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A Dozen Cousins Launches with Backing of General Mills Vets

Carol Ortenberg

While working at General Mills, Ibraheem Basir found himself trying to develop products that would encourage healthy eating and appeal to mainstream shoppers. Now, he’s ready to apply that strategy to his own company, A Dozen Cousins, a line of ready-to-eat beans. Backing the brand are two experienced investors, John Foraker, former President of Annie’s Homegrown and current CEO of Once Upon a Farm, and Gail Peterson, a former General Mills marketing director.

Terms of the investment were not disclosed, but Basir said the funding will allow the brand to launch and ascertain if the line has traction.

Basir, a former Marketing Manager at General Mills, told NOSH that his time working on natural food brands including Annie’s was his first introduction to the natural products industry. It was in this later role that he was inspired to step away from General Mills and start his own brand.

“There’s a fundamental disconnect between [how] your hard-core, natural and organic consumer thinks about food and the way that most of the people in this country think about food,” Basir said. “That was one of the first few things that really planted the seed that there was an opportunity for a different voice and a different approach in the marketplace.”

Basir’s hope is to make the line approachable in terms of messaging and price point — which will be between $3 to $4.50 per pouch depending on the channel. The company has already signed one major retailer and plans to further rollout the line in several hundred stores by January 2019. Basir told NOSH that early retailer interest is promising but that he will focus on California as a test market before expanding.

In terms of flavors, the line embraces Latin, Caribbean and Southern cuisine — all of which were food influences that surrounded Basir during the formative years of his life in Brooklyn, a “black and brown melting pot” of cultures, he said.

Foraker — who has personally invested in Back To The Roots, Quinn Snacks, REBBL, Bhakti Chai and Once Upon A Farm — told NOSH that he typically doesn’t invest in pre-revenue brands, but felt Basir was one of the “best, young marketing minds” in the business. Foraker said he believes Basir created a brand that will resonate with the new multicultural consumer and find a hole in the marketplace.

“When was the last time you said to yourself, ‘I need to take a left turn down the bean aisle today because there is something new and interesting there?’” Foraker told NOSH. “It’s like two to three big brands competing on price and can size, slight flavor variations — like fighting over who has the best BBQ flavor — and on who can put up the biggest end-caps before the Fourth of July. Categories like this are so ripe for disruption and A Dozen Cousins is a prototype disruptor.”

Basir, in turn, described his angel investors Foraker and Peterson as experienced veterans who embrace “mission and acting with integrity” but also “don’t mince words,” allowing for speedy constructive feedback.

If a success in California, Basir said he will likely raise more capital to help scale further. Along the way, he said, he hopes to educate consumers about the culture he grew up with — and maybe bring a taste of it to their dinner tables.

“I always grew up with a strong connection to food,” Basir said. “Food was always a way that we could celebrate and show love to each other and connect with each other. In many ways, it was the glue to our family.”

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