Back in 1987, Kevin and Barbara Kirshner left successful corporate careers and NYC behind to take over as innkeepers at The Inn on Lake Waramaug in New Preston CT.
Barbara having been a Test Kitchen Home Economist, was a co-creator of Mars Twix Bars, and Combos Pretzel Nuggets. She was anxious to develop a wonderful low fat granola with a unique taste and light and crisp texture. 25 years ago their first granola was developed. Barbara’s creation was a huge hit and not only was it featured on the Inn’s breakfast menu; people began ordering by phone (no eCommerce at the time.) Cinnamon Toast is still available and one of their most popular varieties.
In 1991 with the inn changing ownership, they headed north and landed in the Berkshires, and started their first full-time food company. Canyon Ranch Health Resort in Lenox became their first commercial customer.
What excites Kevin and Barbara about being a small food company is the magic that food creates. Trying new things, sharing it with others, and learning from their customers.
After being married for 18 yrs and 1 year into their new business Barbara became pregnant, and 2 years later their 2nd child arrived… another joy was having the girls in a pouch on Kevin’s back while he made and packaged granola. He loved the feel of their sweaty head and hands, while fast asleep. As the girls got older many naps were taken on top of the 50 lb. oat sacks they had lying around.
Kevin and Barbara see themselves as innovators. Berkshire Grain was the first company in the US to introduce chia seeds in a breakfast cereal. Kevin was evaluating whether to add hemp to a granola mix and through the magic of the Internet came volumes of streaming information about chia seeds. The decision to use chia was obvious.
Over the years they’ve dabbled in many interesting product ideas–decadent chocolate vegan cupcakes, vegan cookies, chocolate pretzel bark, and most recently wine jellies.
Kevin has been involved in wine tastings and wine education in addition to being a food entrepreneur. With lots of opened bottles of wine around and too much to drink themselves, he started investigating possible uses. His search led him to wine jellies. What is most exciting about the wine jellies is that it allows even people that don’t like the taste of wine to enjoy a whole world of grapes without drinking one glass of wine. The alcohol is mostly cooked out during the process of making jelly.
Kevin and Barbara’s passion for delicious and exciting food, good wine and people, really shines through in many of the wine jelly creations. There’s a Chardonnay with lemon & rosemary, Pinot Grigio infused with sage, Devil’s Fire finishes with a kick from small orange haberneros. Fruit and wine go so well together that there’s always something new happening. Mango Moscato, and Strawberry Summer Blend are lower sugar varieties. These jellies contain extra fruit to make up for the lower sugar.
The jellies are adaptable to a wide range of uses, from baking, flavored drinks iced tea, in sauces, fat-free vinaigrettes, fruit and cheese platters……or why not just a really premium PBJ?There are ten wine jelly varieties.
Berkshire Grain products have been featured in the finest stores, luxury hotels, and universities throughout the US. The last few years Kevin and Barbara have been enjoying reconnecting with their customers at farmers’ markets, fairs, festivals and through the web. It is at these live events meeting and talking with customers and other entrepreneurs that they draw their inspirations.
Both Kevin and Barbara have served in the past on the board for the Massachusetts Specialty Food Association.
Berkshire Grain produces all their own products at The Berkshire Harvest Rental Kitchen in Lee, MA, located directly across from the Lee Outlet Village. There are no regular hours. If you would like to stop by and pick up some jellies, granola, and/or gluten free products call in advance at 413-551-9191. BerkshireGrain.com