A California company’s aromatic single-origin spices promote sustainability as well as understanding about Indian cooking and culture.
Diaspora Co., founded by Sana Javeri Kadri (inset), is a California-headquartered company that works directly with farmers to share delicious spices, like Pahadi Pink Garlic (pictured above), with consumers across the United States and beyond. (Photographs courtesy Diaspora Co.)
Pragati turmeric, Bindu black mustard and Nandini coriander—for Sana Javeri Kadri, these and other distinctive South Asian spices are more than delicious powders for flavoring foods.
Instead, Kadri sees the world of spices as an opportunity for exciting international business.
Kadri is the founder and CEO of Diaspora Co., a California-headquartered company that works directly with farmers to share delicious spices with consumers across the United States and beyond.
Organic spices and international acclaim
Diaspora Co. specializes in selling spices that are grown without harmful chemicals, and the company prides itself on carefully testing each harvest for contamination before the spices go to market.
Its spices are also “single-origin,” which means that all of the coriander, chili or mustard contained in a Diaspora Co. package came from the same farm. Sourcing spices this way helps Kadri and her team make sure the quality of each spice is high, and that farmers are paid fairly for their work. During her annual trips to India, Kadri personally visits every farm the company works with to build relationships with farmers. She also works closely with them on the business of their farms and helps them find ways to grow their spices without pesticides.
“Sana provides a much larger profit margin,” Zeinorin Angkang, who grows Sivathei chili in Manipur for Diaspora Co., said in a 2021 Vogue magazine article. “And she pays us all at once. She also embraces indigenous farming practices like planting yam, soy and rice among the chilies.”
Diaspora Co. sources its spices from across India. Kashmiri chili and saffron come from the north while India’s eastern areas offer Sivathei chili, Naga Hills hibiscus and more. Bindu black mustard comes from the country’s central region, Baraka cardamom from the south, and Nandini coriander from the west.
Its efforts have gained international attention and widespread praise. Food & Wine wrote about Diaspora Co., “Compared to the turmeric you get in the grocery store, it’s night and day. You need to know about this organically-farmed, single-origin turmeric.” In Vogue magazine, Tamar Adler wrote, “Diaspora Co.’s Pragati turmeric is so fragrant it’s almost intoxicating. The Aranya pepper smells like ripe fruit and tastes like smoke, chocolate and mandarins.” Diana Tsui, a reviewer for The Infatuation food website, wrote, “The difference between these spices and the random ones I used to buy on the shelves at the supermarket is pretty drastic. The flavors are definitely sharper and more like the plants they came from.”
Kadri tells SPAN that critical recognition is always thrilling to see, and that the company wouldn’t be where it is without such positive publicity—but that widespread recognition of the company’s accomplishments has a deeper significance as well. “Now, we see ourselves as translators of culture, as educators and spokespersons for South Asia’s best regenerative farmers, which is all in the service of our mission,” she says. “More visibility means more spices means better, more impactful service to our farmers, and that’s our North Star.”
Building Diaspora Co.
Kadri was born and raised in Mumbai. In 2012, she moved to the United States to enroll at California’s Pomona College, where she studied food and visual art. Four years later, while working in food marketing for a San Francisco-based grocery store, Kadri took note of the growing popularity of turmeric in American food culture—particularly as an ingredient in popular coffee drinks. She also noticed how the turmeric she tasted in the United States was far less aromatic and intense than what she remembered from Mumbai. Curious to learn more, Kadri decided to return to India.
She spent months visiting Indian farms, and spoke with the Indian Institute of Spices Research in Kerala, a meeting she describes as life-changing. She founded Diaspora Co. in 2017 with only one product—Pragati turmeric—which she sourced from a single young farm partner named Prabhu Kasaraneni.
“The big, audacious dream was to grow a radically new, decidedly delicious and truly equitable spice trade,” Kadri writes.
Diaspora Co.’s growth and international success speak for themselves. Today, the company has expanded into a team of over a dozen employees from India, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Saudi Arabia. They sell dozens of spices from over 150 farms.
The company’s emphasis on sustainable and organic agriculture, and direct connections with farmers, cuts down on chemical pollution and greenhouse emissions normally associated with the spice industry. And Diaspora Co.’s growing popularity in the United States—which is the world’s biggest consumer and importer of spices—helps spread knowledge and understanding about Indian cooking and culture.
For Kadri, Diaspora Co.’s wide-ranging success all began with knowledge of a fractured past, and dreams of a better future. “Being in this community is about connecting deeply with the culture and heritage of the regions that we source from, and about learning as we go,” she writes on the company’s website. “Complicating and deepening what ‘Made in South Asia’ means, and how we tell our own stories of freedom, struggle and diaspora through food.”
Michael Gallant is a New York City-based writer, musician and entrepreneur.