Spicing up Fremont’s Innovation District – Q&A with Spicely Organics Co-Founders
Apr 09, 2014
Lest you think that innovation is relegated to the science and electronics industries, Spicely Organics is proving that new approaches in the food industry are contributing to, and advancing how we approach both health and manufacturing.
We recently met with Spicely Co-Founders John Chansari and Clara Bonner at their Fremont manufacturing facility where we learned about their secret ingredients for success.
Q: The spice business has been around since the origin of world trade. What makes Spicely Organics special?
A: (John) If you’ve ever seen our “little green boxes” at Whole Foods, you know that we are taking an entirely different approach to delivering a quality product to our customers. First and foremost, the product is 100 percent organic, gluten free, and Fair Trade whenever possible. In the U.S., spices are required to go through a sterilization process before being sold. Most spice companies sterilize using synthetic chemicals or radiation, but at Spicely, we use steam sterilization without adding any chemicals or hazardous materials. And, back to the green box -- an added bonus is that our packaging is eco-friendly!
Q: The demand must be tremendous. Tell us about your customers, and your growth.
A: (Clara) Half of our customers are direct, from stores like Whole Foods. The other half are wholesale, including many local companies who are making organic food products from soup mixes to cookies. We’ve been experiencing 50% growth which reflects the national organic trend, and actually have a waiting list for new customers. Additional growth is coming from new product lines, including tea and chocolate.
Q: Tea and chocolate is a winning combination! Where can we buy some?
A: (Clara) We recently opened a Spicely Boutique on Market Street in San Francisco, but you can also order online. In addition to finding individual products, there are beautiful gift boxes and a new “Organic Tea Membership” where you can receive a curated organic tea bundle every month, featuring 6 unique loose teas.
Q: The team environment at Spicely is evident from the moment you walk in the front door. How do you cultivate loyal and passionate employees?
A: (John) It’s easy – we create the kind of environment that we want to work in. As a transplant from Sweden, I believe in providing robust benefits, ranging from extended maternity leave to on-site yoga classes. We treat our team like family members and we hope this comes through in our products.
Q: Manufacturing in the Bay Area is making a resurgence. What benefits do you see in having local production?
A: (John) Quality is of utmost importance to us, so being able to personally oversee production is critical. Equally important is being able to hire a talented and multi-faceted workforce. Proximity to the port is another plus given the role of imports in our business.
Q: How do you see Spicely evolving in future years?
A: (Clara) In addition to ramping up our production capability, we are focused on creating a virtual community that coalesces around delicious food, healthy bodies, and fair trade practices. You can see through our social media presence, and in particular our blog and recipe sharing, that we are trying to have a broad conversation around healthy and environmentally sustainable food products.
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