From Singapore to the USA and all around Europe, Edible Innovations profiles food makers that engage in improving the global food system at every stage, from production to distribution to eating and shopping. Join us as we explore the main trends in the industry from a maker perspective. Chiara Cecchini of Food Innovation Program — an ecosystem with a strong educational core that promotes food innovation as a key tool to tackle the great challenges of the future — introduces you to the faces, stories, and experiences of food makers around the globe. Check back on Tuesdays and Thursdays for new installments.
If you were to close your eyes and imagine Indian food being cooked in your home, you would probably be surrounded by smells and flavors of delicious sauces, chutneys, and assorted condiments. Fresh dishes, colorful spices, and excellent taste.
Yet, if you were to grab a can or jar off the shelf at your grocery store, you may notice something amiss. In order to extend shelf life, many companies choose to add salts, refined sugars, and preservatives. For our maker, Sylvie Charles, these add-ins did not match with her memories of fresh food made by her family. Nor were they a healthy way to taste true Indian home cooked cuisine. That is how Spice Mama came into creation, to get Indian condiments and sauces off the shelf and into the refrigerator to create a delicious and fresh dish.
Sylvie comes from a unique point of view to be creating Spice Mama; she both grew up eating traditional home cooked Indian food, and she is a physician who formerly worked for University of California, San Francisco. Much like many people dedicated to healthy eating, she was frustrated by the lack of healthy options, especially when it came to Indian foods and condiments. With products like pesto, salsas, and tortillas, all made fresh for sale, she didn’t want to see the food she grew up with left behind.
When she was with her patients she noticed that a dedication to fresh, clean eating really made a significant impact on their health and happiness. Combining both experiences, her company became her way of providing traditional Indian food with a Californian fresh made style. Rather than finding her products on the shelf, you will be able to find them in the refrigerated section, with realistic expiration dates, as real food should be. The food tastes like a homemade dish, and in large part, this is due to Sylvie’s dedication to creating food that honors all the great women cooks in her family. The traditions of Indian cooking show up in her recipes and spice blends.
So, what do you get from Spice Mama? Right now you can find her line of sauces: Sweet heat Cilantro, Zinging Ginger, and Sweet Chili Tamarind. All of them are made from high-quality spices and locally sourced ingredients. They replace typically refined sugars with coconut sugar and honey and remain low in salt. Flavor is first, no additional sugars, salts, or preservatives are used to achieve more shelf sustainability. They are all built to create well-balanced flavors and textures through complex blends of fresh produce, ground organic spices and high-quality oils and vinegar.
The end goal is to create something that not only tastes good but makes your body and mind feel better as well. You can also buy recipes and spices from Spice Mama. She creates recipe sets that are non-vegetarian, vegetarian, vegan and even gluten-free. You get both the recipes and a quick introduction to traditional Indian home cooking. As a bonus you also get a shopping list with suggestions on what to keep on hand in both your fridge and pantry! If you are a visual learner, simply turn the card over for a wonderfully illustrated demo of the corresponding recipe.
It is no mystery that foods with lots of preservatives are linked to obesity, diabetes, and a myriad of other diet-related illnesses. But eating fresh isn’t always an option, especially as the average working hours in the United States continue to rise. People crave flavors and comforting meals, and they can’t often find that in solely the refrigerated aisle. Sylvie wishes to combat this problem with her sauces. They allow people to have an easy way to transform their meals, and not have a negative impact on their diets. The spices that she chooses to use — cumin, coriander, turmeric and ginger — all have immense health benefits and are already a part of her sauces. These spices are full of anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, and anti-bacterial compounds. Not only do they help create a healthier diet and lifestyle, but they are so flavorful that the customer does not need to add any unhealthy components on top, like cheese, sugar, or extra salt. The simple-to-use sauces allow individuals to create decadent meals easily at home, without sacrificing their health.
What’s around the corner for the young health food enthusiast? As part of her growing work, she wants to create stronger connections to the farms she works with to develop her sauces. Her goal is to create organic local condiments, and understanding where it comes from is one of the many ways she creates healthy wholesome foods.
Spice Mama is part of KitchenTown. Kitchen Town builds successful food startups by providing entrepreneurs with facilities, expertise, education, partnering opportunities and access to capital. They accelerate companies from concept to production with an incubator kitchen in San Mateo and a learning lab in San Francisco.