Local entrepreneur launches new brand of preserves

IT’S A HIT—Don Sorkin with a jar of his new product. RICHARD GILLARD/Acorn Newspapers

Move over boysenberries; Girlsenberries are taking over the grocery store shelves.

When Westlake businessman Don Sorkin set out on a new startup venture, a memory of going grocery shopping with his mom led him to create a new product called Girlsenberries Preserves.

His idea proved to be successful. The product was picked up by Kroger last year and is being sold in 176 Ralphs stores across Southern California.

What is a Girlsenberry, you might ask? Well, it’s not a real berry.

Sorkin created a brand of berry preserves that combines four classics: strawberries, blackberries, blueberries and red raspberries.

Girlsenberries Preserves is not Sorkin’s first business venture. In 1986, he started Dandees Diapers, a company that sold an array of diapers in different colors.

The entrepreneur was semi-retired when the concept of Girlsenberries Preserves came to him, and the seclusion of the pandemic inspired him to launch his berry brainchild.

The Acorn spoke with Sorkin about how his product went from the drawing board to the supermarket.

Acorn: How did you get involved in the industry?

Sorkin: We did really well with (Dandees Diapers) in the first year. My partners and I took the company public. We raised the money, and we did well with it. So I know how to take a business from a startup because I did all the sales with that venture. Now we’re back in supermarkets, and I know the supermarket business, too, from my experience with Dandees.

Acorn: How did you come up with the name Girlsenberries?

Sorkin: When I was younger, my mom and I would go grocery shopping in the jams, jellies and preserves aisle, and we’d pass by a boysenberry product. I asked my mom, “Why don’t they have girlsenberries?” and she said, “Well, they don’t make those.”

I really thought about that. When I started developing the product, I got in touch with an attorney and trademarked the name.

Acorn: Tell me about the ingredients in Girlsenberries Preserves. How did you stumble upon this winning combination of berries?

Sorkin: We used berries that everyone usually likes. And we put them all together in one jar. I also wanted to create something that was really tasty. It’s not that sweet—it’s just the right amount of sweetness. You can clearly taste the red raspberries, the blueberries, strawberries and blackberries all mixed together. You can see the chunks of fruit. Kids really like it, too. The preserves pair well with peanut butter, toast or on bagels.

Acorn: Where do you source the fruit from? What was that process like?

Sorkin: Our manufacturers are out in Utah. They get their fruit from different areas. We worked together, testing the product to make sure everything was right. That’s where I got samples from. I took (the samples) around, and Kroger really liked it. It took numerous rounds to perfect the mixture of sweetness and tartness.

Acorn: What was it like to finally see your product on the shelves?

Sorkin: It’s like the product was finally born. It’s like a baby—it takes nine months of hard work and then it’s finally here.

Well, this is my little baby. To see it finally on the shelf really makes you feel proud. Especially when people are buying it and enjoying it. But, I talked with Kroger, and I think the price is too high right now. We’re going to get the product reduced. . . and we’re in the talks of expanding Girlsenberries Preserves to other supermarkets.

Acorn: Did you come up with the slogan for your product?

Sorkin: Yes. Years ago, I remember hearing Wendy’s “Where’s the beef?” advertisement. And then there was Tony the Tiger’s “They’re grrreat!”

Well, I wanted my little slogan to be “It’s deeeelicious.”

Move over, boys, the girls are here.

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