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Jun 28, 2022

When Ibraheem Basir launched A Dozen Cousins in 2018, retail buyers questioned the marketability of the brand’s first products, a line of premium-positioned cooked beans. Four years later, those buyers are asking a different question: “How do we keep up with consumer demand?”

A former marketing executive with General Mills, Basir founded A Dozen Cousins to increase accessibility of better-for-you food within Black and Latino communities via healthy ingredients, authentic seasonings and convenient preparation. Available in varieties such as Mexican Cowboy Pinto Beans and Trini Chickpea Curry, the beans are packaged in microwavable pouches that can be heated in 60 seconds.

As A Dozen Cousins expanded distribution, the brand found traction with a broad variety of consumers seeking a quick, flavorful meal or side dish. The company has since added two complementary product lines – bone-broth cooked rice and seasoning sauces for rice and meat dishes – and widened its presence in stores across retail channels, including Whole Foods, Walmart, Trader Joes, Kroger and REI.

In an interview featured in this episode, Basir spoke about how the brand’s initial focus has evolved, working with co-manufacturing partners to ensure quality standards, why sampling was critical to its development and why keeping a foot in the familiar is a key tenet of its innovation strategy. He also explained why A Dozen Cousins is relatively quiet about raising capital and shared his take on improved opportunities and continuing challenges for BIPOC food entrepreneurs.

Show notes:

0:42: Interview: Ibraheem Basir, Founder & CEO, A Dozen Cousins – Basir spoke with Taste Radio editor Ray Latif at NOSH Live Summer 2022 where they discussed their shared experience growing up in large families, alternate names for A Dozen Cousins and how the brand addresses “two different levels” of consumer needs. Basir also spoke about how he prepared for a national launch at Whole Foods while the brand was still in its infancy, the impact of his experience as an employee at a large food conglomerate, what social media taught the company about the unexpected ways consumers used the beans and what moved the needle for retail buyers that were initially skeptical about the brand. Later, he explained why the launch of A Dozen Cousins’ rice was about creating something “additive” to the category, why he wants the brand to be “in the middle of the spectrum” when it comes to innovation, the reason the company isn’t vocal about funding and why he points to the lack of “insider knowledge” as a hurdle for BIPOC founders.

Brands in this episode: A Dozen Cousins, Annie’s