In Edible-Alpha® podcast #110, Brad chats with Sara Parthasarathy, co-founder of FillMyRecipe, which makes Indian spice kits, spice blends and sauces under the Flavor Temptations brand. She and husband Partha Sabniviss launched the business 10 years ago to share their joyful, vibrant Indian culture with Americans and make it easy to cook authentic Indian cuisine.
Both IT professionals, Sara and Partha moved to the U.S. in the late 1990s and settled in Madison, Wisconsin. When their son went off to college, he wanted to cook Indian food but struggled to replicate his mom’s dishes, which Sara had learned from her mother. She set him up with recipes, sachets of premeasured spices, and step-by-step instructions—and it worked!
Sara then realized that many people were in the same boat as her son. Wanting to help them connect with Indian culture, create joy in the kitchen, and take pride in their culinary creations, she started preparing cooking kits for friends and family. This was just a hobby at first, but a new business was brewing.
In 2012, Sara and Partha incorporated FillMyRecipe, rented commercial kitchen space, and built an Amazon store, planning to sell exclusively online. But when a 2013 writeup in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel supercharged their business, local grocery stores started picking up their products, then branded Ethnic Spicery. Through mentorships and entrepreneurship workshops, Sara and Partha honed their strategy and rebranded as Flavor Temptations.
In 2014, they met FFI founder Tera Johnson. “She took us under her wing and walked us step-by-step through packaging, merchandising, how to approach distributors and retailers, and how to scale,” Sara says. “She helped us approach a copacker in India, which made sense because that’s where the spices come from.”
With production now outsourced, Flavor Temptations expanded into 70 grocery stores throughout Wisconsin and Minnesota. They also branched into food service, not a channel they’d considered, but one that made a lot of sense. Soon they got in with a Minneapolis school district, followed by some 50 school-district customers nationwide.
During this period of explosive growth, Sara and Partha participated in the FaB Cap Accelerator (now the FFI Fellows Program). Brad remembers them traveling constantly to do demos, wearing many hats, and spreading themselves thin.
Then COVID-19 happened, shuttering schools, suspending retail food service, and sending grocery shoppers online. Fortunately, about six months prior, Flavor Temptations had begun shoring up their e-commerce strategy, taking a course from Amazon sales guru Mike Fenrici, featured in Edible-Alpha® podcast #84. They pivoted their focus to Amazon, stepped up innovation, and expanded their offerings. Sales skyrocketed, which, along with some grants and loans, kept the company afloat through 2020.
Then in early 2021, with foodservice customers still not returning, Sara and Partha considered closing up shop. But then an Edible-Alpha® Scenario Planning course helped them look at their business objectively, refocus, and set goals for the future. They decided to shrink their retail footprint to just Madison, freeing them up to drill in on the other channels. Now into 2022, the food service business has picked up again, and Sara is sharing her expertise in Indian cooking at conferences.