Launching a business in the food and beverage industry is rife with uncertainty. Businesses in the space often face a slim profit margin in their best years, and the unprecedented events of 2020 have presented challenges for which few entrepreneurs could have been prepared.
The COVID-19 pandemic has left many businesses in need of support, but Black-owned businesses — often operating with less funding, investment and visibility than white-owned businesses — are in a particularly vulnerable position.
The fight for equality and justice for all Black Americans requires support in many forms, from making donations to Black Lives Matter initiatives to showing solidarity on social media. Another way to show up is by supporting Black-owned businesses directly, and lists highlighting Black-owned restaurants have been published everywhere from Los Angeles to Syracuse. If you can’t get to one of those businesses right now, we’ve found some Black-owned food and beverage businesses that ship their goods nationwide.
Ibraheem Basir began A Dozen Cousins as a way to honor the culinary influences of Black and Latino communities with a line of slow-cooked beans and legumes that include flavors like Cuban Black Beans and Trini Chickpea Curry.
COVID-19 protection measures have created a demand for pantry products, posing a unique challenge for the young company, but Basir is hard at work delivering his high-quality products to the masses.
“More people than ever have been looking for healthy products to stock their pantry and for simple dishes that they can prepare at home,” Basir told HuffPost. “Our products are a great fit for both of those needs, so we have been producing as much as we can to keep up with demand.”
Iya Foods is a line of gluten-free flours, sauces and spices designed to help bring the flavors of West Africa to gluten-free cooking. Founder Toyin Kolawole sources many of the ingredients and spices in her products from Africa, and the products range from Cassava Waffle and Pancake Mix to seasoning for Jollof Rice and African Pepper Soup.
Heritage Fare is a Cleveland-based family business that began selling sauces, seasonings and fish coatings in the 1990s. Popular products include the greens seasoning and the chicken wing sauces.
Washington, D.C.-born entrepreneur Arsha Jones continues the sauce company she started in 2011 with her late husband Charles, bringing her city’s beloved signature Mambo Sauce to restaurants and homes around the country.
It took Michelle Timberlake of Marjorie’s Beef Jerky six months to perfect her first beef jerky recipe. Her company, which she founded in 1991 and named after her mother, now includes flavors like Cracked Pepper, Orange Teriyaki and Hot and Spicy.
The mother-daughter duo behind Popcorn Queens never had a storefront for their Columbia, Maryland, business, which actually may have helped them in recent weeks.
“We always focused on shipping our gourmet caramel popcorn nationwide via our website,” April E. Wardlaw told HuffPost. “So, unlike many businesses, we did not have to completely shutdown when the pandemic hit.”
They have lost income they would have earned attending local festivals and parties, but the entrepreneurs are more focused on what they can do in the fight for social justice for Black Americans.
“Our hard work is starting to pay off and the orders are rolling in, so now the biggest challenge is that we are not able to get out there and protest in support of the Black Lives Matter Movement,” Wardlaw said. “Of course, being busy with orders is a good problem to have, but there’s been a few times in the last week where I’ve had to simply support in spirit as opposed to in-person the way I’d like.”
Originating in the South Bronx, Sol Cacao is a collection of artisan, single-origin chocolate bars founded by the Maloney brothers. The bars are made from ethically sourced raw materials, and the brand is a tribute to the Maloney’s Trinidadian heritage.
Sure, Zac Coughlin is a college student, but that doesn’t mean he can’t whip up sumptuous batches of truffles and chocolate-dipped cookies. Zac’s Sweet Shop, based in L.A., offers eight truffle flavors and 10 types of cookies. The brand is donating $1 to Black Lives Matter and Black Visions Collective for every dozen treats purchased.
Cheesecake is just the beginning for this Charlotte, North Carolina-based dessert company. It ships its signature treat, as well as brownies, cakes, pies and cookies, to 25 states.
Why stop at butter popcorn? Pops Kernel Gourmet Popcorn out of Memphis, Tennessee, has all sweet and savory cravings covered, with flavors including white cheddar ranch, caramel and even pineapple.
Candy’s Sweets N Treats, Candace Aaron’s shop in Rock Hill, South Carolina, opened in March — just as coronavirus-related restrictions began to take effect. The shop has managed to gain a devoted following despite the pandemic, and Aaron plans to offer baking classes to children when it’s safe to do so.
Cookie Society, which Marissa Allen founded in 2018 in Frisco, Texas, currently has 14 flavors of soft, chewy cookies, including Red Velvet, Brownie Nutella and Banana Pudding.
Sweet treats without the guilt ― that’s the idea at the heart of Aquinnetta Mims’ dessert company, Healthy Addicts. Think dairy-free cookies made with almond flour and coconut sugar, plus brownies made with cassava flour.
Jovon English is the mastermind behind L.A.-based Milk and Brookies, a cookie-brownie dessert hybrid that was once featured on “Shark Tank.”
Genelle Drayton has found a winning recipe for artisanal macarons, and her signature CocoMallow sandwiches — marshmallow-filled coconut macarons — have made her Washington, D.C.-based company Sweet Dames a hit.
Chef Phillip Ashley Rix has been dubbed the “Memphis King of Chocolate” for his line of seasonal, luxurious chocolates. Check his website frequently for designer chocolates inspired by cities like New Orleans and Seattle, and be sure to try the dark chocolate-covered bacon and signature caramels.
Ellis Island Tea is a line of all-natural hibiscus teas inspired by tropical flavors found in Jamaica. Founder Nailah Ellis-Brown had been preparing for her Detroit-based business’ growth prior to COVID-19, and now she’s also committed to the well-being of her team as she sets her sights on the future.
“Over the past week, the biggest challenge has been finding a way to deal with the weight of the racial and social tension that our community feels right now,” Ellis-Brown said. “Our staff, which is 100% Black, feels it. My children feel it. I feel it. Through it all, though, we’re still progressing.”
Georgia-based Kemiko Lawrence, a mother of five, is on a mission to educate Black communities about the health benefits associated with kombucha. Kemboocha uses ingredients sourced from farms around Atlanta, and shoppers can buy one of four flavors or a kit to brew kombucha at home.
The teas from Atlanta-based Just Add Honey are packed with high-quality ingredients and include flavors such as cacao rose, chocolate mint rooibos and a Georgia peached black tea.
Red Bay Coffee is an Oakland-based company that produces dark- and medium-roast beans, as well as espresso. The brand celebrates Black culture, even in the names of the coffee: The Ethiopian medium roast is called “King’s Prize, while the blend from Guatemala and Burundi is “Carver’s Dream.” Founder Keba Konte is committed to using his company to provide employment opportunities to students, people who were formerly incarcerated, and members of the local community.