When Sadia Ahmed’s son was ready to wean, the East London mum wanted him to taste various flavors from international cultures, and especially foods reminiscent of his own Bangladeshi origins.
However, after searching high and low in supermarkets for nutritious, halal and, most importantly, delicious baby food like the meals she was raised with, Sadia was disappointed with the boring and bland options on offer and resorted to the kitchen itself at home.
“I kept thinking, ‘This is not good’,” she said. “Everyone should be included, especially children.”
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Sadia, 37, a third-generation British Bangladeshi, said wanting to celebrate her culture and heritage with her son through food inspired her to launch her baby food brand, Oliver’s Closet.
“I grew up with flavors, we don’t go bland,” she laughed.
“I wanted him to taste what real food is, so he’s exposed to all the different flavors and he’s less likely to be a picky eater and be able to enjoy all kinds of food.”
She started talking to other moms of different nationalities and realized that all of their kids were failing to learn and celebrate their own heritage through food – and that shouldn’t be the case in a society. also multicultural.
“We should celebrate our multicultural society and share our knowledge about each other’s food – breaking down barriers through food – and we should do that from the start with our children,” she said.
Based on this idea, Oliver’s Cupboard was born. Sadia started creating baby food recipes all over the world, producing the meals she would love to see on the baby food aisle in supermarkets.
Four years later, after a lot of research, planning and hard work, his brand is about to be stocked at Ocado, Amazon, and health food stores.
“I was like ‘It’s now or never’. Do I take a stand so that one day all parents can feel they are included and change the narrative, or do I? nothing and wallow in it? I decided I had to do something about it, ”she said.
Oliver’s Cupboard meals are suitable for children over seven months old and include a wide variety of exciting flavors that are a far cry from the baby foods already available in supermarkets.
Sadia said: “Ideally, I want [my son] to try food of all different nationalities, because then he knows a whole range. The beauty of food is that you can use the same herbs and spices to cook in different ways, and that changes the whole recipe.
“Caribbean, Indian, Japanese, Chinese – you use the same [herbs and spices] but in a different way. “
She added that another issue was making sure her baby food was halal, and said she wanted to create a premium brand that is organic, sustainable and has the same quality as other more traditional brands. while meeting a range of different cultures.
She said, “As soon as you put in different flavors or dietary requirements it becomes a niche. I’m not here to be a niche product – it’s for everyone.
“We’re trying to change the narrative that just because you have Caribbean food, Indian food, Japanese food, it can’t be mainstream.
“Of course it can be mainstream, it’s for everyone. And it should have the same standard.”
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Oliver’s Cupboard uses ethically sourced, organic and halal certified ingredients and packs their food in recyclable pouches – Sadia said it’s very important that the ingredients are ethical and the products are sustainable – and she also encourages flexible working among the many mothers on her team to promote a fair and quality working environment.
“There’s a lot about this business, it’s not just a baby food brand – it’s a way of life, it’s a statement,” she said. “I hope in the future that will open the door to other brands, so we can change the aisle.
“So my son will grow up and he will be included from now on, along with other things for him on the supermarket shelves as well.”
Oliver’s Cupboard launches on Ocado in the coming days with its six meals: Sri Lanka Sambar, Indian Korma, Brazilian Bahia, Egyptian Koshari, Malaysian Laksa and Thai Tom Yum.
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