This Family-Inspired Bean Company Is Making Nutritious Food More Accessible
The founder of A Dozen Cousins is using beans to introduce more people to natural foods.
Have you ever eaten a dish that immediately brought back comforting memories of home or family? Whether it was the specific blend of ingredients or the style in which it was cooked, there’s just something about food that can transport us to a different time and space with one bite.
That’s exactly what A Dozen Cousins does with its array of ready-to-eat “soulfully seasoned” bean pouches. Now, if you’re skeptical about something that comes in a microwaveable pouch actually tasting good, I’ll be the first to put you at ease and tell you the seasonings truly speak for themselves. Completely plant-based and free of ingredients with eight syllables, Ibraheem Basir’s family-inspired line of convenient meals deserves a spot on your table.
The beans currently come in several varieties, including Cuban black beans, Mexican cowboy pinto beans (or frijoles charros), Trini chickpea beans, refried black beans, classic refried pinto beans, and a limited edition Creole red beans. They’re all made with avocado oil and naturally gluten-free, making them suitable for every diet.
Originally from Brooklyn, he grew up in a large family, including nine siblings. He now has 11 nieces and nephews and a daughter who collectively inspired the name of his company. Basir’s interest in natural foods and the impact of foods on our health began during his time working in branding and product innovation for brands like Lärabar and Annie’s Homegrown at General Mills.
“I was living in Berkeley at the time, working on an organic food brand, and had fallen in love with the space. But whenever I went back to Brooklyn, it was like the conversations we were having about food were totally different,” he said. “In the Bay, everything was focused on health and wellness and the environment. And then I'd go back home, and the conversation was much more focused on culture and taste. It felt like I was living in two different worlds.”
As a way to bridge these two food scenes together, A Dozen Cousins was founded in 2019.
“If you look at the data, the reality is if you're Black, Brown, or poor in America, the likelihood that you're suffering from some diet related illness is just extremely higher than it is for the mainstream population,” he said. Due to systematic racism and disparities in socioeconomic factors, minorities and lower-income communities are disproportionately affected by a lack of access to nutritious food and health care, resulting in higher rates of diabetes and other chronic diet-related illnesses. Native Americans and Alaska Natives make up 16% of adults who have diabetes while African Americans and Hispanics are twice as likely as white people in the U.S. to have diabetes, regardless of income status.
If you've ever cooked beans, you know that it takes the whole day because you have to soak them and slowly cook them. That’s why Basir made sure to create a product line that’s convenient enough for even the busiest of us.
“There is a certain amount of time and investment that it takes to cook a really good pot of beans, and I felt like, ‘Man, people would probably eat more beans if they could get that same level of quality, but without the work or as much time’,” he said. “People aren't necessarily investing like two or three hours to cook multi-course, multi-part meals, during the week at least. To give people the opportunity to eat something that's still very wholesome and that still tastes really good, but only takes literally one minute to prepare was really important to us.”
But aside from the great flavors of the beans themselves, Basir has made it a priority to give back and help make natural foods accessible to communities who normally have challenges getting their hands on them.
“When we started the business, a lot of my goal was to introduce this new audience into the natural and organic space. I wanted people who looked like me and who grew up like me to have a brand that resonated with them in terms of natural or clean eating,” he said. “But there are some people who can't go on that journey, or who won't go on that journey, whether that's because they can't afford to, they don't yet have the knowledge around healthy eating, or they have these other impediments, and there are many of them, whether that is their community, the culture, the physical environment they're in. There's a lot of things that contribute to peoples' health, and prevent them from eating premium foods like the ones we make.”
In order to not leave anyone behind, he started a social impact grant with a focus on socioeconomic health disparities. Each year, a non-profit organization that is working to eliminate these disparities is chosen to receive the grant.
“We're going to be able to impact a certain number of people through the products that we make, but there's another and potentially larger group of people that we can impact through education and through giving back."