Epicurious' David Tamarkin, an "unabashed sugar lover" with a "vice" for jam, said he liked the new products but found their flavor to be more gentle than intense. "Perhaps Bonne Maman Intense is named not for how the spread is supposed to taste, but rather for the type of person who needs it. It's for jam lovers like me — people whose relationship to jam is intense."

Additionally, Modor Intelligence released a 2020 preserves market report showing that demand for simply made, preservative-free products is on the rise. Bonne Maman has always been hip to that trend, but we'll just have to see how it responds to customers' growing interest in preserves that are not only sweet, but also "sweet and spicy, sweet and smoky, and sweet and tangy." Perhaps Bonne Maman mango-jalapeño preserves are in our future.