Maazah meets global flavor demand – article

As interest in international cuisine rises, the Sajady sisters have turned a cherished family recipe into a nationwide sensation.

May 7, 2024

5 Min Read

Today, as we witness a shift towards authentic and traditional foodways, consumers are seeking brands that offer genuine tastes and recipes that have been passed down through generations. Gen Z and Millennials alike, are yearning for genuine, globally inspired foods, according to New Hope Network’s 2024 State of Natural Report. In fact, Datassentials reports 72% of consumers being very or somewhat interested in global flavors. Not only are American consumers embracing diverse cultural heritages through food but they are also seeking authenticity and the high quality you would find when eating these recipes in their native regions and countries.

As new brands enter the marketplace, companies are not only making products that meet demand for international cuisine, they are serving up family recipes that bring regionality and even local flavors to this category. Maazah, with its roots deeply planted in the rich culinary traditions of Afghanistan, represents this new wave of home-cooked food. Created by first-generation Afghan Americans, Maazah brings authentic Middle Eastern flavors to American tables, combining home-cooked traditional recipes with the convenience consumers crave.

Founded by Yasameen and Sheilla Sajady, Maazah, which means “flavor” in Farsi, began with a delicious green chutney recipe passed down from their mother. From its humble beginnings at local farmers' markets in Minnesota to gracing the shelves of major retailers like Target, and Kroger, Maazah's journey is a blend of tradition, innovation and a deep-rooted passion for sharing Middle Eastern flavors with America.

"The idea for Maazah crystallized during a family lunch, where the potential of our mother's chutney as a marketable product became undeniable. Motivated by this epiphany, I registered Maazah as a business in Minnesota. We began by selling at local farmers' markets, testing our products' appeal beyond our immediate circle,” says Yasameen Sajady.

Their mother's cherished green chutney recipe, crafted with love and traditional spices, became the cornerstone of Maazah's product line. The initial production, which involved making 25 jars at a time for local farmers' markets, quickly captured the hearts and palates of Minnesotans, setting the stage for a remarkable expansion.

"Food was always a central part of our upbringing, a way our family celebrated life and stayed connected. Our mother's kitchen was a workshop of flavors, where traditional recipes were passed down. She never measured ingredients, teaching us to rely on our senses and intuition in cooking. We’d call her to ask for amounts and she’d say, ‘Use more than you’d think!’ This approach rooted our brand in authenticity and the joy of homemade food,” explains Sajady.

Reimagining Middle Eastern food

As the brand’s popularity grew, the transition from a side project to a full-fledged business became inevitable. “We navigated the complexities of scaling up, from production challenges to entering the retail space. Our journey included rebranding efforts and finding the right co-packer, adapting to the constraints imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic,” shares Sajady.

At the heart of Maazah's success is its vision to boldly rediscover, reimagine and rebrand Middle Eastern food. Beyond sauces and dips, the brand adds ease to normally more labor-intensive Middle Eastern culinary culture. It also meets the top flavor profiles sought by natural and organic food and beverage consumers, which are sweet (69%), savory (66%) and salty (54%), according to New Hope’s 2024 State of Natural Report.

Maazah’s products also reflect the flavor sought by natural and organic food and beverage consumers, which are sweet (69%), savory (66%) and salty (54%) as outlined by New Hope’s 2024 State of Natural report. The Cilantro Chutney, for instance, is a vibrant blend of fresh herbs and spices, which captures the essence of traditional Afghan cuisine. The Mango Chutney offers a sweet and tangy experience, perfect for elevating any dish. For a zesty kick, the Lemon Aioli is a refreshing choice, while the Hot Chutney provides a fiery complement to those who enjoy a bit of heat.

“Our efforts to tell retailers and consumers about what people want in Middle Eastern cuisine have started to pay off. We're now introducing innovative products,” says Sajady. “Our goal is to offer fresh, bold flavors in convenient, ready-to-eat formats."

More than a brand

From the outset, Maazah has been more than a purveyor of fine foods; it has been a bridge across cultural divides. The Sajady family's commitment to education and empowerment resonates with the principles of the Malala Fund, which champions every girl's right to free, safe, quality education. Maazah's partnership with the Fund is a testament to this commitment, reflecting the sisters' deep appreciation for the educational opportunities they received as a result of their parents' sacrifices.

This collaboration is emblematic of Maazah's ethos—a brand that not only delivers flavor, joy and community but also champions the transformative power of education. As the brand evolves, the essence of Maazah remains steadfast: it is a celebration of cultural heritage, a tribute to the entrepreneurial spirit and a powerful advocate for global change.

Continued innovation

Celebrated for its innovative spirit, Maazah won the 2023 Expo West Pitch Slam, received the "New & Noteworthy" accolade, and was a 2023 Expo East Nexty finalist. These accolades follow the brand’s 2021 victory as the Kroger Fresh and Local Winner, which catapulted the farmer's market favorite into the retail spotlight within a year. Continuing its trailblazing path, Maazah is set to introduce a new line of lentil dips in Whole Foods in 2024, marking another milestone in its journey of expanding and diversifying its product offerings.

"We're excited about the line of lentil dips set to launch in Whole Foods. These dips address the gap in the market for high-protein, low-fat options with the creamy texture of hummus but made from red lentils,” shares Sajady. “Our flavors, like the adventurous turmeric ginger and jalapeño basil, showcase our commitment to bold, authentic tastes."

Across Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers, there's a notable preference for food that contains more protein and is low in added sugars. Nutrient-dense options are also a priority, as are plant-based products. Maazah's line of sauces and dips, especially their new protein-rich plant-based lentil dips, continue to be on trend.

"At the heart of Maazah is the desire to share authentic and flavorful Middle Eastern cuisine with a wider audience. Even if consumers are initially drawn to our products for their health benefits, we believe the unique flavors and our story of family and tradition will keep them coming back," says Sajady. Through its ongoing journey, Maazah has demonstrated that food is more than nourishment; it's a means of cultural expression, connection, and, importantly, a vehicle for meaningful impact.

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