What comes to mind when you think of a delicious, home-cooked meal?
I think about my list of favorites — Jamaican classics like oxtail, curry goat, and rice and peas. As a Los Angeles native, I always crave a good taco from a stand or a chicken burrito with refried beans and Spanish rice. Or, my new obsession, feijoada, a Brazilian black bean stew.
These foods remind me of my home and childhood, but I must be honest. At restaurants, they’re pretty expensive dishes.
While I could attempt to make these foods at home, most take hours, and recipes online don’t quite capture that authentic, homemade taste. And I can’t forget to mention that grocery stores often don’t have what’s necessary to make these foods quickly and easily.
But what if making these dishes could be simple and fast? That’s the question A Dozen Cousins, a healthy food brand that makes convenient side dishes, is here to answer with their ready-to-eat, healthy, and authentic Black- and Latino-inspired foods.
Founder Ibraheem Basir, a Brooklyn native, grew up surrounded by Black, Latino, Creole, and Caribbean foods.
After attending the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania for his MBA and working at a large national food company, Basir launched A Dozen Cousins in 2019. He brought his upbringing in the city known for being a melting pot of cultures to his work.
He noticed, “You had to choose between these really authentic cultural brands, but maybe the ingredients weren’t great, or the sodium was really high,” Basir tells Word In Black. “On the flip side, you had natural brands that had really good sourcing and ingredients but didn’t always have the foods and flavors that I had grown up eating.”
The company’s first products were fully seasoned, ready-to-eat beans made with real vegetables, spices, and avocado oil. In the following year came high-protein rice cooked in bone broth. And in 2022, the brand launched seasoning sauces for Jamaican jerk, Mexican pollo asado, Peruvian pollo a la brasa, and more.
“I wanted it to feel really authentic, really emotional, really cultural, but then at the same time, leverage everything I learned around ingredients, sourcing, etc.,” Basir says. “For a consumer that’s busy, short on time, wants to put healthy food on their table, we’re a solution.”
Rooted in the Community and the Culture
Around the time Basir was planning and launching his company, his family already had 11 nieces and nephews. His daughter’s birth made 12, inspiring the brand’s name: A Dozen Cousins.
The foods they offer remind people of their families and communities, too. When he thinks about the fellowship growing around his company and products, Basir says he sees it as celebrating a community that was always there.
“I do think people really resonate with our products, with our storytelling, and some of the marketing we do because we’re celebrating things they already know and love,” he says. “We’re not trying to take credit for creating Cuban black beans. We’re just presenting it in a way that is more convenient.”
Along with the community outside the company, all A Dozen Cousins’ employees are people of color, helping create products with a sense of authenticity and familiarity their competitors often can’t replicate.
In October 2022, A Dozen Cousins partnered with Marvel Studios and Disney to bring “Flavors of Wakanda,” coinciding with the release of Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.
Growing the Brand’s Reach
A Dozen Cousins wants to serve everyone but has a target audience — busy people who love good and healthy food. And that’s part of the selling point for retailers, as well.
The brand is in major retailers and grocery stores like Target, Walmart, Whole Foods Market, Kroger, Publix, and REI. Basir says their story around convenience and flavor is essential for growing the business and selling products.
“If somebody walks into their store, they’re going to find something they love,” he says. “So what we tell them is, ‘Look, our products are very differentiated in terms of the flavor profiles. They’re flavors you don’t have on your shelf today, and in terms of convenience, everything we do is ready in 20 minutes or less, in some cases, ready in 60 seconds or less.’”
Basir says they’re “making their way around the dinner plate” with beans, rice, and seasonings for meats and vegetables.
“Our goal as a business is when people think about preparing a meal from the Caribbean, Latin America, or the South, we want to be the first brand that pops into their mind,” Basir says. “We want to be there as a kind of right-hand companion in the kitchen.”
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