Adnan Durrani on Building a Brand

The Saffron Road founder and CEO discusses how he made the company a leading player in the frozen-food space

Adnan Durrani, Founder and CEO of Saffron Road. Photo: Caleb Fox
Adnan Durrani, Founder and CEO of Saffron Road. Photo: Caleb Fox

How did you come up with the name Saffron Road?

Durrani: It was based on the concept of the Silk Road, which celebrated a rich set of cultures from Italy all the way to Asia. Spices were carried on that road for centuries, and the main spice was saffron. We want to be that central place, a meeting place where family and friends and people with different ethnicities, cultures, and religions can come together and share common values around ethical food and faith.

What was one of the defining lessons you learned working with early brands that influenced the development of Saffron Road?

Durrani: Something Gary Hirshberg (at Stonyfield Farm)—who has been my mentor and a tremendous partner—taught me early on is that business can be used as an impact for social change. He used to call it “weapons of mass enlightenment.” He said business is the most powerful force on earth. Unlike governments, which can be bound by politics and bureaucracy, businesses are free to lead and have serious resources to back up their ideas. I brought that edification to our business here. It’s a platform to create social change. Any chance we get to move the movement toward sustainable farming, halal sourcing, and manufacturing clean, pure, authentic products, that’s what we are about. We are the real deal.

How important is transparency to your business model?

Durrani: Millions of Americans are very concerned about where their food comes from and what is in the food system. We’ve had so much malfeasance going on in the food industry in the past few years, especially in terms of abuses in animal welfare, from dishonesty in labeling to factory farming to E. coli contaminations. Every month, you see problems in transparency, and also what’s going into our food. You have to be clear about what’s in your product and what values you stand for. As long as we are firm and true to this mission, the stronger our business will be and the more passionate we can feel about it, because at the end of the day we feel confident that what we’re doing is impacting the world and our food system in a positive way. Our mission is to be the game changers—to upset the unhealthy, opaque status quo in the conventional food system.

Have there been any unintended consequences or surprises since the launch?

Durrani: Nutritionists actually prescribe our products to people wanting to lose weight. I was surprised; we’ve never positioned this product as a diet or had that in mind at all. We just thought we were putting out healthy, good food. A chiropractor told me he’d lost twenty-five pounds using our products over the last six months, and now he tells all his patients to use the Saffron Road program since it’s single-serve controlled portions, with only 300 calories and naturally lower levels of sodium. Now, that’s pretty amazing!

To read the full Saffron Road story, click here