Born to an Indian-Malawian household in Silicon Valley, Raina Kumra was fed herbs by her grandmother every time she felt sick as a toddler. Kumra remembers chewing up cloves when she had a toothache and consuming peppermint tea when her abdomen was upset. So in March 2020 when her daughter broke her collarbone in a motorcycle accident and her husband had knee-replacement surgical procedure, Kumra turned to her grandmother’s teachings in Ayurveda, an historic medical apply from India emphasizing weight loss program and natural cures, to heal them.
Outfitted with in depth expertise in digital advertising and marketing and enterprise capital, as effectively from founding a startup years earlier, the now-45-year-old was all for constructing one thing new. After conducting in depth market analysis to find out that there was a viable enterprise alternative in meals medication, she based Spicewell, a Santa Barbara, California-based firm that makes practical spice, or spice meant to have a optimistic impact on well being past fundamental vitamin. The three-employee firm, which Kumra is bootstrapping, included in March 2021 and started operation that November. In its first month promoting merchandise, Spicewell generated greater than $10,000 in income, and is projecting $250,000 in gross sales by January 2023.
The epiphany second
Kumra realized Ayurveda as a child watching her grandmother mixing spices. For instance, she says, turmeric and black pepper have antibacterial results and help the immune system, whereas an herb referred to as ashwagandha helps stability cortisol and decrease blood stress. Now supplementing the early data she acquired by taking a plant-based medication course at Cornell College, she says folks are likely to overlook the ability of vegetation: “It was simply very astounding to me that as a tradition, in America, we now have forgotten the place remedy actually comes from. There is a purpose all these vegetation exist.”
The concept to show the apply of Ayurveda right into a enterprise got here to Kumra throughout her daughter’s restoration. She needed to cover greens within the 5-year-old’s meals by dehydrating and powdering them to mix into her smoothie. It took her daughter solely 10 days to be again on her toes once more, whereas most individuals with damaged collarbones take weeks. After that have, Kumra figured she might put powered practical substances into salt and pepper to ship nutritional vitamins for each meal. “People are strolling round with nutrient deficiency, so my thought was a easy step of serving to folks add extra vitamins into their diets,” she says. “It doesn’t require a major behavior change.”
From analysis to retail
Nonetheless, Kumra discovered that it wasn’t simple to determine out which greens might go into salt and pepper that folks would not have the ability to style. She spent six months creating the concept, finding out spice manufacturers and testing recipes with neighbors. In the end, she devoted her $100,000 financial savings to analysis and growth, partnering with medical advisers together with Mark Hyman, the founding father of Lenox, Massachusetts-based practical medication supplier the UltraWellness Heart, and Ann Veneman, a former secretary of the U.S. Division of Agriculture. After numerous experiments, the crew lastly landed on natural kale, spinach, mushroom, and broccoli. Kumra selected pink Himalayan salt as a base, and created a product that’s 30 p.c decrease in sodium than common desk salt.
Spicewell’s Ayurvedic salt and pepper is “fairly distinctive in contrast with different seasonings because it’s enhanced with vitamins from natural superfoods,” Hyman wrote in his publication in February. “Its new salt is mixed with ashwagandha, an adaptogen that helps your physique address stress. Its new pepper is mixed with turmeric for a conventional Ayurvedic mixture recognized to combat irritation and help circulation.” (Hyman serves as an adviser to Spicewell however doesn’t maintain a monetary stake within the firm. There’s appreciable debate within the medical neighborhood over the effectiveness of many dietary dietary supplements, and Spicewell’s merchandise are not topic to FDA approval.)
Some key substances have been arduous to return by throughout the pandemic. Spicewell sources Ayurvedic herbs like ashwagandha from India, so Kumra needed to organize them a number of months prematurely to keep away from provide shortages. There additionally have been strikes on the ports in Pakistan final 12 months the place the corporate will get its Himalayan salt.
Spicewell struggled to search out sustainable packaging as effectively. “I did not actually need to use plastic, however your entire packaging business simply pushes you to it,” says Kumra. “All the most cost effective issues are the worst for the planet.” Finally she discovered a post-consumer recycled plastic product produced in California to make use of for Spicewell’s five-ounce salt and pepper pouches, which it sells on its web site for $15. She used paperboard tubes with recyclable aluminum bottoms to bundle different merchandise. However the paper scarcity and excessive delivery prices outdoors of the U.S. stay a difficulty for the corporate. “The pandemic taught me to all the time have my backup suppliers, have the standard check operating forward of time, and simply be ready for something,” Kumra says.
She provides that she hasn’t seen many rivals in the practical spice area of interest but. However there are different manufacturers with comparable merchandise, resembling Washington-based Artisan Salt Firm, which sells wholesome salt with flavors like truffle and lemon. At present, Spicewell is specializing in rising its direct-to-consumer enterprise and increasing on retail platforms like Amazon. Spicewell additionally sells in native shops together with Farmshop in Santa Monica, California, and the Items Mart in New York Metropolis, and is on the lookout for extra wholesale prospects resembling motels and eating places which may unfold the idea of meals medication to a broader viewers.