Saffron Road, a leader in the natural and organic food industry, produces a wide range of globally-inspired Halal-certified products crafted with pure, ethically sourced, clean label ingredients. Ranging from frozen entrees to simmer sauces, it leads the food industry in the natural/organic category through continuous innovation and the rigorous standards it adheres to.
The company focuses heavily on high-quality ingredients that are culturally authentic and ethically sourced. Saffron Road never adds any artificial ingredients, avoids GMOs, and many of its products are naturally gluten-free and low in sodium.
Additionally, Saffron Road’s livestock sources are required to pass third-party animal welfare audits, and its standards in that area have always been high due to its Halal roots. “No Antibiotics Ever” or “Pasture Raised” is proudly touted on each of its product’s packages.
Saffron Road partners with passionate chefs from all over the world to create authentic flavors and recipes that are not limited to any one cuisine or product line. From epicurean Mayan and Oaxacan hand-rolled enchiladas filled with smooth poblano peppers or creamy chipotle sauces, to authentic Japanese ramen noodle bowls to Bombay Spice Crunchy Chickpea snacks – this company has forged its way through the food industry achieving remarkable success and reaching numerous milestones along the way.
“At Saffron Road, we say that we are on ‘The Journey to Better™,’ and it’s a journey not only to better foods, but also better values since our mission and brand promise is to be a socially responsible brand,” explains Saffron Road Founder and CEO, Adnan Durrani. “We want our consumers to be able to explore global flavors and feel good about the choices they are making while doing so. We invite everyone to join this Journey – to Better.”
For Adnan and the Saffron Road brand, that journey began when he attended a unique show in Washington, DC, called The Silk Road Project. Cellist Yo-Yo Ma and his Silk Road Project featured hundreds of artisans from around the world, who were brought together like economic trade and cultural traditions on the ancient Silk Road. It was here Adnan learned that one of the main spices carried along this route was saffron, and he first imagined a brand that would appeal to many cultures and connect them, much like the ancient Silk Road. This brand would connect cultures through global foods made in a way that is socially and ethically responsible, culturally authentic, and, most importantly, delicious – a brand that celebrates world cuisine, ethnic diversity and cultural harmony.
Fast forward to the present – Saffron Road has been on shelves for the better part of a decade, offers more than 70 products and has received numerous accolades. It is based in Stamford, Connecticut, just outside of New York City, and employs approximately thirty passionate team members. “Our employees are very driven by their passion for innovation around clean label foods. We’re a very disruptive brand in a very tough category, so we’re constantly encouraging and inspiring our employees to push the envelope,” says Adnan.
The company philosophy motivates the employees to create unique products and ensure that the standards and level of transparency rise above the mainstream food industry. The company hires team members who are committed to, and share, the same value system that strives to reintroduce ethics into the food system.
“We feel very proud to be a part of the socially responsible, ethical food movement, and we think it will be an important segment of what happens in the next five years in terms of which brands do well and which ones appeal to consumers.”
Back in 2010, when the company first launched, the initial focus was just four antibiotic-free, humanely raised, Halal-certified frozen entrees, and while this product line remains the largest part of the business today, the company quickly expanded across multiple categories and grocery aisles. The Halal shopper was the first demographic in mind, but its consumer base is far more diversified today.
Its first retail partner, Whole Foods Market, is the leading natural/organic grocer in the United States, but when Saffron Road began supplying products to Whole Foods nine years ago, there were no antibiotic-free frozen entrees among the thousands of frozen products on the shelves. Saffron Road was the first antibiotic-free frozen entree to be launched in that market, and it was also a pioneer in offering humanely-raised livestock products. And, aside from the hundreds of Whole Foods stores in the U.S., Saffron Road’s products are sold in 20,000 other stores across the country.
“The President of Whole Foods has complimented us for raising the quality and standards for the whole store chain by being one of the first brands in Whole Foods to come in and have these very arduous third-party certifications, which Whole Foods’ claims resulted in many of our competitors raising their standards to a much higher level,” says Adnan. “We’re always at the cutting edge of what we think the trends will be in the future, and we really think that one of the big trends of the future is going to be about how livestock is sourced. Proper humane animal welfare is going to become much more important in the years to come and it’s a vital part of our Journey to Better,” he says.
Shortly after the company was established, it also introduced the world’s first Non-GMO Project Verified simmer sauces in pouches, and this product category quickly grew in popularity as consumers discovered how easy it is to use these to create meals by adding their own protein and/or vegetables. Moreover, offering the simmer sauces in single-use, lightweight pouches further demonstrates Saffron Road’s brand promise of sustainability by significantly reducing the carbon footprint typical of sauces in glass jars.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the most effective approach that businesses can take to reducing waste is through ‘source reduction.’ This is a preventative approach that reduces waste before it is created, rather than finding ways to reuse it at the end of its lifecycle.
Another arm of the business is healthy snack foods, and the company has grown vigorously in the better-for-you, plant-based protein sector. Chickpeas are high in protein and fiber, and the company has become the leading brand in chickpea snacks and the only organic one, sourcing over one million pounds of organic chickpeas annually. It also has a line of legume snacks that includes lentil chips as well as crisps made from a combination of lentils, peas, sweet potatoes, and chickpeas.
Recently, Saffron Road announced the launch of even more new snack products – indulgent and sweet flavored chickpea snacks. After being roasted to Saffron Road’s signature crunchy perfection, these chickpeas are then enrobed in a proprietary panning process that results in a glazed shell like an M&M candy. Unlike any other indulgent chickpea on the market, get this: no powdery dust to brush off your clothes, no melted chocolate stains on hands or face, no radically inconsistent product quality. Just pure, clean, and healthy indulgence – packed with over three grams of protein and totally free from any artificial ingredients. Moreover, Saffron Road’s chickpeas use antioxidant-rich Fair Trade Certified™ dark chocolate, or are swirled in buttery salted caramel and sweet, warm honey. All are dual Certified Halal and OU Kosher, as well as Gluten Free.
Saffron Road also takes part in the Non-GMO Project to ensure that all of its vegetarian products are Non-GMO Verified, and it has become very well known for its high standards of Non-GMO transparency. The company has never made any self-claims, even when it easily could have. For example, when it was founded, Saffron Road could have labeled its products as gluten free, since the ingredients are naturally absent of gluten, yet it made sure to wait for the certification from the third-party auditors before making any such claim.
This company has developed its values around social responsibility, and it strongly believes in supporting local communities. Adnan has been, for over a quarter century, a lifetime charter member of an organization called Social Venture Network (http://svn.org/) that is on a “triple bottom line” mission to encourage businesses to not only have the goal of generating profit, but also to give back to the community and promote better conditions for humanity overall.
Saffron Road’s long-term commitment as a community partner to the Whole Planet Foundation is a testament to the social responsibility work of Saffron Road. The Whole Planet Foundation is an initiative run by Whole Foods that has dispersed over $75,000,000 in micro-loans worldwide to over 5,000,000 poor individuals (88 percent women) in over 80 countries, in an effort to end poverty worldwide.
The company partnered with a philanthropic group called LaunchGood, which is an American crowdfunding platform focused on the Muslim community and social justice. It also promoted something called Faith in Farming that supports American Muslim farmers, and it was an integral part of Muslims Unite for Pittsburgh Synagogue, which raised roughly $250,000 for the families of the shooting victims in the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh and was a testament to Saffron Road’s mission to combat hate – especially anti-Semitism and xenophobia.
Not surprisingly, Saffron Road has received a number of outstanding awards every year. It was presented with the David Ogilvy Award by the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) for the Best Digital Campaign and with the ‘Best Halal Product Award’ by the Prime Minister of Malaysia at the World Halal Forum. Additionally, the company was recognized as the ‘Best Halal Company in the World’ by the Global Islamic Economy Summit in Dubai. It continuously looks to inspire consumers with unrelenting stellar culinary innovation, which has resulted in plenty of recognition from the press, including celebrity chef Rachael Ray and the Supermarket Guru, Phil Lempert.
The challenge for Saffron Road today is that the market is becoming more competitive every year. In 2017, the fourth annual consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry report from the Boston Consulting Group and IRI stated that an astounding forty-six percent of the growth in the $670 billion in consumer-packaged goods industry came from small-to-midsize companies. Small companies usually have to fight against the dominating force of the large CPGs.
However, the internet has allowed consumers, particularly millennials, to learn more about the ingredients and ethics that go into the making of products. “Millennials will go and find out very quickly about your brand, and you have to really be transparent and bulletproof, and that’s why small brands are chipping away at the share of this industry at an alarming rate,” explains Adnan.
On account of this drastic change, the large CPGs, like Nestlé and Pepsi, have gone on major acquisition sprees. “The big CPGs have awoken and are pivoting heavily into this category, but consumers are quite discerning nowadays, and they don’t just judge a book by its cover. The packaging may be nice, but they want to know what’s in the ingredients. So we’re sticking to what we do best, which is producing awesome foods with tremendous standards and high culinary excellence with the chefs that we partner with in world cuisines,” says Adnan.
Saffron Road has successfully built an unmatched world cuisine brand by partnering with epicurean chefs passionately devoted to authentic culinary excellence and international cuisines. It has a range of Mexican epicurean Mayan and Oaxacan products featuring artisanal enchiladas and chicken poblano, and it recently launched a new selection of Japanese Ramen noodle bowls such as ramen and udon bowls that have already proven successful. As a matter of fact, in only six months, the noodle bowls are now ranked among Saffron Road’s top five products out of its total of seventy.
Over the years, there has been a stigma about frozen foods as a result of the traditional TV dinners that were packed with sodium and sugar. However, recent technology has allowed companies to improve the quality of frozen food, and the category of healthier, organic, frozen foods, which barely existed a decade ago, has been growing at a significant rate.
Frozen food today is arguably better than fresh food in many ways. Extremely fresh produce and livestock are processed directly at the facility, and the nutrients are preserved since they are immediately frozen. In contrast, a fresh or refrigerated product purchased in-store has already begun decaying on the shelf or losing nutrients and often ends up being thrown away when it expires earlier than expected. The nutrients in frozen foods are locked in and preserved for over a year, which is great for consumers who are tight for time or have busy work schedules. It is much more convenient because there is no worry of expiring food, it can be heated quickly, and it tastes just as good as if it was freshly made.
Consumers are immediately attracted to new Saffron Road products because of the taste and quality as well as the lengths the company goes to ensure that its products are superior and obtained ethically. Every product it launches adheres to that promise.
This has encouraged people who were previously uninterested in the frozen food category to try Saffron Road frozen entrees as a convenient meal solution. This has helped boost the growth in frozen foods, and in the last few years, almost fifty percent of the growth in frozen entrees has come from natural, organic meat entrees.