Above: Brundo Spices manager Aderaw Yeshiwas / All photos from Brundo Spices’ Facebook
With a large fan following around America, Brundo Spices boasts over 20 unique seasonings on their website, which can be used to flavor anything from oatmeal to a beef stew. Founded by Fetlework Tefferi, Brundo Spices started in 2009 as an answer to a disrupted supply chain. Originally a small restaurant, Brundo adapted and did what was necessary in order to still be able to import spices from Ethiopia to the U.S. Today, they’re prospering and livening up kitchens. Moving away from restaurant wholesale to focusing on individual consumers, Brundo Spices has become even more ingrained in the Oakland community.
How it all started
Brundo Spices proper began in 2009 as an import business to bring Ethiopian spices to the U.S. (though its restaurant roots trace back to 1991). “Our goal is to focus on bringing in high-quality ingredients from a place where people don’t usually associate that with, which is Africa,” states Brundo Spices manager Aderaw Yeshiwas.
Brundo Spices proudly sources from East Africa, specifically Modjo, Ethiopia, where a lot of heirloom spices that can’t be found in the U.S. are grown.
Before 2009, Brundo Spices was working on the process of importing spices from Ethiopia for 5-6 years. This included making a plant in Ethiopia and creating a supply chain that didn’t exist beforehand. “There were no shipping products from East Africa to the U.S. before, so there were a lot of logistics to work on,” details Aderaw.
Sourcing from Modjo, Ethiopia was something that hadn’t happened before Brundo Spices took on the challenge. “We take things for granted coming from the western world. Where we source from, there were no organizations around trade and commerce and pricing. Sourcing things internally takes a lot of work,” describes Aderaw.
While Brundo Spices was setting up a plant in Modjo and working on bringing spices into America, they faced some road bumps. Many companies Brundo wanted to work with preferred certified organic products and non-GMO goods, but in Ethiopia, there’s no certification process for those labels. “We were just trying to put stuff on a boat and trying to get it to come to Oakland,” explains Aderaw.
Even though Brundo hit road bumps when starting their imports, they now have loads of customers who love their products all around the country.
Changing what you think about “spice”
When people think about spices, they usually think of something spicy and maybe not suitable for weak stomachs. However, spices are a completely different game in Ethiopian cuisine. “Some might think of spices as just “hot”, but it’s not!” declares Aderaw.
In Ethiopian cooking, there are many blends of spices, which all have a specific use. Some are used just to finish dishes at the end of their cooking, some are used to flavor butter or oil, and others can be used to enrich the bases of various stews.
“The western diet is focused on quantity, but we’re focused on adding a little bit of something to make food really good,” states Aderaw.
The whole of Ethiopia is great for producing these spices, and the area of the country that Brundo Spices sources from is called Oromia. “It’s a beautiful place, tons of space and agriculture,” describes Aderaw.
When Brundo Spices started importing ingredients, their idea was to wholesale them to restaurants. However, now they’re focused on providing directly to the customer.
“When talking about Ethiopian spices in America, there’s definitely a knowledge gap. People in America love BBQ sauce so we created something similar to that…a blend that’s proprietary,” details Aderaw.
Brundo Spices also focuses on customers with more specialized diets, like the vegan or keto diet. “We want to create something that’s really flavorful and easy for them,” says Aderaw.
You can check out Brundo spices on their website, but act fast because things go out of stock quickly! There are shipping delays due to COVID-19, but Aderaw and Brundo Spices remain optimistic. Focusing more on e-commerce, Brundo Spices wants to see these amazing Ethiopian ingredients on everyone’s spice rack.
Shop online at brundo.com.