In Conversation

Lessons from launching during the DTC boom

Diaspora Co. spices founder Sana Javeri Kadri on growing with intention, the changing consumer, and redesigning for retail.

Sana Javeri Kadri
Sana Javeri Kadri / Photo: Aubrie Pick / Courtesy Diaspora Co.

This interview is also available as a podcast for The New Consumer members. Subscribe or sign in to listen.

One of the first brands that really captured my attention, while I was starting The New Consumer in 2019, was Diaspora Co., a direct-to-consumer spice startup known then for its clear glass jars of bright orange-yellow turmeric.

Founder Sana Javeri Kadri was making something special: Indian spices that tasted way better than anything I’d ever used before; a food business intended to vastly improve the economics for its South Asian farm partners; and a visually stunning brand that could inspire people to actually cook.

We talked about it in one of the first longform interviews I published — Sana, then 26, told me about her mission to “make supply chain sexy again” and how she planned to grow her brand and business. That was just a few months before the Covid-19 pandemic would radically change the picture around home cooking, global shipping, DTC brands, and everything else.

So I thought it would be an interesting time to revisit things with Sana right now, almost four years later. She’s about to turn 30, and Diaspora Co. is now six years in. Most of her adult life has gone into building this company. It’s not huge yet, but in the mid-single-digit millions in revenue, it’s a real business, still mostly direct-to-consumer e-commerce.

This past August, the company launched a major packaging redesign, moving to colorful metal tins from clear glass jars.

The idea here is to stand out on the shelf, as Diaspora Co. gradually grows its presence in physical retail, and also to reduce costs — savings that it has passed along to the consumer. In November, the company plans to launch a couple of products in Whole Foods stores in Northern California, part of an accelerator program that could eventually lead to wider distribution.

It’s also up to 30 products now, up about 10x since we first spoke, including its latest blend: Pumpkin Spice.

“We like to think of this as our Barbie masala,” Javeri Kadri wrote in the email newsletter announcing it. “A little femme, a little pink, and often misogynistically denigrated as ‘basic’.”

“While Pumpkin Spice is often thought of as ‘white people food’,” she wrote, “every single ingredient in it is indigenous to Asia, and many of those regions were violently colonized in order to attain these very spices.”

A perfect encapsulation of the Diaspora Co. spirit.

So I’m excited to welcome Sana back for another interview, which we recorded earlier this fall. What follows is a lightly edited version of our conversation. Members can listen to this interview as a podcast.

In this interview:

  • Diaspora Co.’s growth: From three spices to 30, into the millions in revenue
  • Why the company just redesigned its packaging, from glass jars to metal tins
  • Why blends are now Diaspora Co.’s best sellers
  • How the post-Covid home cook consumer changed — and what that means
  • Why Javeri Kadri is growing her company in India — and just moved herself
  • How Diaspora Co. does marketing, including farm partners and recipes
  • How Diaspora Co. is expanding into physical retail, including a new Whole Foods partnership
  • The new dream for Diaspora Co., including a Bay Area café

Dan Frommer: Sana, thank you so much for joining me again. It’s so great to reconnect after these years. Let’s start with what’s new and what’s changed since then — tell me about the relaunch, but tell me everything.

Sana Javeri Kadri: I always love chatting with you, but also it feels like a perfect, like three year bookmark moment.

We were, I think three years in, and now we’re six years in. And I don’t think I had any idea what was coming in these past three years. I feel like, all at once, I got really lucky and I got hit on the head at the same time.

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Dan Frommer

Hi, I’m Dan Frommer and this is The New Consumer, a publication about how and why people spend their time and money.

I’m a longtime tech and business journalist, and I’m excited to focus my attention on how technology continues to profoundly change how things are created, experienced, bought, and sold. The New Consumer is supported by your membership — join now to receive my reporting, analysis, and commentary directly in your inbox, via my member-exclusive newsletter. Thanks in advance.

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