Tue. Feb 20th, 2024

If you’re looking to cook authentic Asian cuisines, chances are your local grocery store only has a few of the ingredients you’ll need. And for many, an Asian grocery store like H Mart is dozens of miles away.

This lack of access to Asian foodstuffs — and the underrepresentation of many cultures at U.S. grocery stores — is an issue that Asian-American and Pacific Islander business owners are trying to solve with their food and beverage brands, which are often centered around flavors and ingredients that tell stories about their cultures. By selling these items online, everyone — regardless of where they live — can purchase them.

SKIP AHEAD AAPI-owned food companies | AAPI-owned beverage companies

Below, we rounded up over 45 AAPI-owned food and beverage companies that offer items like coffee, hard seltzer, teas, sauces and spices. We also talked to business owners to learn more about why they founded their companies and how impactful it is when shoppers support their brands.

Homiah Spice Kit Trio

Michelle Tew is no stranger to teaching people about Nonya, the cuisine of Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. She grew up spending time in the kitchen with her grandmother, who was a cooking school instructor in Penang, Malaysia, and inherited her grandmother’s recipe book. When she moved to the United States in 2010, Tew started cooking her favorite dishes for friends and family, and hosted pop ups across New York City. But there was one hurdle Tew consistently ran into: She couldn’t find many of the spices and other ingredients she needed to cook. This experience inspired her to start Homiah in 2022.

“We are bringing light to a sub segment within Asian cuisine — specifically, Malaysian, Singaporean and Indonesian cuisine — that, at the moment, has zero representation in natural and mainstream U.S. grocery stores,” Tew says. “It is the mission of the business to grow this specific part of the AAPI community and shine light into parts of the culture that Americans may not be as familiar with.”

Homiah sells its spice kits and chili crunch sauces online and hopes larger retailers will carry the brand within the next few years as it expands its product line. The brand’s Spice Kit Trio comes with its Singaporean Laksa, Indonesian Rendang and Malaysian Red Curry blends. They’re mildly spicy and don’t contain gluten, soy or dairy, according to Homiah. You can simmer the spices with the protein or vegetables of your choice.

Immi Tom Yum “Shrimp” Ramen

As first-generation immigrants, Kevin Lee and Kevin Chanthasiriphan, co-founders of Immi, recognize that many Americans are wary of trying Asian foods and flavors due to what Lee says is “a gap of awareness and exposure to Asian cuisines.” Instant ramen noodles, however, are one Asian food that’s widely accepted by Amercians and part of many people’s diets. The founders started Immi as a way to meet their customers in the middle: The brand’s ramen exposes Americans to unique, authentic Asian flavors through a food they already know and love.

Getting Immi off the ground, however, wasn’t easy. Lee says many non-Asian investors made jokes about how instant ramen was just a “cheap Asian food product,” and told the founders that shoppers would not be willing to pay more than 50 cents for it. These ideas stemmed from a stereotype that Asian food in America is unhealthy and “cheap,” Lee says. “We’re glad that we can be at the forefront of helping change this perception so that other founders creating Asian food products don’t face the same price discrimination that products in other cuisines never have to face.”

Immi’s ramen noodles are made with low-carb, plant-based and high-protein ingredients, making them a nutritious food that people of all ages can feel good about enjoying, Lee says. You can purchase the noodles in flavors like Spicy Beef, Spicy Red Miso and Roasted Pork Tonkotsu, as well as Black Garlic Chicken, Tom Yum Shrimp and Creamy Chicken.

Wildwonder Sparkling Probiotic Juice Drink

Whenever Wildwonder founder Rosa Li had an upset stomach growing up, her grandmother brewed tonics made with herbs and botanicals like jerusalem artichoke and chicory root, ingredients that she says helped boost her gut and immune health. Li missed these drinks when she moved from China to the U.S. and sought to transform them into good-for-you beverages anyone can enjoy.

“Wildwonder is inspired by my grandmother’s recipes and reimagines them to combine the herbal wisdom of my heritage with the concept of a California produce stand,” she says. As a Chinese, female business owner, Li also wanted to give back to women and marginalized communities through her brand: Wildwonder donates 5% of its profits to organizations that support these communities like Project by Project and the Cut Fruit Collective, according to Li.

You can purchase Wildwonder’s drinks in flavors like Guava Rose, Mango Turmeric, Peach Ginger, Strawberry Passion and more. They all contain live probiotics and 5 grams of prebiotic fiber. Li compared the beverages to kombucha without the vinegary taste.

Fly By Jing Sichuan Chili Crisp

Fly By Jing began as an underground pop-up dinner series — Founder Jing Gao cooked for diners across the world and introduced them to flavors from her hometown of Chengdu, China through Sichuan cuisine. “I eventually took some of the recipes I developed, like my Sichuan Chili Crisp, and spun them into a line of thoughtfully crafted pantry staples, making them available to consumers across the globe,” Gao says.

Building her company while surrounded by other AAPI founders motivates Gao, especially as she faced obstacles like biases that excluded Fly By Jing from certain opportunities, including funding and, when it first launched, space on grocery store shelves (now you can find the brand in select stores across most of the country). She’s proud to be part of the group of people dedicated to elevating the perception and value of Asian flavors in the West. “There is strength in numbers, so when one AAPI entrepreneur succeeds, the whole community succeeds,” she says.

Fly By Jing’s range of pantry staples includes sauces, vinaigrette, a spice mix, hot sauce and pepper oils, as well as chili peppers, a hot pot base and vinegar. The brand’s bestselling Sichuan Chili Crisp sauce is made with ingredients like erjingtiao chilis and tribute peppers. While it has a kick, it’s not “off-the-charts spicy,” according to the brand.

Copper Cow Classic Black Pour Over Coffee

Copper Cow founder Debbie Wei Mullin started the brand as a way to improve the Vietnamese coffee supply chain. Vietnam is the second largest coffee producer in the world, but Mullin recognized that there was a lot of work to be done around paying farmers better wages and higher prices for their beans, as well as developing sustainable, eco-friendly farming practices. Copper Cow allowed Mullin to work directly with Vietnamese coffee farmers to change how their coffee is grown and cultivated, which she says ultimately improves the cup customers brew at home.

“When I first started Copper Cow, it was all about trying to educate people that Vietnam made coffee, which was something really unknown at the time,” Mullin says. “We want to help shepard in Vietnam as a player in the specialty coffee space, create economic opportunities for farmers and do so at an environmental gain.” Copper Cow pays the Vietnamese farmers it sources coffee from twice the market rate and is currently in the process of establishing the first organic, premium Vietnamese coffee farms, Mullin says.

One of Copper Cow’s first products was its single-serve pour-over coffee filter, a brewing method Mullin discovered in Japan. You can purchase filters filled with standard or decaf coffee, as well as flavored coffee like vanilla, lavender, churro and salted caramel. The filters’ built-in wings allow you to hang it on your cup and pour water over coffee grounds to brew. And since Vietnamese coffee is often served with sweetened condensed milk, Copper Cow developed a line of shelf-stable creamers available in a variety of flavors.

One Stripe Chai Co. Chai Me At Home

There is no perfect way to make chai, says Farah Jesani, founder of One Stripe Chai. Some like it sweet, some like it spicy and some like it to fall in between. Whatever your flavor preferences may be, the chai brewing process can seem daunting for beginners — it involves simmering lots of herbs and spices together over a stovetop for an extended period of time. After moving out of her childhood home, Jesani experienced this herself: She wanted her chai to taste similar to the beverage her parents made every day while she was growing up, but it was harder than it seemed.

“As the child of immigrants, I grew up around chai because my parents never drank coffee. Then, during high school and college, I started drinking coffee, and it felt like a clash of cultures,” Jesani says. “After I graduated, I wanted to bring chai back into my life, but there are a lot of steps and it can feel intimidating.” She set out to create tea blends that paired with simple, straightforward steps, allowing anyone to enjoy an authentic cup of chai and learn about the significance of the beverage to South Asian cultures in the process.

The brand’s Chai Me At Home blend is based on Jesani’s mother’s recipe and is made with ingredients like black tea, green cardamom, ginger and black pepper sourced from farms in India. There’s information about how to brew the chai on the back of each bag. In addition to chai, rose chai, turmeric latte, mango tea and other tea blends, One Stripe Chai also sells tea concentrates that you can mix with milk to make lattes.

Bean & Bean Downtown Blend

Mother and daughter team Rachel and Jiyoon Han, founders of Bean & Bean, are both Q Arabica Graders, or, in other words, “sommeliers” of coffee. And beyond serving customers cups of joe at their four cafes in New York and New Jersey, producing bags of beans at their roastery and shipping coffees nationwide, gender equity is at the center of the business.

“Coffee is powerful because it’s a universal beverage — many people have a coffee everyday, if not multiple cups everyday,” says Jiyoon Han. Depending on the region, up to 70% of labor in coffee production is driven by women, according to the International Coffee Organization, but Jiyoon Han says they do not benefit proportionately. “We buy more than half of our coffee from farms and mills that are led by women producers in an effort to bridge gender inequity.” Female empowerment is a key part of Bean & Bean’s internal culture, too. Jiyoon Han says many of her younger colleagues are female and Asian, and she strives to be a mentor to them, especially since she did not have role models that looked like her growing up.

In addition to supplying coffee to companies like the ACLU, Meta, Pfizer and more, Bean & Bean sells its products online and plans to continue expanding its wholesale partners. You can opt to enroll in the brand’s coffee subscription or purchase bags individually. Bean & Bean’s Downtown Blend was created in 2008 when the mother-daughter duo opened their first cafe in New York. It’s a medium-dark roast with a flavor profile of roasted nuts, cedar and sweet herb.

Umamicart Asian Pantry Favorites Gift Set

Cooking was a way for Andrea Xu, CEO and co-founder of Umamicart, to connect with her heritage while growing up in Spain and living with her Chinese immigrant parents. She moved to America for college, and when she couldn’t make it to New York City’s Chinatown to buy ingredients for traditional Asian dishes, she says she was “stuck with the few options in the so-called ethnic aisles” of her local grocery store. This experience inspired her to start Umamicart, an online Asian grocery store that gives people access to the ingredients and products needed to cook Asian cuisines, regardless of where they live — Umamicart delivers to most of the United States, and you can search your zip code on the company’s website to confirm availability.

Xu says Umamicart carries a mix of traditional ingredients and products from up-and-coming Asian American brands, which is reflective of her experience struggling to find access to brands her Chinese parents used in their kitchen growing up and catering to the intersection of people who, like Xu, have Asian heritage, but grew up in or moved to America at a young age. The brand also gives back to the AAPI-community through charitable partnerships with organizations like Heart of Diner, which delivers food to New York City’s AAPI elderly community. To date, Umamicart has donated over 1.5 tons of fresh food to the organization, Xu says.

If you’re interested in learning more about Asian flavors and exploring how to incorporate them into your kitchen, Umamicart’s Asian Pantry Founders Gift Set is a great place to start. It comes with products like Kewpie Mayonnaise, Occo Sichuan Pepper Spice, Fly By Jing Sichuan Chili Crisp sauce, Omsom Japanese Yuzu Misoyaki Starter and more.

Nectar Hard Seltzer Variety Pack

After going door-to-door with his hard seltzers and getting rejected by over 200 brick-and-mortar stores, Jeremy Kim, co-founder of Nectar, turned to TikTok for help getting the brand on its feet. “I posted a video telling TikTokers our story and asking them to text in and show their support of our brand,” Kim says. “We used the influx of texts from viewers to show distributors that the demand we were promising wasn’t an exaggeration. This led to a sold-out pop-up in Los Angeles where we sold out of 300 boxes in 30 minutes.”

Following its initial success, Nectar expanded into over 1,800 stores across the country, in addition to selling its hard seltzer online and shipping nationwide. Kim says the brand continues leaning on social media and started a podcast, Under the Influence, to engage its community.

The hard seltzer flavors Nectar offers are inspired by the Korean fruits the brand’s co-founders grew up eating, like asian pear, yuzu, lychee and mandarin. Kim says Nectar also developed a proprietary brewing method to ensure there is no aluminum aftertaste he noticed in other hard seltzer brands.

Kasama Rum

Being part of the beverage industry runs in Kasama Rum founder Alexandra Dorda’s family — her father started Belvedere and Chopin Vodka in the early 90s, and his passion inspired her own brand. She blended her interest in spirits with her connection to her mother’s Filipino heritage and visiting the country growing up. Dorda sees Kasama — which means “together” in Filipino — as a “love letter to the Philippines” — the brand makes the rum with sugarcane sourced in the country and works with a Filipino-based studio to design its label.

Dorda says executives in the industry doubted Kasama Rum’s ability to be successful before she launched the brand, with some expressing sentiments about there is no more room on liquor stores’ shelves for an up-and-coming company. “But just because the liquor store is full does not mean that we can’t make room for something new,” Dorda says. “I see a lot of value being an AAPI woman in a male-dominated industry because we can bring a different perspective to the table. We are able to spot holes in the market that weren’t previously considered or explored.”

Kasama Rum is made in small-batches and aged for seven years in ex-bourbon oak barrels. It has tasting notes of pineapple, vanilla and sea salt.

AAPI-owned food and beverage brands to shop

We reached out to over 45 food and beverage brands to compile a list of AAPI-owned companies that we think are worth checking out. We also confirmed with each brand below that they’re at least 51% AAPI-owned, which is in-line with the Census Bureau’s definition of an AAPI-owned business.

AAPI-owned food companies

AAPI-owned beverage companies

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