Sweet's Syrup was founded in 2016, and ever since, we've searched for a certified organic elderberry supplier who can provide us with the finest berries in the world AND keep up with our needs. (We use a LOT of elderberries.)
At first, we looked for domestic growers who could provide organic berries in the quantities needed. When that didn't pan out, we shifted our attention overseas. Honestly, we were getting a little discouraged.
Then, in the spring of 2019, we were overjoyed to find a co-op of contract farmers who grow black and red currants, elderberries, elderflowers, and chokeberries, either conventionally or in compliance with EU organic standards. Our initial conversations were very encouraging, but Sweet's high quality standards required another step.
Stephanie, Sweet's Founder and President, places a huge emphasis on knowing the source of food, from the meals she prepares for her family to the ingredients used in Sweet's Syrup. She says, "It is important to me to have a relationship with the supplying company and meet the farmers who will love on and nurture my sweet berries. I want to see the fields and walk the soil, to be sure I'm bringing my customers the very best product possible."
In August, the rest of Team Sweet's held down the fort while Stephanie and Ellen flew to Austria. After a quick stopover in Salzburg and a "Sound of Music" tour (complete with an enthusiastic singalong), they arrived in Southern Austria. The federal states of Styria, Burgenland and Lower Austria feature the world's peak growing conditions for elderberries, and are home to hundreds of family farms.
Ellen, Sweet's Vice President of Operations, recalls, "Austria was beautiful! The area reminded me of the North Carolina mountains, with bright green grass, wildflowers, and quaint towns. The farmers live well on what Americans would consider a small farm."
"And the elderberry bushes," she added, "were amazing! They were like small trees with thick, healthy trunks, and the most gorgeous berries."
Stephanie and Ellen spoke with the farmers about organic growing practices, federal farm subsidies, the local economy, and moles (a big problem for European elderberry growers). They accompanied co-op representatives Stefan and Gerhard to the facility where berries are picked over, dried, and packed.
Once fully convinced that we'd located the PERFECT elderberry source for Sweet's, Stephanie made the deal. Sweet's Syrup agreed to purchase 11,000 pounds of Austria's finest dried organic elderberries.
Stephanie and Ellen flew home... and we waited.
Over the summer, our berries matured, were picked, and dried... and we waited.
On Halloween, Stephanie went to the bank to wire payment to Austria. Naturally, she wore lederhosen.
Then, our order was packed and loaded on a container ship... and we waited some more.
FINALLY, in December, our precious, long-awaited elderberries arrived in Port of Charleston, passed inspection, and were loaded onto a Charlotte-bound truck. Stephanie met them at our storage facility, and all of Team Sweet's breathed a huge sigh of relief.
The Sweet's kitchen team began producing with the new berries in January 2020, and we immediately noticed the richer flavor and deeper purple hue our co-op farmers told us to expect. We couldn't be more pleased with the results, and we're delighted to bring this product to you. Order Sweet's straight to your doorstep, or visit a retailer near you.