A Dozen Cousins founder talks brand’s evolution, partnering with Walmart for Black History Month
After working for several food brands, including Annie’s and General Mills, Basir launched the brand in 2018 to create “rich, culturally authentic dishes” that were healthier and minimally processed, but also to bring “the foods and the flavors that [he] had grown up enjoying,” including Creole, Caribbean, and Latin American cooking, to more people, Basir said.
Currently, the brand’s portfolio features three product lines, including seasoned beans cooked with vegetables, spices, and avocado oil; rice dishes cooked with bone broth, and a line of seasoning sauces, Basir shared.
"I wanted to create a brand that felt really cultural and really authentic, but at the same time, leverage everything that I had learned in terms of ingredients, innovation, etc. … We want to celebrate culture, and we want to inspire people to eat healthier foods.”
Celebrating Black History Month with Walmart
To celebrate Black History Month, Walmart created Black & Unlimited, a program dedicated to celebrating the brands it offers that are Black-owned, including A Dozen Cousins and several other CPG companies. Walmart is supporting the initiatives with “a larger campaign where [it’s] pairing … artists along with those brands to help bring content to life,” Basir said.
A Dozen Cousins has worked with Walmart since 2020, which Basir admited is “not the common trajectory that most natural food brands take." Many brands first break into Whole Foods or Sprouts.
“Walmart has the most diverse consumer base in America right in terms of both income levels as well as… ethnicities that shop at the store,” and the brand “always had them targeted as a retailer that [it] really wanted to be in and try to perform well in,” he added.
Partnering with Disney, going beyond RTE in 2022
While A Dozen Cousin's partnership with Walmart remains one way it's building out its brand, Basir explained that several other launches and partnerships are setting the brand up for success in 2023.
In February 2022, A Dozen Cousins launched seasoning sauces, and this was the brand’s "first time stepping outside of kind of the ready-to-eat space,” Basir said. These seasoning sauces are designed with the home chefs in mind, and consumers can “put together an entire meal using [A Dozen Cousins] products,” he added.
A Dozen Cousins also partnered with Disney to promote the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever film with a trio of products: a new limited edition Wakandan Jollof Rice, Wakandan Coconut Rice, and Wakandan Jerk Seasoning, the latter two were Black Panther-branded offerings of existing A Dozen Cousins products.
The idea of the partnership was to "celebrate the foods and flavors of the African diaspora” and "[celebrating] the influence of African cuisine throughout the Caribbean as well as West African cuisine," he said. Basir went on to say that Disney "were great partners throughout the process" and the "team was very receptive ... [to] the idea and the concept."
A Dozen Cousins aims to continue doubling its business “brick by brick” by introducing more consumers to its product line and having current consumers try new offerings.
"We're all about just ... introducing the brand to new people,” Basir said. “We intend to double our business next year, and we'll do it just by ... introducing new people to our products, getting people loving one of our products to try some of the others."
Navigating the food, beverage industry in 2023: ‘A tale of two cities’
A Dozen Cousins’ goal of doubling its business comes at a time when many food and beverage brands are struggling to secure capital and there is general economic unease across the industry. Basir says he sees the current climate a “a little bit … of a tale of two cities."
On the one hand, investors “are being more conservative with how they’re deploying capital [and] in some cases … not deploying capital,” which hurts “early-stage brands that are not yet profitable,” he said. But on the other hand, consumers need to eat, he said. For its own business, A Dozen Cousins “have really strong sales and velocities at our retail partners,” he added.
“As a brand owner, my belief is that even in the case of a recession, people will buy food and beverage and cook at home and … continue to eat the types of products that we make,” Basir said. “I don't know how the recession will impact demand, but from my perspective, it seems like the bigger and more immediate impact is on capital versus consumer demand.”