Well Made

Ep. 126 Decolonizing spices with Sana Javeri Kadri

August 19, 2020 · RSS · Apple Podcasts

Most of the spices you buy at the grocery store are several years old, but that's only part of the problem. When Diaspora Co. founder Sana Javeri Kadri discovered how disconnected US spice pantries are from their origins, she started a company to change how we think about our spice supply chains. 

Diaspora Co. is one of only a few direct trade spice companies out there, and sourcing these spices has been a lesson in disconnecting heirloom spices from the influence of Western colonization. For example, indigenous varieties of turmeric were introduced to the Western world under names which simply reduced them to a color, but with Diaspora Co., Sana is bringing story to Indian spices. In this episode, Sana shares how a more transparent supply chain can be a huge step for food justice. 

“Historically, the colonizers made usually a 300X profit off of these spices and we want to disrupt actively and make sure that the people making the most money from these transactions are not us ... the people who really thrive are going to be our farm partners.”

 Decolonizing spices
 Decolonizing spices
 Decolonizing spices
 Decolonizing spices

Sana starts off by tracing us back through her interest in food and spices, starting with her discovery that US spice pantries are flavorlessly dated. She takes us back through her childhood in Mumbai, witnessing firsthand the globalization of food (6:22) She explores where she sees the spice food trend going as more people join the movement for food justice (11:07). Western names for Eastern spices have reduced their complexity, into size or color. Sana says that the renaming of spices is part of the reclaiming.

Sana talks fair trade and her role to translate the story of spices to consumers so they not only understand how to cook with them, but the complexity of where they came from (16:57). Diving deeper, she explains the line between exploration and appropriation in food and the writers and chefs she believes are doing a great job addressing it (21:55).

In order for consumers to want to upgrade their spices, they have to want to cook in the first place. Sana talks about how collaborations have helped get her brand into the pantries of home cooks and how crucial it has been for the Diaspora Co. brand not to be hidden behind a private label (37:57). While her brand is currently sold in about 200 stores, their DTC business is exponentially bigger, perhaps, Sana says, because online is where folks can read and appreciate the full story of the ingredients (40:40). Sana shares what she has planned for the rest of the year, and her grand plans for the future (43:34). To close, she shares her values-first approach to finding the right farmers and getting them equity and healthcare.


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