Jan 22, 2020
The food system in America has
changed so much in the last 30-40 years. Organic and non-GMO are
terms that have become popular more recently, and we’re much more
aware about the importance of clean ingredients and real, whole
foods. Let’s be honest though: life is moving much faster today
than it was even just 10 years ago. It’s still important for
families to have convenient options when it comes to making meals.
My guest today has infused his passion for entrepreneurship,
organic and clean ingredients in foods with convenience. Adnan
Durrani has created a revolutionary company that is popping up in
grocery stores around the country. Adnan is the founder and CEO of
American Halal Co, which wholly owns its flagship brand, Saffron
Road. As a long-time social entrepreneur, Adnan was
searching for a social enterprise that would bring people together
over delicious, convenient, and healthy food. The evidence of his
dream is now in grocery stores like Sprouts, Harris Teeter, Kroger,
Whole Foods and more. You can find Saffron Road meals just about
everywhere now! I was so honored to have Adnan on the show today.
His lifetime of experience in the food and beverage industry and
his pioneering in so many areas of innovation was fascinating. Join
me as I hear more of Adnan’s fascinating story.
3:53 - The Adnan 101
- Adnan journey into the food and
beverage industry might not be quite what you’d think at first. He
actually started on Wall Street for many years. During the original
stock market crash of 1987, he went from doing well to having an
epiphany that the “immediate gratification” business was no longer
- Adan decided the “delayed
gratification” business would be a much better fit for him, i.e.
becoming a venture capitalist or entrepreneur. Soon after leaving
Wall Street, he started a company called Vermont Pure Spring
- He had an
idyllic view of the entrepreneur life, but really didn’t know
what he was getting into at first. It was a much harder way to earn
a living than he initially realized.
- As difficult as starting that
first company was, his was one of the first bottled water companies
to have strong environmental values around it. They gave a lot of
money back to the state of Vermont by partnering with a nonprofit
to take care of the bridges and spring waters in Vermont. It
eventually became the second largest bottled water company in the
- Many people discouraged Adnan from
going after several of the industries he was interested in,
including bottled water and yogurt. They thought Americans drank
soda and kids would never eat yogurt. Both concepts were shot down
by many successful business tycoons. Where others were
short-sighted, Adnan watched trends in Europe and saw a market to
improve lives and people’s heath amid water quality issues and
foods with too much gelatin instead of healthy
- After that, Adnan was introduced
to a man named through his venture capital company (Condor Ventures
Inc.) named Gary Herzberg. Gary introduced Adnan to a group called
Social Venture Network. Adnan was able to meet amazing
entrepreneurs through the network of like-minded people who were
trying to better humanity by creating businesses with a triple
bottom line and socially responsible methods to give back to
- Adnan learned that being socially
responsible can be a for-profit motive. Twenty years ago, Adnan and
his network were ahead of the game, pioneering how businesses can
be operate while being compassionate and giving back to all
stakeholders, not just shareholders.
11:40 - The Natural and Organic
- When Adnan entered the natural and
organic industry, it was only a $200-300 million-dollar industry.
It’s not a $50 billion-dollar industry in the United States
- When mentoring other
entrepreneurs, Adnan reminds them to be a bit of a rebel, but with
a cause. Be sure to fight conventional wisdom but also take a deep
dive into knowledge and research. He focused on shifts in
lifestyles, the problems cropping up with antibiotics in the food
system, strong studies on the effects organic and clean food was
having on long-term health, and more.
- Adnan also saw the consumer demand
start to take off for organic food. Many farms were hesitating to
switch because of they would lose a lot of money initially
switching the farms and becoming compliant for organic products.
Once they saw the opportunity in the long game, the industry
started to pick up and consumers had more organic options available
- Adnan started to see opposing
trends with Halal Foods customers between the European Halal
consumer and the American Halal consumer. In the United States,
there are 4-8 million Muslims who tend to be much more educated
than the average American. Adnan recognized the buying power of
this demographic and realized no one else was appealing to that
- Many wondered in the beginning why
Adnan was focused on millennials and not baby boomers. He
recognized that millennial brand loyalty was much stronger and that
it spread quickly through millennial tribes on social
- Millennials have a lot of buying
power and are willing to pay more for brands that are transparent
and socially responsible.
18:42 – Saffron Road
- Saffron Road is a natural, organic
platform brand. They feature frozen, organic and natural entrees
that are antibiotic free. All their beef and lamb are grass-fed.
They were the first non-GMO verified frozen entrée in the world and
first certified humanely raised entrée in the world. All the farms
that supply Saffron Road have to go through grueling audits that
ensure they are treating the animals with proper animal welfare.
Everything that they do is also third-party certified.
- They also feature shelf stable
foods that include simmer sauces and shelf-stable meals. The
packaging features low-carbon footprint materials that is non-GMO
verified and quick.
- The third segment of Saffron Road
are their snack options. Right now, they’re the national leader in
chickpea snacks out of about six other companies because they
feature non-GMO, healthy label, organic snacks that are higher in
protein than fat.
- There is so much division and
polarization between people nations these days, that Saffron Road’s
mission is even stronger. They hope to bring different values and
cultures together while celebrating both the aspects that make them
unique, and the beauty of the melting pot when they mix and meld
throughout different communities.
- There’s power in what happens
around the dinner table or when you gather together with all
different people and share a hearty meal. Food naturally brings
people together. Fusing delicious multicultural food together
within fellowship is a powerful entity.
- The food culture at Saffron Road
emotionally connects with consumers with viral advocacy and extends
beyond specific products. It’s more about the tribal affinity of
distrusting large organizations that are not authentic.
- Businesses have the capability to
be a change agent and influencer for good. Adnan and his team recognize
their power and responsibility to influence and takes that very
seriously and participate in many campaigns to give back to
charitable organizations. They focus on causes that bring people
together in solidary for compassion and justice and champion the
commonality of various cultures.
32:04 – A Renaissance in the Food
- 43% of the growth of the $800
billion-dollar food and beverage industry is coming from small
companies like Saffron Road. Even just ten years ago, the big-name
companies were controlling the grocery store shelves.
- Consumers are more demanding and
enlightened due to the information technology age. It’s a
renaissance in the food business.
- There is so much more opportunity
now than there’s ever been for venture firms to invest in this
segment of appealing to values around the food system. For the
first time, growth is coming from smaller startups that are
chipping away at major market shares of big companies.
- When millennials started having
families, the game truly started to change. They’d learned the
truth about food safety and wanted to be sure their families are
not exposed to harsh chemicals and unhealthy ingredients. They care
about what they are eating, what their kids are eating, the
products they use in their homes, and instilling those same
critical values in their children.
- There are more choices for all
consumers to be selective. It’s all the more reason for businesses
to be transparent. Saffron Road refers to it as a “journey to
better.” It’s better for the environment, farmers, animals, and
consumers, and most of all, better tasting.
Check out 39:48 to hear the trends
Adnan is predicting for next year and the next five to ten years in
the US food industry and how to be sure you’re educated on what is
truly healthy in the market now and in the future.
45:15 - Getting to Know Our
Find out what led Adnan to where he
is today, when the social good component came in for him, as well
as fun facts about Adnan (50:49) like which Saffron Road product
he’d eat every single day for the rest of his life, a dream he’s
yet to achieve, what his walk up song would be, and more! You’ve
got to stay tuned to hear the question I ask all my guests: What
does it mean to you to run a business with purpose?
~9:10 “In the early days we were
really being pioneers trying to set a new trail for how businesses
can operate and at the same time be compassionate, giving back to
all stakeholders, not just shareholders.
“I learned a lot about how you can
connect social responsibility with a profit motive for business and
have a very sustainable enterprise, as well as enhanced brand
~22:00 “If I could create a brand
that brought together different cultures, faiths and ethnicities to
champion the wonderfulness of all the different tenant and values
that those cultures brought; I knew it would be a mission for
“It was about creating a company or
responsible brand on a mission of collective progress, not only for
the betterment of humanity, but to inspire, connect, and respect
different global citizens through a shared love of world
~24:45 “The food culture at Saffron
Road emotionally connects with consumers with viral advocacy and
extends beyond specific products. It’s more about the tribal
affinity of distrusting large organizations that are not
32:50 - Fun facts: “43% of the
growth of the $800 billion-dollar food and beverage industry is
coming from small companies like Saffron Road.”
Saffron Road is the culmination
of Founder Adnan Durrani’s life’s work. As a long-time social
entrepreneur, Adnan was searching for a social enterprise that
could bring people together.
The natural food pioneer
envisioned a halal food brand that also embodied ethical
consumerism: organic ingredients with no GMOs, no artificial
ingredients, and no antibiotics. A brand that celebrated world
cuisine, ethnic diversity and cultural harmony.
He named it Saffron Road,
inspired by the Silk Road, the legendary caravan route that
connected the cultures of the ancient world.
Today as CEO, Adnan leads us on
the Journey to Better. With a mission to restore the “spiritual
sacredness to food.”
Mr. Durrani is the founder and
Chief Executive Officer of the American Halal Co. Inc., which
wholly owns its flagship brand Saffron Road. Mr. Durrani has been a
serial entrepreneur and venture capitalist for almost three
decades, as President of Condor Ventures, Inc., a venture firm
devoted to strategic investing in natural food companies. Saffron
Road was the first halal product to be sold nationally in all Whole
Foods stores and can now be found at 20,000 other retail food
stores in the USA. Whole Foods, the #7 ranked US food retailer with
over $16 billion in sales, has noted Saffron Road as being the most
successful new brand launch in their frozen shelf nationally in
recent history. Adnan’s entrepreneurial ventures have resulted in a
successful track record of scaling and growing niche beverage and
natural food product lines into mainstream branded companies. Mr.
Durrani founded Vermont Pure in 1991. Today, Vermont Pure/Crystal
Rock is the 2nd largest bottled water company in
the Northeast U.S. and was acquired by Cott Beverages, COT/NYSE.
Mr. Durrani and Condor Ventures were also financial partners
in Stonyfield Farms,
Inc. He was also a principal of Delicious Brands, Inc.,
which he scaled, with the financial backing of Carl
Icahn, to become the 5th largest cookie brand in the
U.S. He also served on the Board, and was Finance Chairman,
of Social Venture
Network. He has been recognized by BBMG and SVN as one
of the entrepreneurs who engineered “20 Ideas That Changed The Way
The World Does Business”. The select list of these inductees
include: Ben Cohen (Ben & Jerry’s), Gary Hirshberg (Stonyfield
Farms), Muhammad Yunus (Nobel Peace Prize, Grameen Bank), and Steve
Mr. Durrani is Chairman Emeritus
of the Board of Visitors of the Graduate School of Engineering and
Applied Sciences of Columbia University, where he is also
ex-chairman of the Entrepreneurial Advisory Board. Mr. Durrani
received an undergraduate degree in electrical engineering and
economics from Columbia University. Mr. Durrani also serves on the
Board of Directors of Maple Hill
Creamery, LLC, the leading national organic grass-fed
yogurt brand in the US.
Saffron Road brand is a leading
brand in the natural and organic food industry, offering a wide
range of products from frozen entrées to plant-based protein
snacks. All Saffron Road Products are Halal-certified by IFANCA and
are available in nearly 25,000 retail locations in the U.S. and
Canada. SaffronRoad is a socially responsible brand on a mission of
collective progress for the betterment of humanity, by inspiring,
connecting and respecting global citizens through a shared love of
ethical World Cuisines. With Saffron Road, explore
international cuisines that combine bold flavors from around the
world with high quality, wholesome ingredients which are better for
the environment, better for the farmers, better for the animals,
better for your health, and most all better
tasting. Saffron Road. Journey to
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