Turning up the heat on spice supply chains

New businesses are shaking up the old-school seasoning industry by cutting out the pockets and palms that stand between shoppers and producers – and by rewarding farmers directly.
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Spice companies like Diaspora Co, Warndu, Burlap & Barrel, Desert Provisions and Zoe's Ghana Kitchen focus on the quality of the farming, the flavor of the products and the practices of the businesses they buy from by working directly with the growers. This means farmers and laborers not only take home a higher profit, but they're also compensated for their integrity, skill and the quality of the produce, rather than their ability to jump through hoops.

Thyme to work

This isn't work for the impatient. It often requires physical legwork to reach some of the farms and businesses necessary to create a direct supply chain. Sana Javeri Kadri, the owner of California-based spice company Diaspora Co, details this ongoing and often winding road to find the right farmers with full transparency on the company's website. She also highlights the necessity for straightforward conversations with both customers and farmers on pricing and costs, in order to build relationships based in trust.

‘Getting comfortable with numbers, the cost-of-goods spreadsheets, and learning how to walk that fine line was essential,’ Sana says about discussing the (sometimes awkward) financials.

‘In cases where a farmer has asked for more than my rough spreadsheet math said we could afford (which has only happened three times in nearly four years), I'll counter with the very best we can do and explain why that's the case. Our farm partners know that if we grow, they grow, so investing in a long-term relationship means not sweating the small differences. It's in our collective interest to be compassionate to one another.’

Community is key

Companies like Angel Anderson's The Spice Suite – whose shop in Washington DC is set up as a unique pick ‘n’ mix spice bar – are also dedicated to helping other small businesses by offering their space free of charge, to whoever might need it. Angel calls the structure an ‘incubator for dreamers’.

To date, Angel has hosted more than 450 free pop-up stores to other black-owned small-business owners. She also operates a membership group for female black business owners called SpiceGirlin'.

This article was first published in Courier's 100 Ways to Make a Living. To purchase a copy or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.

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