How This Young Stroke Survivor Started Her Own Hummus Business

MANILA, Philippines — The very last thing Kristine Fernandes expected at the age of 28 was a stroke.

Like many of us around the same age, Kristine was a self-proclaimed workaholic – always on the go, never idle. As the general manager of operations for a BPO at the time, Kristine found herself eating “to fuel me with energy to keep going, without giving importance to the nutrients needed for good long-term health”, she told Rappler. She completely neglected any nutritional value of food and worked long nights, adding stress to her already fragile health.

And then on September 27, 2012, she had a stroke. Kristine suddenly couldn’t walk for two months, with the left side of her brain severely affected.

“When I got sick, the hardest part was lying in bed helplessly for the first two months, depending on the caretakers for everything,” she said. “It was a wake-up call for me to consciously value my food choices, and the nutritional value they provide.”

As a stroke survivor, Kristine knew she couldn’t go back to her old ways, both health-wise and work-wise. She decided to consciously start making the right choices for herself – in mind, body and soul – which she admitted was ‘not an easy transition’, but she made it .

How? She found hummus.

How Hummus Heals

The idea of ​​making homemade hummus was already planted as far back as 2015, when Kristine first tasted the popular Middle Eastern savory dip made with a mixture of chickpeas, tahini, olive oil, of lemon, juice and garlic in India and the Middle East, no less. She described it as “love at first bite” (100% agree) and “immediately fell in love with the taste and texture”.

“When I returned to Manila, I kept looking for the authentic taste of hummus made with extra virgin olive oil. I tried different brands available locally, but none of them succeeded” , she said. “Maybe I can try to do it someday?” she thought casually.

Fortunately, Kristine was no stranger to the food and beverage industry – her family has owned a restaurant for five decades. As a child, Kristine helped out as much as she could in the family business, and as a young adult, she earned certifications in operations and catering. Unfortunately, her father passed away in August 2020 and the family had to abandon the restaurant.

“But the learnings stayed with me,” Kristine said.

After marrying an Indian national in 2015, Kristine’s interest in Arabic and Indian cuisines grew even more. “During my travels in India and other Middle Eastern countries, I explored how different spices blend together and create a totally different flavor when combined in various proportions,” she said. .

“And having it ranked as one of the healthiest foods in the world was a bonus!”

So Kristine decided to stretch her food company chops, while satiating her cravings and need for healthier choices. She specifically chose hummus as her first entrepreneurial venture because she couldn’t find a “must have food” that didn’t have a lot of sugar, flour, or wasn’t fried or loaded with fat and shortening. ultra-processed. She decided to start SAFA HUMUS to fill this gap.

SAFA HUMUS is the name of her baby-only delivery business, which launched during the mid-2020 pandemic for online customers and neighbors within her community. Coming from the word “safa”, which means “pure” in Arabic, Kristine has made it her corporate mission: pure quality, hygienic and natural ingredients, without artificial flavors or preservatives. Everything is made fresh daily.

“We could have made any other plant-based food, but this one being so tasty and considered a superfood, made us choose hummus,” Kristine said. “We also wanted something fun, with a variety of flavors to break up the monotony.”

As of July 2022, SAFA offers over 20 flavors of hummus, each pairing best with crackers, pita, tortilla chips and even vegetables, meat or pasta. Its versatility makes it easy for SAFA customers to enjoy hummus in different ways, but always with the same authentic taste. Personally, I’m a fan! It’s one of the best hummus I’ve tasted, and whenever a craving strikes, SAFA hummus is my regular go-to. This is Hummus I love it!

Start slow, stay steady

Kristine made sure to take her time when she launched SAFA HUMMUS, given that she was a full-time mom to a toddler born in 2017. She made sure to keep her mission clear family and health – “give kababayans, working parents, people who are always on the go, and even children have the opportunity to choose healthier, real food alternatives that can be enjoyed any time of the day or night.

Its product is mainly composed of chickpeas, sesame paste (which is homemade with extra virgin olive oil) and premium spices imported from all over the world. She uses local and imported ingredients for some flavors – for the Vegan Fudge Hummus selection, it’s premium imported cocoa, California raisins, and chocolate chips. Other ingredients come from India, Spain, Italy, the Middle East and even Japan for SAFA Wasabi Hummus.

What does a day in the life of the SAFA HUMMUS family kitchen look like? Kristine said she makes hummus the traditional way, like it’s done in the Middle East. Pulses are soaked for long hours, blended in food processors, packaged and then sealed. Fresh batches are made weekly.

“The plastic hummus containers are thoroughly washed and dried. Since we don’t use artificial preservatives, they are chilled and ready to ship anytime,” she added. At first, delivery was only from Friday to Sunday. Now, due to increased demand, shipments are made almost daily, while supplies last. A two-day lead time is required for bulk orders.

In 2020, SAFA Hummus only started with six flavors: Classic White (the original); Royal Black (black sesame paste); Gusto Pesto (pesto from Italy); Tandoori (spices from India and the Middle East); Pomodoro (sun-dried tomatoes from Italy); and Spicy Jalapeño (imported peppers).

As one of SAFA’s first customers, I immediately ordered all six to try, and each one did not disappoint. The flavors might have seemed odd for the hummus, but they all worked, depending on your taste buds – the Pomodoro became a quick favorite as a fan of hot tomato-based sauces, and the Gusto Pesto tasted the same as the creamy herb pasta in hummus. form.

Two years later, SAFA now offers 16 savory flavors and four sweet vegan fudge variations. “Everyone has their own story, but the common inspiration was to take hummus to the ‘next level’ and give variety to our customers,” Kristine said. And indeed SAFA does it! It is never boring to order from the brand.

“We looked at the Pinoy Palace and came up with ideas for blending those flavors with the humble hummus. We are now the only brand in the country to offer this wide range of hummus flavors, and yes, some are exotic like our Wasabi, Peanut, Cajun, Beet, Mint and Curry flavors,” said declared Kristine, proving that you can be both. creative yet true to an indigenous delicacy – even Middle Eastern customers in the Philippines rave about its home-like taste.

“Our customers are just as diverse as our flavors and each flavor has its own fan.”

Challenges aside, SAFA is here to say

Just like many other online businesses born out of a pandemic, SAFA Hummus has had its fair share of start-up difficulties – finding the right suppliers, inventory management, pricing, marketing, branding, shipping and logistics. Her husband would help her on the weekends after her full-time job, trying out different spice combos for several months until they perfected their flavors.

“Our main obstacles were mainly due to the pandemic, such as the unavailability of certain supplies. To mitigate this, we tracked our monthly consumption rate and were able to predict, with a significant level of accuracy, when to restock essential supplies. It has helped meet our customers’ demand ever since,” explained Kristine. And now SAFA has become his full-time job.

“The best thing about pursuing our mission is the ‘feel good’ factor that we’re putting a brand of wholesome, authentic foods that are deliciously addictive into your hands! It’s funny. My toddler loves SAFA HUMMUS and we have many more moms sending us photos, videos and testimonials of their kids enjoying them,” she said, which is worth it.

“We are excited about the future of SAFA and plan to launch other impressive products under the SAFA brand. We are also working on a franchise strategy. SAFA is a registered trademark and we believe in the brand and its mission,” she added.

And it is a mission that is not difficult to achieve; Kristine’s story is a testament to how good can come out of bad. A frightening health experience turned into a blessing in disguise for Kristine, her family and the many loyal SAFA customers (myself included)!

“Healthy eating can also be fun and tasty. We will continually evolve with more delicious food options that are good for you in the years to come,” she said. –

Freeda S. Scott