Last Update: November 2, 2023
May is AAPI Heritage Month, dedicated to honoring the culture, traditions, and contributions of Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders. We’re celebrating by spotlighting some of our most popular AAPI-owned brands, from pantry staples influenced by family recipes to cool, colorful beverage brands that tap into cultural flavors.
Read on to learn the stories behind some of our favorite AAPI brands, explore their best-loved products, and even find a few to add to your next Thrive Market order.
Meet the founder(s): Debbie Wei Mullin
Who they are: A coffee brand offering Vietnamese coffee (rich, dark roast coffee with sweetened condensed milk) in the form of make-at-home pour-over kits
The “why” behind the brand: “I grew up in the Bay Area in a Vietnamese household, which meant I grew up both with the emergence of third-wave coffee as well as traditionally brewed Vietnamese coffee at home and at Vietnamese restaurants,” Mullin says.
Must-try product: Copper Cow Pour Over Set in Black Vietnamese Coffee
Learn more about the brand: Perfect Pour-Over Coffee Made Easy With Copper Cow Coffee
Founder(s): Leland Copenhagen and Sarah Hughes
Who they are: A Thai pantry brand offering curries and stir-fry sauces using wholesome ingredients, all based on time-honored recipes from Leland’s yai (the Thai word for “grandmother”)
The “why” behind the brand: “The kitchen is a very central place in a Thai home. These recipes are things that I grew up eating, cooking, or just kind of being around.” Leland says. Sarah adds, “We’re trying to represent the experience that’s authentic to us and Leland’s family, which is Thai-American. Yai’s Thai is like Yai’s grandkids, not Yai—it’s like she’s cooking for us. It’s like you’re going to these family gatherings and having that warm, kitchen-centered, happy feeling.”
Must-try product: Yai’s Thai Yellow Thai Coconut Curry
Learn more about the brand: Yai’s Thai Makes Grandma-Approved Thai Sauces for Every Lifestyle
Founder(s): Lauryn Chun
Who they are: A Korean food brand specializing in kimchi, gochujang, gochugaru, and other fermented pantry staples
The “why” behind the brand: “I thought, I wonder if there’s a way that I could connect people’s interests in craft beer, cheeses, all these artisanal Western fermented foods, and have them understand kimchi as something like that,” Chun says. “I wanted to tell the story of kimchi, and be that bridge.”
Must-try product: Mother in Law’s Gochujang Fermented Chile Paste
Learn more about the brand: Stock a Modern Korean Pantry with Mother in Law’s
Founder(s): Jing Gao
Who they are: A cult favorite brand offering Chinese condiments small-batch crafted in Chengdu using only natural ingredients
Thy “why” behind the brand: “I wanted to get to the root of my cultural identity and who I was through food,” Gao says. “I started out just eating and exploring Chinese food, and it became more of a mission to shine light on this incredible culture and cuisine that I felt was so misunderstood abroad.”
Must-try product: Fly by Jing Sichuan Chili Crisp
Learn more about the brand: Make Cheeseburger Wagyu Dumplings with Fly By Jing and Thrive Market Director of Merchandising James Ren
Founder(s): Maya Kaimal
Who they are: A food brand specializing in homestyle Indian cuisine, particularly curries, simmer sauces, dals, and rice
The “why” behind the brand: “I had a really strong idea about capturing the bright colors of India, because I thought that would reflect a version of India that I love, which is this incredibly colorful, beautiful place,” Kaimal says. “I try to make Indian food as accessible to people as possible, and there are a lot of different ways to do that. […] I just want more people to eat Indian food.”
Must-try product: Maya Kaimal Organic Everyday Dal, Black Lentil, Tomato & Cumin
Learn more about the brand: Make Easier Indian Food at Home with Maya Kaimal
Founder(s): Sandro Roco
Who they are: A sparkling water brand highlighting Asian-inspired flavors like calamansi and yuzu
The “why” behind the brand: “Our mission is to bridge cultures by connecting people with authentic flavors,” Sandro says. “There’s certainly a lot of value and virtue in being ‘for the community, by the community’, and it’s super important to have that support in an authentic way. But it’s equally important to our mission that we step outside of our comfort zone and meet people where they are.”
Must-try product: Sanzo Calamansi Sparkling Water
Learn more about the brand: Sanzo Founder Sandro Roco on Culture, Community, and Calamansi
Founder(s): Ashok Vasudevan
Who they are: A ready-to-eat Indian foods brand founded in 1995, making it one of the first prepared Indian foods brands (and, now, the largest!)
The “why” behind the brand: “We’re one of the original companies to bring Indian food to retailer shelves in the United States,” says Tasty Bite’s General Manager Dan Jackson. “We want to democratize Indian food so everyone in the U.S. can eat it at home.”
Must-try product: Tasty Bite Organic Channa Masala
Learn more about the brand: How Indian Cuisine Mainstay Tasty Bite Makes Organic Farming a Priority
Nguyen Coffee Supply
This Brooklyn-based coffee brand partners with a fourth-generation farmer in Da Lat, Vietnam for all of its organic, direct-trade robusta beans.
This seaweed brand offers both sushi nori and bite-sized, crunchy seaweed snacks in flavors like EVOO, teriyaki, and sea salt.
This brand uses only 10 simple ingredients—like soy sauce, fresh ginger, and green onion—to make small-batch Japanese barbecue sauces based on the founder’s family recipe.
Immi makes instant ramen that’s low-carb, high-protein, and 100% plant-based (aka, a world away from the artificially flavored instant ramen you ate in college).
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