Jammin' in Carlsbad

When his boys were younger, Russ Bruhn would frequently drive by the Carlsbad strawberry fields on the way to the beach or Legoland. He even took the boys to pick strawberries at the big strawberry field just east of Interstate 5, off Cannon Road. A self-employed marketer, he often wondered why no one had come up with a branded line of Carlsbad strawberry products - particularly after a disappointing exchange with a Hawaiian baseball team.


"My son's team played a visiting team from Kauai, and they had all sorts of branded goodies, including Kauai cookies," Bruhn Says. "I had gone down to the village to see what I could get from Carlsbad and found nothing."

He did a little research and discovered that 83 percent of all strawberries sold in the United States come from California. Carlsbad has been a significant supplier of strawberries since the early 1900s.

Thus was born Carlsbad Gourmet, a line of high-end jellies, jams and other delicacies made of Carlsbad strawberries. Bruhn, whose marketing credits include licensed NFL and various beauty products, launched his new business in March with 20 jars of Carlsbad Gourmet Strawberry Spread, which sold out in one hour at the gift shop at the Carlsbad Flower Fields. He now has five flavors of strawberry spread, including strawberry lavender, and strawberry black walnut, as well as strawberry hot sauce and strawberry barbecue sauce. The barbecue sauce is made with Green Flash Ruby Red Ale, from a North County microbrewery.

"I wanted to keep things local and fresh," Bruhn says.

Carlsbad Gourmet products are now available at seven businesses in Carlsbad, and Bruhn plans to branch out to farmers' markets and elsewhere in San Diego County. He's also selling direct on his Web site, www.carlsbadgourmet.com.