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The Armenian Mirror Spector April 2008
The Armenian Mirror Spector April 2008
Harvest Song Reaches Peak of Gourmet Preserve Market
By: Nancy Kalajian
BOSTON - Most Armenians would instantly recognize the twin-peaked outline of Mt. Ararat drawn in sunny yellow on the label attached to a jar of Harvest Song fruit preserves from the Ararat Valley in Armenia. Indeed, those who were raised in Armenia, like Sylvia Tirakian, always remembered the succulent tastes of naturally sun-ripened fresh apricots, quince, figs, peaches and sour cherries growing in their gardens. But Tirakian took action on her fond fruit memories with the opening of Harvest Song Ventures, a food company that specializes in natural and organic food products from Armenia, including freshly-reserved fruits. Now, many non-Armenians also have the opportunity to taste the distinctive , delicate flavors of Armenia's fruit.
Tirakian, formerly a fiber optics engineering design manager, partnered with investor James Tufenkian, founder of the renowned Tufenkian Artisan Carpets, to start Harvest Song Ventures in 2005. "We are forming a new path, a high-end gourmet market; it's like a young girl coming out," shared Tirakian. "There's no pectin, jellying or preservatives. While you see Ararat, it's not an ethnic product, but a high-end preserve."
Winner of two consecutive first-place gold medals in the Outstanding Jam/Preserve Category from NASFT (The National Association for the Specialty Food Trade) for Apricot Preserve (in 2006) and Sour Cherry (in 2007), Harvest Song's products competed with hundreds of other preserves to win the prestigious award. NASFT is a well-regarded association that assesses international products..
Harvest Song products can be found in all 270 William & Sonoma stores, as well as some Omni Foods, Whole Foods, Wild Harvest stores and their website, www.HarvestSongVentures.com. " The US is very excited about consuming food from exotic places. Our products are used in the best kitchens in the US. Rachel Ray loves the product and says it's like fresh fruit." Tirakian proudly relays. "Chef Daniel (of Daniel and Cafe Boulud) uses it in his kitchen as well." Besides pairing the preserves with artisinal cheeses, Harvest Song's reach has even extended far outside the US to Japan.
We've taken an Arminian product and we have reformulated it, with greater detail in packaging and it's very sophisticated. We have introduced the Arminian product and it's an ethnic product. We present it with pride but pride alone is not enough, you must deliver with service and quality.
It was that overly sweet flavor of Soviet-style recipes which used lots of sugar that pushed Tirakian into action. "Armenia's tsiran was no different," Tirakian shares, "It was preserved in lots of sugar. The aroma is killed and (it is) packed carelessly. Labels are even crooked."
"All the Harvest Song products are my proprietary formulas and have international proprietary trademarks," Tirakian continued. "We reformulated the product (for taste and texture), and packaged it (spent time and money) to create products for high-end consumers paying attention to hygiene, quality and consistency. We have been an example to other entrepreneurs.
"We purchase from micro farmers from all areas of Armenia. they get paid and there is great excitement among farmers. More trees are planted. I work very hard for a better economic and social situation among the people. The farmers regain their pride. They feel proud because their work is appreciated. We have become their ambassadors," she said.
James Tufenkian and Sylvia Tirakian, both passionate advocates for Armenia's revival, are thrilled to introduce indigenous Armenian products to other parts of the world. Their products are preservative-free, tasty and healthy. Tirakian tells of her great respect and friendship with James Tufenkian, her investing partner, and shares, "All of the efforts of harvest Song is a mere continuation of the high standard that Tufenkian Enterprises has established worldwide."
Though Tirakian left Yerevan when eight years old and lived in Beirut for about four years, She's been mainly living in the New york area the last three decades. Though she found little creativity in her former work as an engineer, she now finds her time is occupied with every single aspect of Harvest Song - from manufacturing to marketing.
With Tirakian's exacting nature, no detail is left to chance. A glass company in Armenia makes harvest Song's distinctive jars, using a mold that she ordered from Europe. Only the ripest fruit is handpicked, cleaned, cut and immediately prepared in small batches to assure that fresh fruit taste. As a final touch, nature-inpired colorful sun-dried rice paper from Katmandu, Nepal, is tied onto each jar with hand-loomed yarn. Tirakian credits Tufenkian for packaging the jars. "All the rice paper colors are carefully picked to give the consumer the harvest mood," Tirakian said.
Her advise to other entrepreneurs hoping to work in Armenia is simple: "You have to go to Armenia with patience, respect and equality. If you go with the state of mind that you know better, it'll never work. Armenia is still learning and has a lot to teach. You have to go as a 'builder', a good builder knows how to listen and how to respect everyone."
The company's name is dedicated to the farmers who sing beautiful melodies of praise and thanksgiving during the harvest season. It's a catchy tune and product, no matter what the season. The sweet but smooth apricot preserves can be eaten straight from the jar, or added to a bowl of yogurt; for a dreamy combination, try it paired with Parmagiano Reggiano cheese. The golden fig preserves taste so fresh you might think the figs were just picked from a tree growing in the valley of Ararat and canned today.