Gem Berry Company Bio
in 1993, Gem Berry was an outgrowth of an earlier effort by a group of
North Idaho farmers to establish a raspberry industry. Partners Harry
& Betty Menser and Jack & Elizabeth O’Brien formed the company
when the raspberry industry fell through because of lack of labor to
pick the delicate fruit. Fortunately for them, the availability of wild
mountain huckleberries and the opening of the Bonner Business Center in
Sandpoint that housed a licensed kitchen offered Gem Berry the
opportunity to manufacture their value-added products. Brothers, Doug
and Edward Hawkins, owners of the Litehouse Salad Dressings, also
located in Sandpoint, gave Gem Berry a tremendous boost too, by bringing
home their huckleberry operation from Oregon and contracting with Gem
Berry for its huckleberry production. Gem Berry managed Litehouse
Specialty Foods huckleberry division until 2004 when they bought the
huckleberry business from Litehouse.
Gem Berry Products has won numerous awards for their wild berry products including the following:
Raspberry Jam won the 1993 Governor's Marketing Award for the “Best New
Product” from the Idaho Specialty Foods Association.
Huckleberry/Red Raspberry Jam won the 1995 Governor’s Marketing Award
for Best New Product from the Idaho Specialty Foods Association.
“It was neither too sweet nor too thick – a perfect jam” Brooks Tish, Idaho Statesman, Wednesday, April 26, 1995.
*“Best Packaging Award” at the 1995 Tri-State Northwest Gourmet Getaway Competition for its Huckleberry syrup.
Huckleberry/Red Raspberry Syrup Grand Prize winner of the Finest New
Red Raspberry Product in America contest 1995 sponsored by the
Washington Red Raspberry Commission.
President of Gem Berry Products, was born in Colorado, but moved to the
San Francisco Bay area where he graduated from the University of San
Francisco. After a tour with the U.S. Army during the Korean war, he
was employed as a buyer for Macy's Department Store. About that time,
he met and married Elizabeth whose family had moved to the San Francisco
Bay area from Michigan. Elizabeth's parents bought a ranch in North
Idaho and in 1962, Jack and Elizabeth moved their family to the ranch
where they originally raised cattle and horses. The O'Briens set out to
become raspberry farmers which is where they met and partnered with the
Mensers to form Gem Berry. Jack was the president and CEO of Gem Berry until his death in October 2012. Jack's daughter, Mary, is now involved with the day to day operations in Jack's stead.
Elizabeth O'Brien, also a University of San Francisco graduate created the award-winning recipes for Gem Berry until her untimely death in 2005.
former Superintendent & Horticulturist at the University of Idaho’s
Sandpoint R & D Center, grew up in Delaware and his native
Pennsylvania. He received his doctorate at the at the University of
Maryland, served with the US Air Force during the Korean War and worked
as a Research Scientist for the US Department of Agriculture in Maryland
and West Virginia before moving to Idaho in 1980. Harry was instrumental in organizing north Idaho farmers to establish a raspberry
industry where he met and partnered with the O'Briens to form Gem Berry
Products. As the only surviving owner, Harry is chief CEO and marketing manager.
a graduate of Allegheny College and the Univeristy of Pittsburgh,
serves as Gem Berry's Treasurer and works with Harry to purchase
supplies and market their products. (NOTE: Betty developed cancer and
passed away in February 2009. She will be sorely missed!)
Menser, his wife Betty, and partners Jack & Elizabeth O’Brien,
founded Gem Berry Products Inc., in 1993 as a value-added berry
processing company, located at the Bonner Business Center Incubator in
Sandpoint where they use the on-site commercial kitchen.