“Wouldn’t it be great if date syrup became the next hummus or quinoa!”
The brainchild of Brian Finkel and David Czinn, who became friends in 2005 during a gap year program in Jerusalem and became huge fans of Middle Eastern cuisine, D’vash (the Hebrew word for honey) Organics started selling date nectar from organic Medjool dates grown in California in early 2017, and has since struck deals with UNFI and KeHE and picked up listings in 4,000+ bricks & mortar stores including Whole Foods, Wegmans and Sprouts.
We like people to conjure up images of Moses putting it in his tea!
Finkel – who returned to Israel in 2013 and fell in love with ‘silan’ (as date syrup is known locally), told FoodNavigator-USA: “I saw how ubiquitous it was in Israeli cuisine and supermarkets and then found out it’s common throughout North Africa and the Middle East, and that the ‘honey’ in the term ‘land of milk and honey’ [ie. Israel, as referenced in the Bible] was actually date syrup.
"It has this unique history and legacy... We like people to conjure up images of Moses putting it in his tea!"
He added: “But I couldn’t remember seeing it in the US, so I called David [who had co-founded a fruit pouch brand called Fruigees] and said, ‘Hey, what do you think? Do you think Americans would be interested in this?’ And he said yes! At the time, there were a few brands on Amazon, mostly imported, but in the [bricks & mortar] retail market, where David had a lot of contacts, there was very little out there.
“So we partnered with a date farmer in Coachella Valley and launched on Valentine’s Day 2017 – as we thought it would be cute to start selling date nectar on the day you go out on a date. In mid-2017 we got our first purchase order from a major retailer, and things just snowballed from there.
“We’ve been surprised about how successful it has been,” said Finkel, who has recently raised money from a private family office after a friends and family round in late 2017.
D’vash Organics makes date nectar by heating dates in 190˚F water (88˚C) and filtering out the pits and fibrous exterior, leaving a syrup that’s slightly thinner in consistency than honey but thicker than maple syrup, and ideal for everything from drizzling over pancakes and waffles to sweetening tea, marinating meat and poultry, dressing a salad, or adding to oatmeal or yogurt. It also makes a killer cocktail, says co-founder Brian Finkel, who recommends using it in sweet and savory dishes.
“There’s a site called Tipsy Bartender and they made this amazing cocktail called date night using date syrup on Valentine’s Day 2018 and we featured really prominently, so we were seen by hundreds of thousands of people, which was great.
“Date syrup is in the mid-40s on the glycemic index, so it is also known as a low glycemic sweetener,” claims Finkel, who says his product – made from Medjool dates - has around 25% less sugar than honey. “It has a distinct fruity flavor, but it’s not overpowering.”
Potential in foodservice as well as retail
He added: “It was selling so well in the southern Pacific region of Whole Foods that we were contacted by the Northern California region saying they wanted to bring us in as well. It’s also doing great in Wegmans and Sprouts and we continue to get re-orders. Now we’ve got the extra money, we have been able to hire more people and look at advertising, as well as having the working capital we need.”
Since then, Finkel and Czinn have also launched a more affordable date syrup (using imported deglet dates that are not organic) in a plastic squeezy bottle, a sweet potato nectar and a date nectar infused with cayenne, and are exploring other date related products including granulated date sugar and date flour.
“We’ve also started getting inquiries from food manufacturers, bars, hotels and restaurants, as it has so many applications, so in 2019 we’re going to really explore the foodservice market. Further down the line I'd also like to explore international markets as we've had inquiries from all over the world."