#22. Ethan Frisch and Ori Zohar are the co-founders of Burlap & Barrel, a spice company and public benefit corporation with a mission is to end inequality and exploitation in food systems that disenfranchise skilled farmers. Burlap & Barrel works directly with small farmers around the world, sourcing only single origin spices. Their focus is not just on procuring the spices but also on helping the farmers incorporate sustainable practices to ensure their businesses are economically viable.
The results have been outstanding, as Burlap & Barrel has been able to sustainably procure some of the most incredible spices directly from the farmers' harvest to our kitchen. The founders share their journey of starting the company and the story behind their first spice discovery – wild cumin from Afghanistan.
Throughout the episode, Ethan and Ori discuss their sourcing process and the relationships they build with visionary farmers who prioritize flavor and sustainability over high yields. They emphasize the importance of visiting the farmers in person to develop a genuine understanding of their practices and establish trust. Burlap & Barrel's vision goes beyond just providing exceptional spices; it's about creating a positive impact on farmers' lives and preserving cultural and heritage varieties.
Where to find Ethan Frisch:
Where to find Ori Zohar:
Where to find host Josh Sharkey:
In this episode, we cover:
(2:10) Gorilla Ice Cream
(5:13) Ori’s Startup
(7:52) Why Burlap & Barrel started
(10:58) How Burlap & Barrel finds their partners
(15:32) How Burlap & Barrel validates quality
(17:44) Picking a White Peppercorn partner
(22:07) Burlap & Barrel Origin blends
(27:10) Direct to Restaurant to Direct to Consumer
(30:46) The Supply chain and commoditization of spices
(32:37) What is Iru?
(35:36) The spice industry in America
(40:12) Domestic versus International sourcing
(42:01) How climate change effects sourcing
(48:08) Burlap & Barrel on Shark Tank
(55:34) Working with Floyd and Barkha Cardoz
Josh Sharkey [00:00:00]:
Welcome to The meez Podcast. I'm your host, Josh Sharkey, the founder and CEO of meez, the culinary operating system for food professionals. On the show, I'll be interviewing world-class entrepreneurs in the food space that are shifting the paradigm of how we innovate and operate in our industry. Thanks for listening, and I hope you enjoy the show.
Today we're chatting with the founders of Burlap & Barrel. It's a spice company slash public benefit corp, founded by Ethan Frisch and Ori Zohar. With a really unique approach to the spice market, the company is continually working towards ending inequality and exploitation in food systems that disenfranchise skilled farmers specifically. What that means is they use only single origin spices and they work directly with these small farmers around the world, not only to procure their spices, but also helping them to incorporate practices and measures so that they can sustain their own packaging and exporting within their own farm to ensure that their business is economically viable.
The result here is that Burlap & Barrel have been able to sustainably procure some of the most incredible spices I’ve ever tasted coming directly from the farmer from harvest to jar to our kitchen. I first learned about the company through Floyd and Barkha Cardoz when they were working on their FC Masala Blends.
They've partnered with Burlap & Barrel to produce those blends and I tried some of the products and I was blown away. I caught up with them for this episode about a week before their episode on Shark Tank aired, and most recently I just saw a couple of their spice jars on the set of The Bear season 2.
So word is definitely getting around. It would be too hard for me to call out any particular product since they're all really good, but I would just recommend going into their website, burlapandbarrel.com, and seeing for yourself. In the conversation, we talk about the origin of the company, how they were able to find and work with so many incredible small producers around the world, and there's always a lot more. So I hope you enjoy
Ethan, Ori, welcome to the podcast.
Ori Zohar [00:02:07]:
Thanks for having us. Yeah, great to be here.
Josh Sharkey [00:02:10]:
Yeah, excited to have you two. I think we're probably talk about it today because recently I saw your news about Shark Tanks, right? I wanna dig into that, or at least as much as you can share. I'm sure there's probably some you can't say, but maybe just to get started, I'd love to hear a little bit more about the two of you and how you got started together with Burlap & Barrel.
Ethan Frisch [00:02:17]:
Yeah, we've been friends for 15 years. This is our second food company together. We started Burlap & Barrel in the fall of 2016. A long story I'm sure we'll get into, but we had originally met through some mutual friends kind of in the restaurant scene in 2009, somewhere around then. I was working at a restaurant called Alan and Delany on the lower East side, or he would show up at the end of my shift and work something out and we’d wind up making some snacks in the kitchen or having drinks at the bar. We became such good friends and we decided to start an ice cream company together and activist ice cream cart flavors inspired by revolutions and political movements where we sold ice cream from a little cart at different markets and kind of on the stoops of friends restaurants around lower Manhattan, mostly in the summer of 2010.
Josh Sharkey [00:02:57]:
What was the ice cream shop called?
Ethan Frisch [00:02:59]:
It was called Gorilla Ice Cream. You calling it an ice cream shop? Even so, it is a little much. But we were renting space overnight in a restaurant kitchen to produce all the ice cream. I was making all of it basically. I already had a full-time job at the time. I had left my job at Tableau where I had worked with Chef Floyd to start this. But it was an ice cream cart in New York City. You can't, you can't run it after September anyway.
Ori Zohar [00:03:46]:
We were donating our profits to the Street Vendor Project, a nonprofit that was advocating for street vendor rights.Turns out they also had a frozen insulated kind of little push cart that we were able to borrow for them for that summer, you know, in kind of exchange. That was the agreement. So that got stored in the basement of my building. That thing got miles on those tires, you know, by the time the summer was over.
But it went really well and it was really fun and we got a lot of attention and kind of got to try our hands out at working together and seeing how we could kind of go from being just a friends to being business partners and see what we could do to tell a kind of interesting story about ice cream in a city that has ice cream in any single quarter, at any single bodega, in any single place.
[00:04:23] You can find ice cream around the summer, but what could we do to do something that was different and interesting and kind of captures people's imaginations. After four months of doing that and me getting three cavities, somehow we kind of wrapped up that summer of ice cream, but both just wanted to find the excuse to work together again.
Josh Sharkey [00:04:40]:
Yeah. It sounds like it was a good testing ground for learning how to work together.
Ori Zohar [00:04:45]:
Yeah, exactly. It was, it was like, let's see, are we ready? Like are we ready to really do this? And in those years I'd been working in advertising at the big marketing agencies and kind of cutting my teeth, learning how to do that. But after the summer of that ice cream business, I want to do a real startup. And in my mind that meant a venture back to blah, blah, blah. And through some friends of friends, I ended up starting a mortgage company. So my background was in business and that's what I'd started studying and had all kinds of funny entrepreneurial projects, as did Ethan too, was throughout his life.
But it ended up, we met some folks that ended up financing us to start a mortgage company with me and another co-founder, and we moved to San Francisco and tried to just help guide people through this really complicated and confusing mortgage process. When do you get points? What is APR? How do we use technology and a better process to have everybody kind of kind together around getting you a faster, better, cheaper mortgage. And that was the classic Silicon Valley story in that we raised a bunch of money, you know, $32 million over four years. We grew and grew and grew. And we hired and hired and hired, and at some point our series C fell through.
The investors were never planning on investing in us. You know, they were waiting to drag us into bankruptcy. We were kind of walking along and we realized it. We cut the company from 105 employees down to eight and prepared it to sell to somebody. But this was a really crazy rollercoaster, super intense like, grow big, spend the money, spend more than what you can unsustainable, but hopefully like, kind of get the companies through some kind of exit.
And, obviously, it didn't work out. We ended up selling our company to one of our investors for way less than we raised. I kind of like left that experience kinda licking my wounds and be like, oh my God, what happened here? But also learning a lot about what to do and even more about what not to do in the world of actually running the company. And that's right when Ethan kind of jumped back into the picture. Finally, seven years later? Six years later, after talking about what company and what we would do next, that's where Ethan, he may fill in the blanks.
Josh Sharkey [00:06:45]:
Wow, so the ice cream venture happened and then seven years later is when you got back together too, wow. That's right. Well, I can feel your pain on the venture side. I've been running, you know, a venture-backed company. There's a lot of trials and tribulations. It sounds like you were a product of the power law.
Ori Zohar [00:06:57]:
Yeah, listen, there's good ways to use venture capital to grow your business really quickly, but we never had a real engine of our business.We were always losing money and the more we grew, the more we lost money. And so it's not to say that venture is possible of course, but like, we just, like we, we took the money and tried to grow as fast as we could before we really knew what we were doing in the mortgage company and, like, had a product that people really loved and all that.
And I know one of the things that I really learned was that some of this stuff is really transferable. When you're running a business, it doesn't matter what kind of business it is, you know, you're, you're making decisions on prioritization, on focus, on hiring, on team, on pricing, on customer service and all that stuff. And so whether you're running an ice cream shop or a mortgage company or a spice company, I got better at it with every kind of version of it. And so it was a really useful experience that kind of made me a better entrepreneur cutting my teeth at each of those phases.
Josh Sharkey [00:07:52]:
I bet. Well, we sort of learned a little bit about the impetus why you started this ice cream shop together.Why did you start Burlap & Barrel. What was the catalyst for that?
Ethan Frisch [00:07:58]:
Yeah. I had left New York after the ice cream to go to graduate school for international development. My undergrad degree was in history and political science. I wanted to be an aid worker, so I went to London to get a master's degree in international development.
I lived there for a year. I cooked in a funny pub in East London, cranking out Yorkshire puddings and Sunday roast while I was in grad school. And then after that, I moved to Afghanistan where I wound up living for about two and a half years. I worked for a big nonprofit visiting and writing reports about construction projects that we were funding in really remote rural areas in the mountains in the northeast of the country.
A province called Badakhshan primarily. But really like, you know, drive up a dry river bed for five hours to get to a little village where we were building a school and sit down with the governing council of the village, meet with them about what was going on with the construction project. And I wound up eating at a lot of little roadside restaurants or people's homes on the road. I traveled all over Northeastern Afghanistan and saw a variety of wild cumin that grows in the mountains. I never tasted anything like it. I worked at Tableau, and worked well. I thought I kind of like my spice cabinet and then I just never tasted anything like it, so I started bringing it home along with all kinds of other stuff.
Dried fruit and nuts and honey and saffron and all kinds of other cool ingredients from Afghanistan. The cumin was really the start of the show and I started sharing with friends in the restaurant industry, and the response was very enthusiastic. I realized that even the best restaurants in New York City could get anything they wanted in terms of meat or dairy or truffle, you know, all kinds of other greasy, gritty spices.
They were no good, and you could buy the same kind of commercial crap that you find at the supermarket or often worse for restaurants. Companies are often selling something that is lower quality than a supermarket product. And that was where we started pieces together. I called up Ori. I mean this took several years, as you mentioned to get through.
I probably started bringing cumin home, in suitcases like 2012 or 2013. And then what finally wound up launching the company in 2016 like, but that cumin was kind of the realization for us that there were high quality spices being grown around the world. Often in countries where the people who were growing needed access to funds were really ready to grow their businesses, but didn't have access to the market to do that. And we found out there was a market that, especially initially with professional chefs, were interested in those kinds of things and those kinds of products.
Josh Sharkey [00:10:25]:
Wow. I love that man. Yeah. Well, I definitely wanna dig into a lot of the ingredients today. Maybe we can start with the sourcing and how you're finding these spices because it's really incredible and we have to talk about the the Wild Cumin because it's one of the many spices of course I have in my cabinet from Burlap & Barrel and I literally just sometimes just chew on it 'cause it's, you know, how often can you actually chew on cumin, but like with those seeds you can, but the way that you source is probably one of the most incredible parts of the business.
And it really sort of opens up this world of thinking about spices in a different way. Because as you said, we're so used to this commoditized group of spices that we get in the restaurant, these giant plastic jugs of cumin and black pepper. And it's all very sort of cookie cutter and at Burlap & Barrel, you can go on the website and you see that there's these varieties of these spices and there's also it seems like maybe even just single crop, you know, purchases that you're doing. So you wanna talk a little bit about your process around how you're sourcing these spices and I believe you're buying when you can like the entire crop from a farmer. And I'd love to hear sort of how that works.
Ethan Frisch [00:11:35]:
Yeah, that realization was exactly where we landed in probably the summer of 2016, that the spices available both to professional chefs and home cooks were crap. There was no appreciation or even awareness of the agricultural process behind a spice, or plants grown by farmers or in many instances, foraged wild. But even in black pepper or cinnamon, things that people use and eat on a daily basis, people know nothing. Nothing about where they come from or how.
And the reaction that I saw to that, especially really that stuck with me. So we started to see if we could find other producers in other countries who could provide spices of a similar kind of quality level, but also a uniqueness. We connected with a cooperative of farmers in Zanzibar, Tanzania Indian Ocean, growing incredible black pepper, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg.
Through an N G O, we met a cardamom farmer in Guatemala, so those are our first suppliers. We really didn't know what we were doing. We had no experience in port export and in any of the pieces of this puzzle that we were gonna need to put together, but we just went for it. We ran the business out of my apartment, my one bedroom apartment in Queens for the first year or year and a half.
Josh Sharkey [00:12:50]:
So, hold on. I have to just understand how you got ahold of these farmers?
Ethan Frisch [00:12:53]:
The folks in Afghanistan I met while I was living there and started working with a former colleague to kind of buy from these village based co-ops. I mean, very small quantities. You're probably a few kilos at a time, maybe. And then the Zanzibar co-op I met through a Tanzanian American friend who was working on a direct trade coffee export. And she had met this, this group of twice farmers. And that's a theme that we've seen throughout, right? Like a lot of this stage has been set by coffee, tea, chocolate, right? Other agricultural products that have taught consumers about the value of single origin, about the diversity of flavor, kind of contained within that category.
So that's where we met with farmers in Zanzibar and then the farmer in Guatemala. I met through an NGO called Heifer International through my nonprofit work. I had had a contact there and we sort of chased it down, but in 2016 went to Zanzibar to meet the co-op there. And then at the end of the year I went to Guatemala, meet a farmer there.
I don't know what they thought of me showing up. You know, like literally I went to Guatemala with four empty duffel bags and filled them and carried cardamom. I think he was sort of entertained. I mean, now we've been working with him for seven years and become close friends. We've been to visit almost every year. Actually. I've been five or six times. So now there's a real relationship and we're his biggest customer. But at that point, you know, like, I didn't know what I was doing. You could tell I showed up on the farm. It's like, I dunno who the hell this guy is. But that's how it started.
And so we meet farmers in those ways, through nonprofits, through strings of connections, friends of friends.We meet farmers on social media, we meet farmers through local government agencies. We're not just looking for any farmer. There's also an important point. It's not that hard to find spice farmers, but what's really hard to find is spice farmers who are kind of visionary about what they do.
We're growing and accepting high quality products. We're doing it in a sustainable, regenerative, organic way who have a real philosophy around their agricultural process who are growing varieties for cultural reasons or preservation reasons. There's, as you mentioned, there's a lot of pressure on farmers to grow commodity crops, high yield varieties that don't taste like many tons of pesticides and herbicides to increase their yields. It's not about flavor, it's all about volume. So finding the farmers who are already doing something different, we've already come to the conclusion independently that the system sucks. That's really what we're looking for. Those are the farmers who wind up making the best partners.
Josh Sharkey [00:15:32]:
How do you filter for that or how do you validate and verify those things?
Ethan Frisch [00:15:32]:
We visit, that's really the primary way. There's conversations that we have remotely talk by email or by come, we try to do a video call. We ask them, send samples. You know, we have a little bit of a process of vetting ahead of time, but then when we decide we're gonna work with somebody, we always go visit, or almost always, it's been tricky with Covid, but we try to go visit them first.
It’s always the best indicator. Spending some time with somebody on their farm, walking around. They explain everything to you. You get to know them as a person, meet their family, spend some time in their home. They get to meet us too. We give them our whole spiel. Here's what we do. We show them our website, we walk them through our pricing model, and then it's ultimately a sort of a person to person relationship, kind of gut check.
Are they ready to take on a little bit of extra work in terms of packing and preparing for export? That may not be something they've done before. Often it's not, but we walk them through that process and then we buy as much as we can. Basically from them we follow what we call this former load pricing model, which means they set the prices.
We really don't haggle hardly at all. We pay them pretty much whatever they ask. And then we handle all the logistics. If we need to arrange a pickup from the farm, we can usually, if not they deliver it to the port, we get it onto a boat or onto a plane, bring it in here. We buy right at the point of harvest, so we're getting the freshest possible product.
We're making purchase commitments often a year in advance so that they know how much to grow for us, putting down significant deposits, we're paying for input, paying for fertilized organic fertilizers, and. They understand that the story is a big part of what we sell. The product always stands for itself, where spices have to be exceptionally high quality.
Otherwise we don't carry them. But our partner farmers understand that our customers want to know who they're, and where the spices come from and how they grow them so well, like what makes them taste so us going in person and having those conversations and taking pictures and asking a million questions, that's what gets us there.
Josh Sharkey [00:17:40]:
Do you mind maybe sharing a couple of the stories around or any travels, anything really crazy that sticks out to you?
Ethan Frisch [00:17:44]:
Yeah, of course. Uh, they're all crazy. I mean, all the trips. So I was planning a trip to Indonesia a few years ago. I had wanted to find a white peppercorn, and there's different styles of white peppercorns.
There's sort of a European style, which is really just about color, no black flecks and your white cream husks kind of thing. And there's an East Asian or southeast Asian variety, which is fermented and they use the fruit of the peppercorn. Peppercorn is a fruit. It grows like grapes on a vine. So they'll use the fruit of the peppercorn kickstarter to the fermentation process.
The fruit rots away and you're left with the white pits that pick up all these kinds of funky, cheesy, mis soy sort of flavors and coronas. So I had wanted to find a particularly funky fermented white peppercorn, and really randomly, a few weeks before my trip, I got an email through the contact us form on our website.
Dear Ethan, I'm a white pepper farmer on the island of Bangka, Indonesia. I would like to sell my pepper to you. I was like, buddy, you are not gonna believe this, but I'm gonna be there in two weeks. So I went to the farm. I had planned to go to that island. Anyway, the island is famous for its long fermentation process of the peppercorns, and I visited not just him, but I probably visited a half dozen others at least. He was far and away the best, both in terms of quality, but also in terms of that sort of entrepreneurial spirit, right? That hustle to find us online, reach out to us, want to make this happen. And we've been working with him and his son for five years, since 2017 or 2018 when we made our first purchase from them.
Ori Zohar [00:19:21]:
So that's one story. We went to visit our partner peppercorn farmers in central Vietnam too, which not only is a long flight and a drive and a this and a that, but then we get to the farm. And I think that's what we talk a lot about. We talked about us getting the farmers' trust, right?
I think that's super important that they're used to selling to the same people and families that they've been selling to for years, for generations even. And so we're coming in here as foreigners and many farmers have also like terrible stories of a foreigner coming in, promising a lot, underdelivering, cheating them or just kind of being a different devil than they’ve known.
And so we went and we stayed on the farm and we slept on the farm. We even went and they said, come we'll pick peppercorns. And so they gave us all this protective gear, which was very funny 'cause they don't use any of it. They were trying to protect us. We spent half a day picking peppercorns. And eventually they said, all right, let's go up the ladder and pick the peppercorns a little bit higher because peppercorns are the fruit of a climbing vine that grows in bunches like grapes. And we started climbing and this ladder wobbled and rung 20 feet. And we're saying, are you sure this is okay?
They said, yeah, yeah. This holds four people on it. And what we learned is that four Vietnamese people is not equal to two American men. And right as I took a step to the top of the ladder, the whole thing buckled and we got thrown to the ground and it's nothing that a lot of beer on the farm could fix, but, we stood there and, you know, it's just spending the time, it's getting to know them and their families in the process and what they do because as Ethan mentioned, normally the farmers are just selling to like somebody else that collects the spices.
Somebody else that cleans the spices, somebody else that dries the spices, somebody else that grinds the spices. We're working with the farms to say, can you do all this yourself and can you manage it? And if that happens so much more, the value can stay with you. The price doubles, triples, quadruples of what they can kind of keep in their farm, in their community.
And so it really changes it. But you can't do that over text or over WhatsApp or over a phone call, like us being there and, and having dinner with them and, and spending time on the farm is really the thing that connects the dots between our two worlds and sets up a really good working relationship. Because we don't have contracts. We're not gonna sue them. We're not like, it's really a relationship based on mutual trust and a mutual benefit of us working together.
Josh Sharkey [00:21:34]:
It also just sounds like just a lot of fun to travel to all these places. Was that near Da Nang in central Vietnam or somewhere outside Da Nang?
The farm is in Dak Lak, so maybe northwest of Da Nang. Something like that. It's a coffee growing region and actually they intercrop coffee and peppercorns, the peppercorns provide the shade for their coffee bushes.
Josh Sharkey [00:22:00]:
Oh, that's cool.There's probably a million of these ingredients that you are in love with. Any ingredients that you're super excited about right now?
Ori Zohar [00:22:07]:
Last year rolled out a line of what we call origin blends, so we are looking for ways to support our partner farmers to add more value at Origin. We stumbled on the idea that they could produce blends for us, often, sort of traditional recipes, iconic blends. So we were able to get an amazing Turkish blend, Costa Bahara blend of two different chilies, cumin, all spice and garlic, a kind of a meatball and kebab blend from a fourth or fifth generation spice blending company in the Istanbul Spice Bazaar. We're working with a co-op of farmers in France in Herbs de Provence. A co-op that not only grows but also dries and blends them into a sort of a traditional ratio for Herbs de Provence without lavender. It’s a sensitive topic. Anyway there’s no lavender in our Herbs de Provence from Palestine, a five spice from Vietnam. We have a new, new set of origin blends coming from Zanzibar, Apari, to do some traditional spice blends.
Josh Sharkey [00:22:55]:
I saw five spice. I didn't realize that Vietnam had like a five spice blend that they do. It just assumes that it was always just Chinese, is it the same ingredients?
Ethan Frisch [00:23:15]:
Maybe historically going back far enough. It was Chinese, but it's spread all over Southeast Asia for sure. And the varieties are a little different based on local ingredients. And Vietnam just has such an amazing spice culture. A lot of spices are grown in the country used throughout the cuisine, and we have really great partners there.
So that's why we wanted to do a Vietnamese five spice. It has a character that's a little bit different, maybe a little more savory or a little more, uh, it's got a wild relative of Sichuan peppercorn in it called Macken. Which gives a little bit of like a citrusy, tingly character, or it's a cold blend.
Josh Sharkey [00:23:52]:
I'm a little annoyed with you guys because I always.I get a few spices on bur up and barrel, then I'm like, damn, there's more I need to get, I just keep ordering more of them and I haven't gotten this one, so I'm gonna have to get more.
Ori Zohar [00:24:05]:
We really need to start making spice racks. I think that's the next step for the business, is to start building storage.
Josh Sharkey [00:24:09]:
That's a great idea.You should totally do that. I mean, but is that blend of the Vietnamese five spices? It's still like star anise, fennel, clove and cinnamon. Same stuff, just different, like a variety of spices?
Ethan Frisch [00:24:09]:
Yeah, exactly. Maybe a slightly different ratio sort of for the Vietnamese style, but the number five in the name applies not to the number of spices in the blend, but the number of flavors, the five traditional flavors in Chinese cooking. So it's sweet, salty, pungent, and. I think, or the five. So, uh, whatever the local ingredients are to match those five flavors. But there's, I think, nine spices.
Yeah, I think it's savory is the other one, right? Salty and savory. I can't wait to try that one. Anise seeds are probably one of my favorite spices. Is it Rocky, right? You pronounce the rocky, the beverage, right?
Ethan Frisch [00:24:55]:
Raki, it’s tha anise they used to make the Turkish Raki. People love it all over the Middle East.
Josh Sharkey [00:24:59]:
So it looks like they are like unlimited supply. Is it seasonal or is it more that just like you happen to, you know, get your hands on some and that's it.
Ethan Frisch [00:25:17]:
That's a good question. All of our spaces are limited by our access to them, but in this case, it’s limited since they just haven't sold that well. We try to keep our lineup pretty focused, so if something's not moving, we drop it. And unfortunately, anise seeds have been a hard sell.
Ori Zohar [00:25:29]:
But that's one of the fun things of being an e-commerce company is that like us, we have so many limited things. We could try a lot of stuff. And if it sells really well, people like it, people connect with it, keep going. We find other versions of it, all that stuff. And if it just could be a specialty thing that we bring in a couple times a year. If you want it, come and get it. And if not, then it's not gonna be a regular stock. But this is like unlimited shelf space that we can really play with and bring a lot of stuff that you would never find in your grocery store because your grocery store would be crazy to stock it. But we're a single origin spice company so we can do what we want online.
Josh Sharkey [00:26:08]:
And anise seeds I feel like they're really underrated.I just put 'em in salads. I mean, they're crunchy, you know, raw. You don't do much too much. I love them.
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Ethan Frisch [00:27:10]:
You find that you are also selling to restaurants. I feel like you could just upload all of those to one restaurant. Yeah, right. Yeah, we were probably 80% direct to consumer these days, and that was a shift that really came out of COVID. Before COVID, we were at least 50% a restaurant supply company. That's where we started. I would take a backpack full of samples and pick a neighborhood and you know, 3:00 to 5:00 PM literally knock on doors, go door to door to try to talk to chefs and hand out samples. And that was like the first couple of years of the business. And then when COVID started in March of 2020 in India on a sourcing trip. Came home with COVID, both of us home. Though, we didn't realize it at the time.
Ori Zohar [00:27:48]:
No sense of smell for two founders of a spice company is not an easy thing to bring home with you.
Ethan Frisch [00:27:54]:
And then all of our restaurant customers closed. So we had a few weeks of existential crisis and then home cooks really came right into the rescue. That wave of flour and beans and all the other kinda staples people had been buying, especially online, realized we needed spices to make them taste like something. And we just saw our business explode from April through the end of the year.
Josh Sharkey [00:28:16]:
A very different kind of customer than we had dealt with before. Is that now starting to even out again with restaurants and direct consumer? Or is it continuing to just be primarily a direct consumer?
Ori Zohar [00:28:25]:
We always wanted to also just make sure that we could kind of sell to home cooks and do various things because like so many people told us to, to just focus on one thing. You can't build a company that does many things to many people. And here we are, two people selling to restaurants, selling to home cooks, selling to grocery stores, and selling to bulk manufacturers. Like just, we were just happy, like, you wanna use our turmeric? Great. We didn't really discriminate, but we knew that we wanted to also get home cooks.
But that's just usually a really expensive thing to be able to get, because people do millions of dollars in advertising and raise money and all that stuff. And so restaurants have definitely kind of come back kicking and it's been really cool to see that. But still, the bulk of our businesses still remained with home cooks and that is actually a really nice relationship because we can send out a newsletter, we can introduce stuff. We can kind of just push stuff out and really quickly have tons and tons of people saying, yeah, I would love to try that. And so we still wanna nurture this balance because depending on what happens, maybe the economy tanks, everyone's cooking at home, not going out to restaurants as much, then our e-commerce or maybe even grocery will pop there.
You know, maybe restaurants, everyone kinda will be great. Everyone's going back out to restaurants. And so we just wanna be able to kind of be represented in each of those areas because we just wanna be able to get spices in front of people, however they wanna engage with it. We’ve stayed around 80% e-commerce through our site.
We want to keep growing the business and we're happy for that to come from, you know, wherever we can, we now need to figure out restaurant distributors and all that stuff. And that's a whole nother world that we're just starting to dip our toes into.
Josh Sharkey [00:30:04]:
Yeah, absolutely. Although I do see more sort of direct to business working as well, just like restaurants, ordering direct. I mean the thing that I find to be the biggest misconception with restaurants, now that we actually have access to really good spices is that these spices are more expensive than the white pepper you buy from the name I won’t mention. There's a reason for it. You need to use a lot less of it because it's really strong.
First of all, it's a much more unique flavor profile and you don't need nearly as much of it. And it actually becomes something that's creative to the dish way more than sort of like these sorts of very commoditized spices. I do think there's this huge opportunity, and I hope that just restaurants get their access to more of these.
Ori Zohar [00:30:46]:
The supply chain for spices typically has so little to do with flavor, right? Like they're treating it like features. It's treating it like what's trending and how's the harvest in Brazil versus Vietnam. And everybody's kind of passing the spice 10, 15, 20 times by the time it gets to you, every person's taking their bite, they're mixing good and bad lots together, quality goes down and cost goes up.
And so really the spice industry is not built around maximizing flavor. It's not built around treating farmers well or getting customers the right thing. Like cinnamon sticks are always this exact same length because that's what fits in the jar. Green cardamom was always the thing that came in because it kept its intensity over long and long transit times, you know?
Vanilla beans are sold whole versus split because that fits nicer than the tube. There are all these things and we get to really question those and see what other things we can kind of bring into it. Like our cardamom is the vine ripened cardamom that goes from green to a little bit yellow.
The commodity market is like no thanks, and we're like, this is actually way better, you're missing out. And so that's where I think we get to kind of challenge some of those assumptions and also bring in spices through a direct supply chain that aren't a premium to what you're paying. I mean, we are never gonna get you garlic at a dollar a pound and you shouldn't even be using garlic as a dollar a pound. Somebody's paying the price there. But that's where we get to build these new supply chains that are kind of running circles around the existing stuff.
Josh Sharkey [00:32:04]:
I love that. It definitely seems like there's like this disruption in the spice industry now, almost like the Silk Road was this dangerous place and no one could go there because they would get murdered. And then Genghis Khan, for all the terrible things he did, he actually opened it up and that disrupted the entire industry of spices among other things. And then that sort of backed down again with commerce. And we haven't really had up until recently another sort of revolution of this.
And it does seem now that there's just way more access to incredible spices because of companies like Burlap & Barrel. I could talk about 20 or 30 more ingredients. I do want to bring up one more before we move on because I've never seen it before. And then I promise we'll go on to something else, but fermented locust beans or iru. Like where did that come from? Who uses it? What's the application? How did that come about?
Ethan Frisch [00:33:00]:
It's a West African ingredient. We originally launched it as a collaboration with a friend of mine, a chef who wanted to launch it under a brand that almost literally says fuck Nestle. So that's what's on the labels because that’s the point that he wanted to make by launching this product. He wanted to point out all of the processed ingredients that have been introduced into West Africa to replace the traditional sources of Umami and Iru or Dawa Dawa.
There are a lot of names for it, alongside smoked fish and dried fish. Fresh pressed palm oil and other things that have been replaced largely by MSG, bullion seasoning, things like that. So the iru is a bean. It grows in a pod, sort of like a cardamom pod or a tamarind pod.
The beans themselves have a sour kind of fruity pulp around them. The pulp gets pulled off, the beans get boiled and salted and boiled and salted in the process of cleaning them and salting them, and then they ferment. We work with one lady, her name is Moni John in rural Nigeria. She produces the iru for us.
The trees grow kind of more or less wild in the area and she'll go out and harvest and she'll buy from other people who are harvesting. And then she does the processing herself in a shack, I mean, in a very small operation. And then we buy it from her. We have put a little process in place to import it and export it out of Nigeria. It's done really well. We had originally launched it as a novelty. We weren't sure how people were gonna respond. We sold out of our first shipment within I think minutes if not a couple hours, but not more than that. And it's been a consistent part of our lineup ever since
You would use it almost like Chinese fermented black beans or miso or other kinds of fermented bean products from other places. Adding a little bit into a stew or a sauce, a pot of beans, anything that's going to cook slowly for a long time. And it just adds this base note. It's a little chocolatey. It's a little mushroomy. It's a really cool ingredient.
Josh Sharkey [00:34:59]:
Wow. That sounds incredible. I'd like writing down my next shopping list of what I'm getting from Burlap & Barrel. Okay. I'm gonna stop asking about ingredients because that will be another couple hours of this. Maybe we could talk a little in general about the spice industry. We were talking about that, you know, there's this change happening, but what do you two see as the future of the spice industry looking like, at least in America, let's say.
Ethan Frisch [00:35:36]:
We joke that the Spice Trade is the oldest industry in the world. People traded spices for thousands and thousands of years. But what is unprecedented really about our approach is that farmers have never known where their product is going once they sell it, they sell it to a local buyer, an intermediary, a middle man kind. It changes hands a dozen times, but the farmers are out of the picture. They don't know where it's going.
They don't know how much it's being sold for. They don't even know how we're using it at its final destination. So it's great to talk about traceability from the customer's perspective. Customers wanna know where their food is coming from, that's amazing. But farmers also need to know where their food is going.
That's what puts them in a position of power to make decisions about pricing, about quality, about all kinds of factors in their businesses that previously they just had no real ability to make those decisions. They didn't have access to the information. So that's one kind of key thing that we're changing or we're working towards changing is that transparency in both directions. Customers know exactly where it came from. Farmers also know exactly where it's going, how much we're selling it for, and they can set prices and we can bring them into that conversation that has real partners.
Ori Zohar [00:36:42]:
The pandemic had everybody cooking and engaging with our foods in a different way, and as supply chains broke, I think people got to know a little bit more about what it takes to bring something into your kitchen. And all of that. So we have seen people get really curious and like to learn about cinnamon being tree bark and reading about who the farmers are and how it's grown and why it's grown and how it's used locally. And it's just been really cool to see people wanting to deepen into it. I mean, early on in the first years of Burlap & Barrel, like friends would be like, paprika is just used for coloring, right?
And it was like, no, not really. I mean, maybe what you have in your home. Sure. But I think that it's been really fun to just see that people have been really interested in this and not in a like, foodie coastal way, like our customers really tend to be women. They tend to be in their fifties and sixties.
E-commerce, the people buying from our site tend to be older and less city-based, and they tend to be excellent cooks, and they probably don't have lots of local specialty stores around them. And so all of a sudden everyone's talking about how TikTok is shaping food and all that stuff. But I really would argue that middle aged ladies are having a much bigger influence in the shape of food and especially around e-commerce. So it has been really cool to see this kind of just this access happening across the country, people bringing it into their own homes if they can't get it nearby, and we just really wanna be part of that story.
Look at Rancho Gordo sending heirloom beans all across the country. Look at all the new meat delivery companies. Look at all that stuff. Not all of it is economically efficient or anything like that, but it is really interesting for some of those customers, it's not just for people living in big cities with high population densities and all that stuff. So that change has been really cool to watch.
Josh Sharkey [00:38:18]:
Yeah, from a manufacturing perspective, even just thinking domestically. It's funny when you were talking about the farmers and you're sort of empowering and enabling them to understand more about the value of their product and incentivizing them to be these small farmers producing high quality.
It's almost the antithesis of this in America. I don't know enough about how spices are grown, but obviously like cattle and meat, it is almost impossible to not become part of a large, commoditized cooperative. You're gonna be raising cattle or chickens to that, and I, I imagine it's very similar with other products and it's part of the reason why I think, you know, most of the spices that we probably buy in the states don't come from the states. I have to imagine that there's a lot that we could grow in the states. Are you seeing any sort of progress in that realm in terms of like, you know, domestic production of products that can become spices?
Ethan Frisch [00:39:09]:
That became a priority in 2020 when we were having trouble with some of our international shipments. We started reaching out to local producers. We're lucky to have a co-packer in upstate New York who has a dehydrator, and so we've been able to buy local produce, including wild ramps from the Adirondacks.
[00:39:26] We do a lot of work with Norwich Meadows Farm in upstate New York. I mean nardello peppers and scallions and garlic stripes are cool ingredients that we have experimented with as dried spices. We work with a farm in California that specializes in chili peppers. They're next door to a stone fruit orchard and they use the trimmings from the stone fruit trees to smoke their chipotles and other peppers. And we work with a curry leaf farmer, actually connected through Floyd in Southern California who grows and dries curry leaves, which we sell as a powder. Some of it is just economics, right? But also with geography,
Josh Sharkey [00:40:09]:
What makes it more expensive? Why is it so much more expensive in the States?
Ethan Frisch [00:40:12]:
Land is more expensive. Labor's more expensive. Inputs are more expensive compared to rural Vietnam or rural India or Turkey, Afghanistan, et cetera.
Josh Sharkey [00:40:26]:
Even with the importing that's required to ship something from Vietnam or Indonesia, it's still cheaper to import from there than to produce it in the states.
Ori Zohar [00:40:35]:
It’s significantly cheaper. Spices are very labor intensive. You can grow saffron in your backyard, you know, if you wanted to, and in large swaths of America. But you need to go and cultivate these like ankle level flowers and pick them at the right time with this and that.Like it's really hard. And so there's a really big part also of the cost of labor versus being able to transport these in giant boats, you know, that are already going across. That obviously all went upside down in 2020 and 2021. But spices are labor intensive. There's not a lot of machine work, there's not a lot of automation and stuff like that. It's people doing it with their hands, and that's where it goes back to those communities being able to specialize.
Josh Sharkey [00:41:14]:
Well, if you ever need two saffron pickers, my two kids are two and four, and they're obsessed with the purple and white crocuses in our backyard, and they pick 'em all day long. I don't know if that's the same type of saffron, but they're all over the place.
Ethan Frisch [00:41:24]:
The other aspect of it is about market access. We're a public benefit corporation of social enterprise. Written into our articles of incorporation is our social mission, which is to connect farmers with higher value markets, smallholder farmers. A lot of farmers in the US already have access to a market. You know, there are Saffron Farms in Washington state and Vermont and Texas and other places. They have their own websites. They can sell directly to consumers. They don't need us. Likewise with other farmers, we're often helping producers in the US kind of set up that presence so that they can sell directly to consumer, capture all the margins for themselves, but it's trickier in other countries. You know, we really need to, to bring the spices in and bulk and package them here because of FDA regulations and other requirements. So farmers in the US already have access or easier access to that high value market, whereas farmers in Vietnam or India or Guatemala right now.
Josh Sharkey [00:42:01]
Yeah. Have you seen any environmental impact or things, you know, with climate change or anything that's impacted the ability to source spices in the last five or so years?
Ethan Frisch [00:42:30]:
Yeah, definitely Zanzibar, especially their seasonal cycle of the dry season and the rainy season is all out of whack. They've had kind of the edges of tropical storms or hurricanes come in and put a lot of rain down on the island at year when they normally wouldn't have it.
Delay harvest seasons by months potentially, or, or destroy harvests. So the seasons used to be predictable, and they're not anymore. The recent earthquakes in Turkey really destroyed the heart of Turkish chili production. That part of the country is where the best chili comes from. Our suppliers warehouses were totally destroyed.
Inventory was lost, machinery was destroyed, people were killed, and it's gonna be a, a real challenge to get them kind of back up and running that, that's not climate change related necessarily, but it, it's definitely government lack of regulation or enforcement around building regulations and system's, an earthquake prone region, and they rush to urbanize and industrialize.
And the Turkish government really has deprioritized, especially small holder farmers, low volume agriculture in favor of industrialization, building factories and pushing people into cities. And that's why, you know, they saw the death toll that they did. Crazy high death toll. So after the collapse of the government in Afghanistan, we have continued to import cumin.
We have our second shipment arriving today or tomorrow from Afghanistan after the Taliban took over. But it's really tricky. It's complicated to spend money, it's complicated to pay people, complicated to do all of the regulatory work and registrations that we need to do to register our suppliers there.
And then the logistics of getting it out of the country are always changing. We just never know what we're gonna do with the next year. So there's a lot of ways that climate change and geopolitics interact with our work, but that's just part of what we do.
Josh Sharkey [00:44:25]:
When you're using these spices in the kitchen, just to be able to think about these things, I think is really important. Because there's so much that goes into getting that spice to your table.
Ethan Frisch [00:44:35]:
Yeah. So many people have no idea the amount of work. The amount of care, not just us, we're coming in kind of that last 20%. The spice has been grown and dried and packed. We bring it in and put it into a jar. But cinnamon trees, real good cinnamon trees, will take 15 or 20 years to mature. So a farmer is tending essentially a forest and there's an intergenerational cycle where parents are planting cinnamon trees that their kids will harvest. We met a farmer in Vietnam on our first strip there a few years ago. She walked us around what looked like a forest, but was a farm, a cinnamon farm, just a lot of big cinnamon trees.
She had just given that plot of lamb to her daughter as a wedding present, an investment that she had literally made over a decade or more. To provide a real source of income for her children. So there's so much work and skill and knowledge. You asked earlier how we know who the right farmers are to work with.
One of the ways that we know is when you ask a farmer a question, a lot of farmers, and especially like commodity farmers, or farmers are just started doing it for the volumes, will say, I don't know why I do it that way, that I just always have done it that way. Or that's how everybody does it.
A really good farmer if you ask a question will talk your ear off. We'll give you a two hour lecture on every little detail of why they do it in that way and why they plant them this far apart and why they harvest a disappointed cycle and why they use these seeds, or these other inputs, manure or other fertilizers. The farmers who have that level of knowledge are who we want to work with.
Ori Zohar [00:46:04]:
We were in Hungary a year and a half ago or so, and we met with Peter, our partner paprika farmer, but he's working on land that he bought that had been liberated by the wave of communism from his grandfather. So like, I dunno, so many of these farmers are about generational stewardship.
Like we think we can quit our jobs. How many of us will work at our parents' company, you know? But this is really about a multi-generational kind of environmental stewardship thing. He was showing us, we were plotting around through the paprika pepper fields with just a four inch like cake of mud on our shoes. And he was so proud. He's like, I've been working for the past five years, six years on just improving the soil health here, just to make sure that because that's the timescale of all this stuff. I think that's what, it often goes unappreciated, or we're kind of like mindlessly, just like sprinkling some paprika powder onto like our beans or whatever.
Like, that's what it really takes to produce the best version of these spices, and that's how these farmers engage with it, is that it's just on a totally different timescale than most of the things that we interact with in our life. That's like by the quarter, by the month, by whatever new version. And people are constantly buying and selling and, you know, all that stuff. It's just, this is on a way different timescale.
Josh Sharkey [00:47:20]:
Yeah. It's so cool. It reminds me of the balsamic vinegar that has to be aged for 25 years and they usually give it as a gift. It's almost like a dowry, you know, to their children with all the sort of barrels that it must go through in the battery.
And time is such a thing we people just forget about when we see a bottle or a jar of spices and how long and how much toil it took to get that. So, cool, man. Well, you know, I think I'd love to sort of chat a little bit about what's next or what, what you guys are working on now, if you can. Because you did announce it. I don't know how much you can talk about it, but let's talk a little about Shark Tank. How was that experience? How did you decide to go on there? Why? How has it changed your business?
Ori Zohar [00:48:08]
Oh my God. How was that experience? Well, we talked to a lot of other food entrepreneurs that had been on Shark Tank, just to learn about what it was like, how did it impact your business, you know, what happened, how much work was it? All that stuff. And we talked to so many entrepreneurs and they told us, listen. They like your business, they make fun of you. Like you got to give a two minute infomercial presentation to somewhere between four and 10 million people in America. You know, depending on how it gets washed. And so they gave us positive experiences and so we reached out to a lot of those folks, asked 'em to just the producers last season, they said, no thanks.
We have another company that kind of is in the area of spices. Then this year they said, okay, fine. Send us your video. And so we waited until we were in Guatemala and in the cloud forest of the cardamom fields and we filmed this like nine minute video to pitch 'em and tell 'em all about our business. And they got excited about it. And then we spent the next three or four months working with a pair of producers to turn that from this rough thing to the Shark Tank format. This is a thing that's in his 14th season. So they have a real specific formula on how to do it and all that stuff.
But then, It was really just like such a blast. It was a ton of work. We spent, I don't know, four hours a day for like the entire week leading up to it. Just running lines. What if they ask this? How do we save that? How do we position this? How do we reframe that? What if they come at us for this. So we really worked to kind of make sure that when we were in front of the sharks, that we had a really tight question answer and all that.
And you go through and you do hair and makeup and wardrobe and all that stuff, and all of a sudden the doors open and we're standing there in front of the five sharks and it's so quiet and we just spend time kind of taking their questions. And what you see on TV is like an eight minute, you know, cut of whatever.
We were in front of them for almost an hour. So honestly it's gonna be really interesting for us to also see what makes it onto TV and all that stuff. But man, it was such a crazy whirlwind of an experience and what we're really excited for is that this was a real way to introduce Burlap & Barrel and our public benefit corporation and our spices and our business model to millions of people all at once, and so we're, we're so excited to kind of do that. We're not allowed to talk about what happened and the outcome or anything like that, but we knew that just getting on that stage and being able to talk kind of broadly America would really help us become more of a household name and help introduce people to single origin spices with the help of the sharks.
Josh Sharkey [00:50:35]:
Love it. When does it air?
Ori Zohar [00:50:35]:
April 7th at 8:00 PM at whatever your local time is. And so yeah, that's what we're really excited to watch for ourselves, slash embarrassed, because who knows, you know, you're, you're now used to hearing your voice on your own podcast, you know? But, we're gonna just be cringing pretty, pretty strongly the whole time it goes.
Josh Sharkey [00:50:52]:
I can't wait, man, that's, congratulations. It's really exciting. It doesn't really matter what happened to your point, the fact that you were able to talk to that many people. And it's really commendable what you went through to get there.
Ori Zohar [00:51:06]:
You know, it's, and I'll tell you, they give us a three week heads up before the episode airs. Like they're always like, it may not air, it may not air. You don't know. Like they give us a three week heads up. And then we were like, okay, what do we need more than three weeks to do?
Because as a food company, like you don't have, like, we don't just have inventory sitting around. We manage it really tightly. And so like, we really had to get ready ahead of time after we filmed, and then they gave us the heads up and we're like, oh my god. Now we have to do all these other things to just get ready. How does the site look?
What about our email flows? What about our inventory levels? Yeah. What about labels? What about this and that? So we're working through all that stuff right now. You’re catching us in this hectic prep mode. We're also a company that's not six months in. We're now over six years in, and so we're, we feel like we kind of have built a kind of finely tuned way to get spices packed and into people's homes. And so we're now ready for it to get a big wave of attention from this whole show.
I love it. Well, yeah, it sounds like you're certainly gonna get a ton of attention on TV. As we're wrapping up here, obviously we talked with a lot of chefs and restaurant folks. I'd love to just sort of ask you how can chefs get more involved with Burlap and Barrel? They wanna learn more if they wanna start digging into these spices.
Ethan Frisch [00:52:23]:
Yeah, thanks for asking that. We have a great wholesale program. We love sending out samples. Happy to send you anything that you'd like to try to play around with. See what it does in either your regular menu items or new stuff that you're playing around with. And then we often have small quantities of specialty or some more rare spices. That's something people are looking for. But we saw our spices in food service containers, the one pounders. And we also have bulk stacks in many cases. You know, 20 to 50 pounds depending on the spice. So if people are looking for larger quantities we have those too.
Ori Zohar [00:52:59]:
And if you'll call us out on your menu, we'll send you lots of stuff. Hats, aprons, whatever you want. We'll do it.
Josh Sharkey [00:53:08]:
Have you seen any chefs or restaurants that have been calling up Burlap & Barrel on their menu?
Ethan Frisch [00:53:13]:
It's been hard, to be honest, to get chefs to call out the spice provider on the menu. You know, generally it's meat purveyors or dairy or other kinds of spotlight items. We supply a lot of great restaurants, 11 Madison Park, Blue Hill, Stone Barn. We also work with Sweet Green and Chopped and Dig in the New York and Boston area. Fast casual, farm to table places a big customer of ours. So we've done a really wide spectrum of work with restaurants.
Josh Sharkey [00:53:53]:
There's a ton of incredible chefs using spices. I think it would also be really cool if they could call out the farmer that that spice came from as well. Now, which sounds like they can do with Burlap & Barrel.
Ethan Frisch [00:53:59]:
We were working with a small restaurant group in Boston. We brought their culinary director to their people, in Zanzibar to meet the farmers.
Josh Sharkey [00:54:11]:
I'm gonna take that as you just invited me to Zanzibar on your next trip. Anything else you guys wanna share with the audience or anything you wanna sort of mention about Burlap & Barrel or want to share with the world.
Ethan Fricsh [00:54:28]:
Just to think more about where your spices come from.Their pure flavor. It's a way to change the dish fundamentally with a tiny quantity of something. And better spices are really better. You know, we've seen the revolution in coffee. You know, how high quality coffee compares to, you know, something pre-ground in a tub? The same, absolutely true for. It can really have a huge impact more than people realize.
Ori Zohar [00:54:50]:
I just think that people always kind of underestimate their impact on companies, on their success and all that. So like if you're a chef and you like our spices and you ask your food service distributor, they're listening and we have a way better chance of them kind of carrying us. If you ask your local grocery store to stock our spices, Or even just, if you wanna try our spices, let us know and reach out.
But really, I think that people kind of underestimated sometimes get a little bit jaded about things like, all food companies are evil and who knows and whatever. But supporting us, your local food comp, your local food makers, other public benefit corporations, other people that are doing it right, it goes away longer way than you think to, to kind of that marginal dollar really helps build, uh, a new ecosystem for food and really helps suppl support these new supply chains. Don't underestimate the power of your dollar.
Josh Sharkey [00:55:34]:
I love that. And, and by the way, also, I just wanted to thank you both for helping out with the FC Masala contest. It was incredible. We saw so many great recipes and Barkha was really in awe as well as the other chefs involved with what people came up with, with those blends. And it wouldn't be possible without you guys. So, so thank you.
Ethan Frisch [00:55:52]:
Well, it's been such a special project to be involved with. We had been working with Floyd for about a year before he passed on those. It was his idea. He had reached out to us about it. We had worked on most of the recipes or finalized most of the recipes, and then Barkha texted me on the day of his funeral and said, we have to do this, like we can't stop this project.
So we did. She's been a very close partner of ours ever since. We went up to the co-packer together to blend the spices. The first batch must have been September of 2020. He wanted to launch in time for his birthday, the first week of October. The blending machine that our co-packer had ordered was delayed because of all the supply chain issues.
We wound up blending 250 pounds of each blend, three different blends by hand, these huge tubs, Ori, me, and Barkha, each one of us was in a tub with plastic gloves up to our elbows mixing spices by hand, like playing in the sandbox. It was crazy, but she was gonna get it done no matter what, and we were ready to do anything we could to help her do that.
So that's how we made the spices. But they've consistently been some of our best sellers ever since. I think it is a testament to his reputation, his name, and then the quality of the blends. You know, he had created these over decades of work in kitchens, fine tuning his recipes and, and it really showed.
Yeah. We just had the anniversary of his passing too. So this will be an honor for him. Well, thank you both. This was awesome. I learned a bunch. I'm sure everybody did. So thank you and I look forward to our trip to Zanzibar.
Ori Zohar [00:57:32]:
Yeah, you're on. Thanks for having us.
Thanks for tuning into The meez Podcast. Your music from the show is a remix of the Song Art Mirror by an old friend, hip hop artist, Fresh Daily. For show, listen more, visit getmeez.com/podcast. That's G E T M E E Z dot com slash podcast. If you enjoyed the show, I'd love it if you can share it with your fellow entrepreneurs and culinary pros and give us a five star rating wherever you listen to your podcasts.
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