Jun 22, 2021
This week, we’re joined by Alexander Harik, founder and CEO of Zesty Z, a brand of condiments, popcorn and seasonings inspired by the Mediterranean diet. Born in Brooklyn, Zesty Z debuted in 2017 and has attempted to introduce Middle Eastern flavors to American households via easily understood and accessible products, beginning with its flagship zaatar and olive oil blend, which gained national distribution at Whole Foods within a year of its launch. The company has since extended the brand via a three-SKU line of popcorn infused with Mediterranean flavors, such as thyme and feta, and a line of table seasonings, which includes everything bagel and zaatar varieties.
In an interview featured in this episode, Harik discussed the duality of Zesty Z as an authentic Mediterranean food brand whose products are designed to reach a broad set of consumers, how he initially won over independent retailers on his way to coast-to-coast distribution, the process of scaling from a single product to a platform brand and how he’s navigated challenges and surprising roadblocks as an Arab-American food entrepreneur.
0:48: Sipping Aguas Frescas Out Of A Trophy… It’s A Thing. Also, You’ll Want Your Microwave For This. -- NOSH reporter Erin Cabrey helped kick off this episode, which arrived just ahead of BevNET and NOSH’s Virtually Live Summer 2021. The hosts discussed the agenda for the event, which is loaded with informative panels, interactive discussions and much more, along with the recently held New Beverage Showdown 21 competition, which was won by aguas frescas brand Agua Bonita. Later, they spoke about an innovative take on microwave popcorn, exquisite frozen desserts, better-for-you pantry staples and “electrifying” beverages.
18:51: Interview: Alexander Harik, Founder/CEO, Zesty Z -- Harik sat down with Taste Radio editor Ray Latif and spoke about the origins of the company, how its whimsical name differentiates Zesty Z from legacy Mediterranean food brands and the key elements of a first market-viable product. He also explained his process for landing the brand’s first 25 retailers, how he built strong relationships with local and national Whole Foods buyers and how he chose popcorn as the brand’s second and most scalable product line. Later, he discussed how the bigotry and racism he experienced in the wake of 9/11 impacted his journey as a food entrepreneur and why he’s concerned that Arab-Americans are not classified as a minority group by some industry organizations.
Brands in this episode: Zesty Z, La Colombe, A Dozen Cousins, Agua Bonita, Olipop, Opopop, Dolcezza Gelato, Vybes, Electra, Unlit, High Road Craft Ice Cream, Incredo Spreads, Not Just Co., Nutella, Siete, Dang Foods