BALTIMORE — The packaged bean category has a reputation — and not a very good one, if you ask Ibraheem Basir.
“There’s a perception of the bean category that it is just a commodified, boring and bland category,” said Mr. Basir, the founder and chief executive officer of Berkeley, Calif.-based food start-up A Dozen Cousins. “People think about heavily processed beans that maybe they grew up eating, or they just think about straight canned beans. It is both a challenge and an opportunity for us to help people reimagine the category.”
Described as a modern take on traditional Creole, Caribbean and Latin American dishes, A Dozen Cousins is a brand of premium, ready-to-eat beans featuring ingredients such as avocado oil, apple cider vinegar and turmeric. The brand debuted at Natural Products Expo East, held Sept. 13-15 in Baltimore.
“Beans are on-trend throughout the store, if you think about plant protein, gluten-free, fiber, if you think about sustainably grown ingredients,” Mr. Basir told Food Business News. “There’s all these reasons why you would expect beans to be in really high demand. But I think there’s an opportunity to help people imagine the category in a more exciting and fun way, and I think our products do that.”
A Dozen Cousins is launching with three varieties: Cuban Black Beans, with onions and bell pepper, Mexican Cowboy Beans, which features pinto beans with tomatoes and green chilies, and Trinidadian Chickpea Curry, featuring curried chickpeas with cilantro and turmeric. The products are packaged in B.P.A.-free, microwavable pouches and will be available at select California retailers beginning early next year.
“The heart and soul of this food is the Caribbean and Creole and Latin foods I grew up eating,” Mr. Basir said. “We started by wanting to eliminate the trade-off between taste, culture, health, convenience. Because there’s a lot of options, right? You could cook from scratch, but it takes a lot of time. You could buy natural foods, but you’re probably losing something in terms of authenticity or taste. You can buy cultural brands, and you love the taste, but you’re probably losing something in terms of health.
“And so the hope for this brand is to eliminate that trade-off and allow people to have it all.”
Mr. Basir, who previously worked in marketing at General Mills, Inc., named the business after his daughter and her 11 cousins.
“I come from a big family; I have nine siblings,” he said. “Dinnertime and food were really important to us in terms of reconnecting with each other, connecting with our culture and as a source of joy and happiness.”
Future product launches from A Dozen Cousins may include other easy-to-prepare meal items featuring authentic recipes and premium ingredients.
“As we think about the brand, first and foremost, we want to be a dinnertime solution,” Mr. Basir said. “If we could in 5 or 10 years be known as a brand that makes authentic dinners easier, that would be something I’d be really happy about. There are a lot of adjacent categories… to help make dinner time easier.”