Naksha Recipe kits is a dynamic wife and husband business that established itself in Dubai before relocating to the UK earlier this year. The avant-garde food brand boasts an eclectic portfolio of savoury and sweet kits representing off-the-beaten-track cuisines from around the world, prioritising recipes that reach beyond the mainstream realms of Indian, Thai and Mexican food.
‘Our extraordinary recipes kits are based on the simple belief that more people than ever wish to push the boundaries of their weekly menu, but struggle to do so. Naksha tackles this by curating appealing recipes from amazing places and giving customers the specialist ingredients to cook without waste or fuss.’
The Naksha concept came to fruition when Nisha and Sam heard a radio advert for a business incubator programme run by Spinneys and Waitrose (premium UAE supermarket chains), which was designed to accelerate the journey of creative homegrown food startups onto shelves. Nisha and Sam entered at the very last minute; however, due to the strength of their convictions and quality of the idea, went on to win it.
‘During the pandemic Sam and I spent a lot of time cooking at home as we sought to travel the world through the medium of food”, explains Nisha. “Ingredient authenticity was crucial to us, which meant we spent a small fortune buying specialist ingredients that were typically only available in bulk. This was the light bulb moment when we started to envisage a range of perfectly proportioned recipe kits with diligently measured portions of gourmet ingredients.’
Clearly Nisha and Sam didn’t invent the template of a recipe kit, but by and large in the UK this promising category has been dominated by less imaginative ‘comfort food’ dishes and cuisines, as opposed to thoughtfully curated recipes with unusual origin stories and beautiful design.
Nisha continues: ‘It frustrated us that incumbent recipe kits insisted on playing things safe with generic recipes drawn from familiar mainstream cuisines. I knew that our distinct vision had legs when I began posting recipes on Instagram only to be inundated by messages from friends asking for the cooked recipes to be sent to them. Clearly, we had neither the time or the inclination to mass cook the dishes, but we were prepared to portion up the expensive leftover ingredients and distribute them to friends and family so that they wouldn’t go to waste.’
In essence, Naksha Collections seeks to prove that simplicity and convenience is entirely compatible with premium-look-and-feel products that have a gastronomic wow-factor.
‘Many of the world’s more enticing and adventurous cuisines are wrongly perceived to be either too complex, time-consuming, expensive or wasteful to cook at home’, suggests Nisha. ‘Naksha dismantles this idea by curating user-friendly recipe kits which ordinary consumers can pick up conveniently from supermarket shelves.’
Customer favourites include Jamaican Curried Goat, Lemak Cili Padi (a creamy Malay-style curry from Singapore), Ropa Vieja (Cuba’s iconic yet little-known national dish) and milk chocolate blondies made with sumptuous Lebanese tahini.
Asked whether Dubai provided the perfect launch pad for her Naksha vision, Nisha suggests, ‘The UAE’s relatively affluent consumer base has exacting standards, is spoiled for choice and is genuinely receptive to new flavours and ingredients. There is also a significant minority of Brits which meant that the UAE grocery market provided reflected certain key dynamics in the UK grocery market.’
Another classy touch is the way Naksha works alongside both established and emerging chefs from the chosen regions. Each chef helps interpret and modernise traditional recipes, using the products as a canvas for expressing national identity through contemporary home-cooking. Naksha’s Singapore Collection, for example, was a collaboration with Haikal Johari, head chef at Singapore’s Michelin-starred Alma restaurant, and the Singapore Tourism Board. Artwork for the collection was done by celebrated Singaporean visual artist Tan Zi Xi.
‘The speed with which we were listed in both Spinneys and Waitrose UAE forced us to rapidly build a robust operational structure,’ suggests Nisha. “That said, we estimate the accessible market for our product in the UK could be up to twenty times bigger. It is a challenge absolutely worht taking on, and our goal is to prove to UK consumers that – when it comes to “world cuisine” – they don’t have to settle for chicken tikka masala, Thai green curry or fajitas”.
Naksha manufacturing takes place in Derbyshire, while the company is also part of the London School of Economics’s prestigious ‘LSE Generate’ Accelerator programme, which even went so far as to back Nisha’s innovator visa.
‘Early doors’ listings in Whole Foods Market, John Lewis, and Harrods reaffirmed Nisha and Sam’s belief that the UK is increasingly receptive to home cooking and World Cuisine with a premium twist. Throw in the fact that Naksha’s baking recipe kits promise to revolutionise the home bake category in a similar fashion, and it’s obvious that Naksha is adding some overdue spice to a meal kit category that has historically played things safe.
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