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Saffron Road eyes fundraise later this year

Saffron Road food display at trade show.

Photo: Donald Bowers/Getty Images for Editor Showcase

Saffron Road, the Stamford, Conn.-based maker of frozen international cuisine, aims to raise funds within the next year to invest in product expansion, its CEO Adnan Durrani tells Axios exclusively.

Why it matters: Following a pandemic boost, the frozen meal category is expected to continue to grow, particularly products that embrace global flavors and healthier ingredients.

Of note: Durrani spoke to Axios from the sidelines of the Natural Products Expo West annual trade show being held last week in Anaheim, California.

By the numbers: Saffron Road has about $60 million in sales and 20% growth year over year.

  • A majority of the company is owned by private investors including deep-pocketed family offices located in Switzerland.
  • The executive did not disclose the expected size of the fundraise.

Details: Fresh capital would finance the launch of new cuisines, expansion of existing ones, and let Saffron Road add breakfast and appetizers to its line, Durrani says.

  • The brand is optimistic about its introduction of Moroccan-inspired meals, for example, and also sees an opportunity in Korean foods.
  • Saffron Road already offers cuisine from regions such as South India, such as Madras curry with meatballs.
  • The brand's products perform well with millennial consumers and the next target for the company is to improve its standing with Gen Z.
  • While the company has some shelf-stable items, such as sauces, the frozen business is core, Durrani adds.

Between the lines: Saffron Road is benefiting from what Durrani describes as wanderlust via new cuisine as consumers increasingly enjoy trying food from around the world.

  • As major CPG companies hunker down to focus on legacy products and flavors, he sees more whitespace opening up for his company in the ethnic aisle.
  • He pointed to data that says that one-third of U.S. households bought an extra freezer during the pandemic, which suggests the adoption of frozen foods will continue as a sustainable trend long term.

The intrigue: "In my 30 years, I never saw frozen overtake fresh, and frozen overtook fresh by 230% the last year,” Durrani says.

Catch up fast: While the 12-year-old brand’s roots are in halal, aimed at the American Muslim consumer, Saffron Road's business model has always been to scale into mainstream retailers.

  • The company has permission to expand into other cuisines tied to better-for-you meals that are clean label, Durrani says.

Flashback: In addition to being halal and non-GMO certified, Saffron Road was the first antibiotic-free frozen entree in Whole Foods as well as the first Humanely Certified Entrée in the world.

  • It is also a certified B Corp.

The bottom line: The brand is at a point of critical mass and inflection, Durrani says.

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