Inspired by traditional Caribbean, Creole and Latin American recipes, A Dozen Cousins is a Black-owned ready-to-eat brand offering products to make cooking more accessible. Founded by Ibraheem Basir, the company provides a wide range of convenient and nutritious products that celebrate America's cultural diversity.
The brand centers around an ethos of integrity using wholesome, easy-to-recognize ingredients like beans, vegetables, and nutrient-dense avocado oil while avoiding GMOs and artificial flavors. At the brand's core, it aims to inspire families of all backgrounds to eat better food and live longer, more vibrant lives.
We spoke with Basir to learn how the brand came to be and the importance of healthy eating for the Black community.
EBONY: Why did you start your company and where did its name A Dozen Cousins come from?
Ibraheem Basir: I grew up in a big family where food was the center of our celebrations and gatherings. We lived in the culinary melting pot of Brooklyn, so besides just cooking her native southern dishes, my mother always picked up new recipes from our Caribbean and Latin American neighbors. As I got older, I realized that finding many of these familiar, cultural dishes in a convenient and nutritious format was challenging. I had to cook them all from scratch or use processed options with ingredients I was trying to avoid. I started A Dozen Cousins so that people who wanted the same things I did wouldn’t have to make a tradeoff between taste, health and culture.
When my daughter was born, I had 11 nieces and nephews and she was the twelfth cousin. So I chose the name ‘"A Dozen Cousins" as a way to celebrate our family and all the great meals that we enjoy together.
What do you hope to inspire in the home kitchen with your products?
Our hope is for consumers to be able to use food as a way to celebrate culture and inspire healthier living. We fundamentally believe that nobody should have to choose between eating healthy, high-quality foods and enjoying the dishes that connect them to their heritage.
Beyond just the work we do, I sit on the board of Project Potluck, and I am a big advocate for representation in the consumer packaged goods (CPG) industry. I am excited about the day that supermarket shelves reflect all the richness and diversity of the U.S.
What are some of your favorite products from A Dozen Cousins?
For me, this is definitely our seasoning sauce line. There are so many great dishes requiring multiple steps, overnight marinade, and 10-15 ingredients that you may only use once. Our seasoning sauces are great because they simplify even the most complicated dishes down to one or two steps, and they provide just the right amount of product for 2-4 servings. I have been enjoying our jerk chicken and coconut rice seasoning sauces for this reason.
Can you tell us how the Black Panther: Wakanda Forever A Dozen Cousins collaboration came to be?
Seeing the first Black Panther movie was a very powerful experience for me. I loved the way that they wove together elements of culture and history with fantasy, and I left the theater telling myself that I would find some way to work with Marvel on the sequel. As a Black-owned brand that focuses on culture and authentic flavors, we wanted to find a way to celebrate some of the foods of the African diaspora. We ultimately collaborated with Marvel to create custom packaging for a limited-edition jollof rice as well as our jerk chicken and coconut rice seasoning sauces. As a bonus, we also created a “vibranium” spoon, inspired by the rare metal found in the Black Panther’s homeland of Wakanda. We couldn’t be happier with how everything turned out. It’s been an honor to be connected with Marvel.
Can you share the impact and importance of healthy meals for the Black community?
For several genetic, cultural and socioeconomic reasons, the Black community in America suffers disproportionately from food-related illnesses such as high blood pressure, diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. If we want to live long and vibrant lives, it is imperative that we focus on eating healthy foods and staying active.
At A Dozen Cousins, we believe that a person’s income and ethnicity shouldn’t determine their health or quality of life, but we know that is often the case. As a brand, we have chosen to focus our impact on eliminating socioeconomic health disparities in the U.S. Each year we give a grant to a non-profit organization working in this space.