New, bold and ethnic flavors in convenient packaging is popping up everywhere. One brand, Mina, has found success bringing classic Moroccan recipes to American grocery stores.
We spoke with co-founder Fouad Kallamni about the brand’s progression from an unknown startup making a product unknown to most American families, to a brand bringing Moroccan foods to households around the country.
How did Mina come to be? Give us the basic background story.
Fouad Kallamni: Mina, my mother, was born and raised in Casablanca. She learned a lot of traditional Moroccan recipes, and she won a scholarship to cook in Paris for a year when she was a teenager. She understood that cooking is more than Moroccan cuisine. When she came to the U.S., she started a catering business. Her clients were high-end, wealthy individuals, from Jackie Kennedy Onassis to the Koch brothers. She was a private chef throughout the 1970s, 80s and 90s, but her real dream was to introduce Moroccan cuisine to the American market, to the masses.
I have a background in marketing and branding. My mother has a recipe for harissa. We decided to launch our brand with harissa. Americans love sauces and condiments, and harissa is to Morocco what ketchup is to America or Sriracha to southeast Asia or salsa to Mexico.
Are the recipes truly authentic, or have you had to adapt them for the American consumer?
FK: We don’t go into production unless it passes my mother’s test. If it doesn’t taste like the way she makes them at home, she doesn’t make them.
Do you know how people are using Mina’s products, when they’re not following traditional Moroccan recipes?
FK: With the harissa, people are making harissa mayo, using them as finishing sauces, as a hot sauce, in dressings, in cooking sauces. The tagine sauce is more specific, but with the shakshuka and the harissa, the ideas are endless. Everyday, I’m surprised.
What products does Mina have in store next?
FK: Next year, we’ll be launching a line of organic Moroccan teas. Morocco’s famous for its mint tea—made with a kind of mint called nana, it’s indigenous to Morocco and it’s very fragrant—it’s like spearmint times 10. So we’re launching an authentic Moroccan mint herbal tea, an organic mint green tea, and lemon verbena herbal tea, all grown in Morocco. We’re also introducing a loose-leaf tea in a tin.
After that, we’re launching a line of artisanal hand-rolled Moroccan couscous. Morocco’s the mother land of couscous. We’ll have a golden couscous, which is the classic couscous that everyone knows, a whole wheat couscous, and a pearl couscous. Those will be out in the spring or middle of 2018. The teas will be out in the first quarter of the year. Later in 2018, we’ll also introduce preserved lemons and olives.
The whole idea behind Mina is making Moroccan food easy and user-friendly. They’re also clean, made with no preservatives and all natural ingredients.
We didn’t want to confuse the consumer with so many Moroccan foods when they were just learning. So we’re taking our time, but slowly but surely, we’ll have a full range.