Meet The Makers: A Spice Affair Interview

 
For October 2021, the Top Shelf Guide to Cocktailing partnered with A Spice Affair to add some extra spice! With everything you need to elevate your cocktailing, and tons of great gifts and products from local businesses, the Top Shelf Guide to Cocktailing is the perfect way to indulge and learn. 
 
You can try it now with $15 off your first box by using the code: CLUB15
   
Spice, and everything nice, that is what A Spice Affair is made of! Everyone, meet A Spice Affair, a Canadian company that is committed to delivering quality spices to customers across Canada and the US. Their unique blends, customizable bundles and savoury best sellers will have you falling in love with cooking, and stocking up your pantry!
 
Located in Montreal, this company is the product of a long-standing love affair with flavour. If you are searching for herbaceous dip blends, zesty BBQ seasonings, or the pure fragrance of tried-and-true classics, look no further! Just don’t blame us if you need to get yourself an additional spice rack.
 
We got to chatting with Ayman, the President of A Spice Affair, to see how they are spicing things up!
  

  

  1. We love the creativity of A Spice Affair! What drew you to starting this business?

As a 4th generation spice trader, the need to find my own voice and identity was a big driver behind the establishment of A Spice Affair. Growing up, I was lucky enough to be exposed to spices and world cuisines at a young age. Let’s just say, I was born a foodie before that term was ever coined! As a result, I wanted to marry food, art, culture and a “what you see is what you get” approach to provide people with healthier, cleaner seasonings and alternatives to what was found in big box and regular grocery stores. Transparency was key and remains a core value that is ingrained in our DNA. As a creative person, being able to share one of my biggest passions with the world, creating clean, delicious spice blends and making them as easy to use as possible fueled the fire.

  1. Has A Spice Affair always been an eCommerce company? Do you find there are any specific challenges to operating online?

A Spice Affair was born from what was a straight offline food distribution business with spice sales representing 35% of it. In 2015, I made a decision to transform our family business from a regular trade business into a full-time spice factory with a focus on processing and blending, hence the birth of A Spice Affair in 2016. That transition took 5 years, but I can happily say that, as of 2020, self-manufactured products now comprise close to 100% of the business. Our eCommerce journey started in 2018 and we faced many challenges. Canadian consumers were not used to buying food products online, but we saw the shift happen slowly and then accelerate at an incredible pace during the pandemic. Our eCommerce division now drives close to 30% of the business. Similar to all eCommerce companies in Canada, freight and customer acquisition costs are probably our biggest challenges online. When you factor in customer acquisition (advertising) costs + free shipping, sometimes we’re lucky to break even. Nonetheless, we trust that customers will appreciate the product enough to come back for a second or third round. We have customers that have now reached their 10th and 15th orders so it’s quite rewarding and humbling at the same time!

  1. Your website mentions that you have a passion for ‘big, bold flavour’. Which of A Spice Affair’s blends do you consider boldest?

Great question! I often get asked what my favourite blend is… To be honest, it’s really hard to pick sometimes. I guess it depends on the mood and season. Here are my current top 5 picks along with how I use each of them:

  1. Bacon & Fine Herbs à to make omelets and in hummus.. trust me on this last tip!
  2. Moroccan Kefta à Moroccan Burgers.. this screams big, bold flavour all the way to the top!
  3. Korean BBQ à our take on a Korean burger
  4. Brazilian BBQ à our take on a Brazilian burger
  5. Kafta Spices à newly revised recipe is to die for.. Oh and to make kafta skewers!

As an added bonus, I would highly recommend the Smoky Tennessee, Flaming Coffee, Smoky Chipotle and the Zesty Fish ones as well!

  1. What has been your proudest moment as a company?

Our proudest moment was in May 2021 when we hit our 1 millionth jar sold since inception! Achieving that milestone meant the world and is a testament that the mission and vision are in the right place. We’re always full of gratitude and appreciation!

  1. If you could go back to the start of A Spice Affair in 2016, what advice would you give yourself?

The most important thing when building any business is to surround yourself with people that “get” the vision and that are all in with you for the ride. Our biggest weakness was probably human resources, but now it is one of our biggest strengths. Having a great team around you is priceless, but is extremely difficult to build. I’ve witnessed some of my team members putting in 14 hours a day during a major rush we’ve had.. now that’s something I could’ve never dreamt of in 2016. We’re all growing together and we’ve become a big family. I can’t express how grateful I am at this point.

In addition to the above, focus on what you do best and let others do what they excel at. I spent too many years trying to distribute my own products. Not only did this cost a fortune, but maintaining it totally cluttered our finances, focus, mission, vision and energy. Today, we are fully focused on manufacturing the best product that there is and we’ve teamed up with awesome distributors to do the second half of the job, which is getting those products to shelves across the country.

  1. Last but not least, what is your favourite cocktail? Bonus question: what is your favourite cocktail garnish, spice-wise?

I’m more of a rum and whiskey person. My favourite rum is Sailor Jerry and I like it straight. However, my favourite garnish is our chili lime married to tequila or even gin-tonic. That thing sets your mouth on fire and is full of flavour! You should also check out our Caesar mix. It hits several notes on the tongue and enhances the drinking experience!

 
A big thank you to Ayman for taking the time to connect with us! We appreciate your candour, and are glad to have you as a fellow trailblazing Canadian company. Your affinity for quality is infectious, and we are so proud to be working with a company that cares so deeply about its products. Your attention to detail and rigorous craftsmanship are truly inspiring. We are looking forward to what you cook up next!

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