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Mother, endurance athlete and hospitality professional turned food entrepreneur, Sezin Kutlu says she was inspired to launch her new business, Sepoli, while cycling through the lush vineyards of Napa Valley and reminiscing about molasses sweet and savory grapes that she ate every morning for breakfast. as a child growing up in Turkey.
Her introductory product, Datehini, was later formulated as a solution to her personal endurance sports training goals and as a way to introduce her young daughter to tasty yet nutritious options in chocolate and other spreads and sweet snacks, Kutlu said.
Known among family and friends as a food “mixologist,” Kutlu took her cooking skills to the next level, creating her signature blend of organic dates and tahini, a company press release said.
Datehini was launched in October 2021 and has since become a fast-growing national brand, “loved by busy professionals, parents and athletes looking for quick, simple and delicious ways to include the many nutritional benefits of dates and tahini in their diet,” the statement read.
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Once inspired to launch Sepoli, Kutlu began by scouring the shelves of many regional stores for ingredients, but found nothing like the pure grape molasses her mother made when she was a child.
She then researched ingredients, specifically organic medjool dates from the Coachella Valley and organic sesame tahini from Ethiopia, and began what ended up being eight months of research and development “until she gets the perfect blend of dates and tahini to create a delicious sweet and savory spread.”
“My taste testers were my American born and raised friends who had never heard of this combination,” Kutlu said. “Many of these friends are renowned chefs and foodies who have traveled extensively, so getting their approval was a big win. Ultimately, my goal is to influence healthy eating by introducing a traditional food from my culture.
Also wanting to create a product that appeals to the taste buds of young children, Kutlu’s six-year-old daughter, Alisa, played an important role in the research and development phase.
“My daughter is a very picky eater, like most young children, and I was concerned about her growing desire for sweet spreads and other snacks,” Kutlu said. “Being a busy mom, I wanted to create a product that was quick and easy to use. Alisa was one of my most demanding tasting gurus and when she gave her approval, that’s when I went to the market. Now that I’m developing new flavors, like vanilla and cinnamon, it continues to be part of the R&D process. »
Kutlu noted that his biggest business challenge to date was the lack of knowledge in the United States about tahini, such as its composition and its many health benefits.
The combination of tahini and Datehini dates is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B6, potassium, magnesium, zinc, calcium and other antioxidants. It’s also safe for people with nut allergies and has been quickly recognized by athletes as a good source of energy, according to the company.
Because the spread is unique to consumer palates in the United States, Kutlu has focused much of the company’s marketing initiatives on recipe development and education around the many health benefits of dates and tahini.
“It’s a quick and easy way to add a healthy, sweet and savory ingredient to almost anything you eat,” Kutlu explained.
“Some of my top tips for incorporating datehini into your diet include spreading it on toast, crepes, or pancakes; as a filling for sandwiches and as a substitute for peanut butter and jelly; as a natural sugar-free sweetener for oatmeal, smoothies, sauces and dressings; as a dip for fruits and vegetables and as an accompaniment to cheese boards; and as an ingredient in baked desserts.
Datehini is sold in 12-ounce jars for $13.50. This month, the brand will launch 8-ounce jars for $9.50.
The company is currently focused on developing additional Datehini flavors and recipes. As it grows, the Sepoli brand will continue to focus on creating organic, healthy, Mediterranean-influenced food products.
Kutlu is also committed to giving back and is strongly committed to supporting non-profit organizations that help people affected by hunger and food insecurity. Sepoli has a product donation initiative dedicated to eligible organizations.
Locally, you can find Datehini at gourmet and specialty stores in Napa, including Browns Valley Market, Contimo Provisions and Jeffries Genera, and starting May 21, at the Napa Farmers Market. The brand is also available on Amazon and on sepoli.com.
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You can contact editor Jennifer Huffman at 707-256-2218 or [email protected]