'Yemisi Awosan Loves These Black-Owned Brands, and You Should Too
The Egunsi Foods founder reveals the Black-owned makers and purveyors to support this month, and all year round.
August is Black Business Month, but if you ask us, more of an effort should be made to support Black-owned businesses year-round. ‘Yemisi Awosan, founder of Egunsi Foods, agrees. “Being able to support Black-owned brands all year round is also being able to support that community all year round, because it’s not just the month of January or August that we need your business,” says Awosan. “No matter what, there are bills and the families need to live by on a day-to-day basis.”
Awosan herself founded Egunsi Foods as a way to express her West African culture through food. “When I first moved to the U.S., a lot of people were consistently asking me, what is your country like, what did you eat? And even sometimes just questions that made no sense to me particularly, like do you guys wear clothes and all that stuff?” Says Awosan. “But it gave me an opportunity to share about my culture.”
Supporting Black-owned brands also means supporting small. An added bonus of that, says, Awosan, is that you’re more likely to get products that are made with high-quality ingredients (whether that’s food or, say, a beauty product).
So without further ado, here are eight Black-owned brands to support according to Awosan.
Awosan officially launched Egunsi Foods in 2017 after testing her concept for a few years. Through the brand she’s able to channel her love for Nigerian food through products like vegan peanut butter groundnut soup and ata din din (West African red pepper) sauce.
Bissap is a West African-spiced hibiscus tea. Founder Akua Nettey grew up in a Ghanan household (both of her parents are from Ghana) and is now based in the Hudson Valley. Her teas are a balance of sweet and tart and come in flavors like mixed berry, citrus, and pineapple. “It’s about something she drank growing up and then brought to the audience here, and she sources some of her ingredients in Ghana,” says Awosan.
Gloria Allorbi was born in Ghana and spent part of her childhood there before moving to Scotland and then the United States. She missed shito, which means pepper in Ga, the language spoken in the southwestern coastal region of Ghana. Now she makes shito based on her mother’s recipe. It’s an umami-packed combination of olive oil, onions, tomato paste, ginger, spicy peppers, fish powder, salt, and bonito flakes. “I purchased her product the other day and it literally transported me back to Ghana,” says Awosan.
Seattle-based Naija Buka was founded by Lillian Hill, a Nigerian immigrant. She created Naija Buka with the hope of introducing people far and wide to Nigerian cuisine through products like Asun-pepper sauce, frozen meat pies, and jollof mix.
Based in Houston, POKS Spices founder Abena Foli hopes to introduce the American palate to the West African Holy Trinity of chile pepper, ginger, and onion. There are three options of West African seasoning to choose from: jalapeño, cayenne, and extra spicy cayenne.
Owner Myriam Simpierre opened her Bed-Stuy market in the midst of the pandemic. Despite the challenges, her market has persevered as an independent grocery store that sells everything from Jeni’s Ice Cream to packaged pasta with a vegan cauliflower Alfredo sauce. “Her goal really was to—because the area that they live in is a food desert—bring healthy food to that neighborhood,” says Awosan. “So she's sourcing products from Black-owned [brands] as well as just everybody in general, to be able to bring to her store and be able to in turn, sell it to the community around her.”
Essie Spice is the brainchild of Essie Bartels. Bartels, who grew up in Ghana, blends West African spices to create products like dry rubs and simmer sauces like her signature Loff (which is meant to be used to make jollof rice).