To shake up the spice scene – that’s the aim of Rachel Walker and Clara Glass, founders of a new company called Rooted Spices.
While single origin and provenance have become common over the last decade in the chocolate and coffee industry, spices seem to have been left behind with these trends, Walker tells Food Spark.
That’s why Rooted Spices’ 38 products include lots of single-origin seasonings, from familiar friends like cumin and coriander seeds, to others like cured sumac and pul biber. Each is sourced from specific countries that have the best growing climates and local expertise to harvest.
Within the range, Walker and Glass have also created blends, including one for smoothies and another that is an everyday table mix inspired by Turkish tradition.
So what are some of the products that could heat up the kitchen?
One of the chefs’ favourites, according to Walker, is the Urfa pul biber (chilli pepper flakes). She says it’s an intense item with a coffee-like complexity, dark molasses and raisin notes that has an amazing finish and is sourced from Turkey.
Another highlight is mahlab, which is made out of the stones of St Lucie cherries. Other companies sell dry mahlab, but Rooted Spices stock it whole.
“It’s got a super intense almond-y flavour but floral, cherry notes, and it’s used in a lot of sweet breads in Greek and Eastern cuisines,” says Walker. “As a fusion ingredient, there is so much scope to use it in baklava or sweet sponges, so it’s quite a unique and exciting one from a chef’s perspective.”
The amchur dried mango powder is often used in regional Indian cuisine and is an underused spice, says Walker, but her hot tip is combining it with cumin to give it flavours of sherbet, fruit and sour.
The duo are also keen to bring regional tastes to the rack.
Walker says traditionally a lot of British spice companies have pushed Indian ingredients, rather than branching out into other regions.
“I think more and more there is such broad interest in all sorts of global cuisines. So we have dried red peppers from Mexico, we have got pul biber and mahlab from Turkey, and za’atar and sumac, which is very popular. We have also got our Indian spices, but we want to keep expanding the range to incorporate spices from all around the world,” she says.
Another interesting point of difference is the creation of the six spice blends, an area Walker says has a lot of space for innovation, with more ideas in the pipeline for the company.
“Fusion is an interesting element. Rather than sticking to prescriptive national cuisines, people are prioritising taste… and our blends have been popular. We have a daal blend, so it’s pre-mixed amounts of spices to stir in with lentils,” she says.
“Then we have got things like the smoothie blend, which has no provenance to anywhere in the world as it’s got amchur-based dried mango powder, a little bit of cayenne and black pepper. I put it in morning smoothies with a banana, apple juice and spinach and it’s absolutely delicious. But for us that blend is driven by taste, rather than any culinary heritage or culinary tradition.”
So is it time to spice things up, Sparkie?
I think they have definitely hit upon something. The supermarket spice rack is perceived to be pretty all encompassing, with very few changes in quite some time, so it would be interesting to see new things hitting the shelves. If they do some market research, there are quite a few obvious products lacking from the market too.
The trouble is it definitely feels as though there is a strong monopoly in that area, so a new company may struggle to gain market share from Schwartz due to it being such a recognised brand.
Aside from the provenance as a marketing differential – which is definitely a solid idea – I think the products could be more inspired. A lot more could be done with the concept, creating unique spice blends for products that do not typically have a spice blend attached to them, like the smoothie.
However, I don’t think that naming a single product as the one blend for all your smoothie needs is necessarily a good idea – not everyone is going to appreciate spicy mango and not all fruit mixes will blend well with that flavour.