By Mary Margaret Ewens | May 30, 2017 | Food & Drink
It's always tahini time with the Philly sisters behind specialty food label Soom.
The Zitelman sisters were inspired to take tahini to the next level in the US after traveling in Israel, where tahini is popular.
“Education is probably the most important aspect for our product,” says Shelby Zitelman, CEO of Soom. “If we educate our consumers, they will want to buy the product even more, because they know the health benefits.”
Shelby and her two sisters, Jackie and Amy, saw a void in the market for healthy cooking ingredients and got the idea to market mineral-rich tahini stateside from Jackie’s husband, Omir, who was in the business in Israel.
“We’re originally from Maryland, but chose Philly because there’s a vibrant food scene, our target customers are here, and it’s affordable,” says Shelby. “Plus the restaurants here are very accessible, from High Street on Market to Tredici Enoteca.” Most of the production is done in Israel and then shipped to Philly, where the sisters focus on marketing the brand. Now in restaurant kitchens and food markets from New York to Washington, DC, you’ve probably enjoyed Soom without even knowing it: The tahini is a main ingredient in Michael Solomonov’s famous hummus at his CookNSolo restaurants.
The community-minded female entrepreneurs—an oversized “Women Owned” logo is on each jar’s label—are involved in organizations across the city, from the local chapter of the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council to the Ronald McDonald House in North Philly. Meanwhile, the sisters continue to grow their business—this year they’re focused on promoting their new chocolate tahini. Think of it as the healthy version of Nutella. Now those are Soom yummy plans.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY SASHA ISRAEL (PORTRAIT); NEAL SANTOS (DISH ON LEFT AND SOOM CHOCOLATE);
SARKA BABICKA/GETTY IMAGES (HUMMUS); SHUTTERSTOCK (CHOCOLATE SPREAD)