Saby’s Barbee Mania, an online start-up that is into making hand-crushed and home-made spice mixes, is waiting to break out big. Its young promoter Sarah Yunus is confident about the novelty and quality of her products, especially barbecue and tandoor powders. Progressive Grocer speaks to Yunus about the specialty of her products and her plans for introducing Saby’s spices to the larger retail audience
Tell us about your company and how you got involved with the spices business.
Saby’s Barbee Mania (SBM) is a company that makes home-made spices using the secrets of our ancestors and especially that of my mom (Naseem Yunus) who has been cooking ever since she was 10 years old. My association with spices began when I grew the passion to open a restaurant. However, due to certain constraints, I missed out fulfilling that dream. But today my dream is bigger and it extends to catering to hundreds of households, restaurants and coffee shops.
I know about the secret recipe of my spices and it has been with me since I was a 13-year-old. To think of it, the spices business has always been in my blood. I hail from a Gujarati Muslim family and my dad was from Porbandar – the place so intrinsically associated with Gandhiji. All the same, it was not an easy journey setting up Saby’s. When I started, I was myself not sure where I was headed for. But today I am glad that things have worked out well.
Which are your spices and other food products?
At Saby’s Barbee Mania, we have a range of 23 spice mixes such as chai masala, tandoor masala, barbeque masala, nine non-veg and seafood spices, nine veg spices, two hot and cold beverage masala (chai masala and jaljeera mix), slimming masala oats, slimming masala atta (100 per cent chakki fresh wheat atta mixed with spices, which makes the roti soft and keeps it fresh for a longer time), slimming dark chocolates, slimming spicy dosa mix, home-made veg pickle, home-made chewda (mixture) and some other products.
What is special about your products?
Saby’s Barbee Mania is about promoting a healthy and organic way of snacking. All spices at Saby’s are crushed and grinded by stone using the traditional method after ensuring the quality of the ingredients. We want to follow our traditional hand crushed way of making masala as nothing can beat the taste, aroma and flavour of masala made this way.
Saby’s believes in healthy, tasty and quick cooking, without adding any preservatives, and no artificial colours. And when we say we make cooking easy it means that you don’t need multiple ingredients for making a dish at your home. Just a pack of Saby’s spices with your veg or non-veg, oil, salt, vinegar or lime and you are ready to go. We say that we make barbecue spices but it’s really tough for everyone and anyone to enjoy them at home because we think we need special equipment to make barbecue dishes. But with Saby’s it’s just the spices, a normal frying pan and you are ready to have your own barbecue party.
Apart from being quick to cook and tasty to eat, Saby’s spices are pure and healthy too. We use different kind of spices and herbs, which we all use in our daily life. But it’s just the proportion with which we play with. For example, we have a chai masala in which we use roughly 20 ingredients – like black pepper, clove, cinnamon, nutmeg, basil, etc. We use 10 gm of many of these ingredients to make a 1 kg chai mix, which is our main USP.
Our chai masala is not only good for tea lovers but also for non-tea lovers. It has no tea powder in it, just the masala which has to be added to your choice of tea powder or tea bags with or without milk. Non-tea drinkers can have it with just a glass of hot water.
This is a chai masala bundled with many benefits – like stress relief, burns fat, offers relief from cold and cough and any type of allergy, gives relief from migraine and from joint pains and comes with the added benefit of iron and calcium in it.
Saby’s doodh masala is a slightly remixed version of our ancestors’ haldi doodh. We have added haldi in it with peanuts, clove, nutmeg and many more ingredients, which builds immunity, improves memory, gives a sound sleep, improves appetite and is helpful for kids, adults and the elderly.
What has been the response to your products?
As a start-up, we have been very successful in building our brand name. I am proud to say that our products are gaining signifi cant customer traction and is on its way to making its presence felt in the organised retail markets soon. Our products are basically targeted at housewives, working ladies, bachelors, and we plan to cater to restaurants in the near future.
So far our products have been selling through word of mouth and by virtue of good social media response generated from platforms such as Facebook and WhatsApp. We have also brought our products to fl ea markets to test the consumer response, which has been very encouraging. We started selling our products in 50 gm packs but with good response from customers we are now also selling our spice products in 100 gm packs. At the same time we have come out with 1 kg pack for our oats, wheat atta and dosa atta, and 250 gm packs for chai and doodh masala.
What are you doing to promote and popularise your products?
We are working with a lot of food and health bloggers to try our products and share their reviews with their target audience. This is one way that we are trying to promote our products. Next, we are pushing a little more on our product descriptions as we want more and more people to know about it when we target the retail market. At face value, our products are a bit expensive in comparison with other spice brands. But if one goes into the detailed product review of Saby’s, you will be able to see that it’s not expensive. For any other brand of chicken masala that you buy, you need to add a few more things to give the dish a proper texture and to ensure that the spice powder in the packet blends well with the preparation. But with Saby’s, which is prepared using the hand crushed method, you can use our spice mix with just the vinegar, oil, salt of your choice and the veg/ non-veg dish is ready to eat with a superb taste.
Which are the challenges you foresee in increasing the retail reach for your products?
The one thing I have noticed is that product description is very important for a customer to pick a Saby’s product. So far we have been 25 per cent successful in doing this but there is still about 75 per cent to cover before our products become well understood by consumers. From our perspective, we would want to reach out to consumers through all the best channels available. But then we also have to keep in mind that our overheads don’t shoot up to a point that we are forced to hike the price of our products. So the challenge is to work out a fair deal where the prices don’t hike up more and we reach where we have to.
What is the one advice that you would like to give to women entrepreneurs wishing to join the food business?
I would say that for women entrepreneurs the journey of a start-up is not easy but then don’ t make it difficult either. A very important suggestion from my personal experience is that one needs to sacrifie something to get something. This can happen only if you can break the boundaries of your emotions. Let’s not forget one thing that when it comes to emotions, we women have them in a heaping and strong measure. But if we can overcome our emotions then trust me nothing can stop you.