Interviewed by Monocle Magazines Radio Show Eureka
Founder of Zest & Zing, Taha Fezzani, shared the story of how he created his brand and launched his spice company on an episode of The Entrepreneurs, a weekly business podcast by Monocle Radio. Read more below and click here to listen!
Shortly after Taha Fezzani’s parents left Libya, he was born in London. Raised in a very traditional Libyan environment, his parents wanted their children to learn about Libyan culture and ensure that they had a strong sense of cultural identity.
They often took summer trips to Libya where Fezzani played with his cousins in his aunt’s garden. For him, those memories evoke the scents of rosemary, thyme, and other herbs and spices that were wonderfully aromatic because they’d grown in a place with sun all year round.
Fezzani has spent nearly all of his life in London, aside from six years living in France and the time he spent traveling the world.
He has always loved great good and quality ingredients. His mum was a fantastic cook, creating big banquets and inviting friends over, leaving them mystified by the food they’d just eaten.
After attending University College London, his brother got him interested in the oil and gas industry. This field was huge in Libya at the time and for Fezzani, this sparked the idea that he could potentially start his own business in order to give back one day in the future. He decided to pursue a career in the oil industry which, over two decades, involved travel to North Africa, including Egypt and Libya.
Years later, with oil prices crashing and companies are making lots of people redundant, Fezzani found he’d lost the buzz and energy that initially came with his job. He wanted to do something he was passionate about. Something where he could wake up and say, “Wow, I can’t wait to start!”
So Fezzani took a year’s sabbatical to travel South America and parts of Asia. He went out to meet people, find out what they did, get out of his comfort zone, and get an idea of where his passion might lie.
He had great food on his journey and wonderful experiences. Inspired by this year of traveling and his six years in France amongst the fresh ingredients and markets of the country, he knew his future business would be in food. It seems that he always knew this.
Fezzani is a self-admitted foodie, and he loves cooking for his fiancé and others. He’d always been frustrated by buying spices at home only to smell or taste them a few weeks later and find they’d lost their aroma and flavour. Thinking there had to be something he could do about it and knowing that he wanted to start his own business, he decided to do something for himself using all the passion and energy he had for food.
After coming across some phenomenal spices and products, Fezzani had his idea. He thought that such great premium ingredients could be huge in the UK, a place he’d never seen that kind of quality before.
He gave a lot of thought to the name of the company and he knew he wanted to incorporate his surname. But rather than just “Fezzani Spices” as he initially considered, he decided to use the “zz” portion instead. The idea of Zest & Zing” comes from zest - the flavour you get from tasting amazing spices - and zing - the feeling that comes right afterwards.
All that was left to do was find supplies, and he did that by tasting a lot of different stuff. Eventually he found the perfect products to create his line, which now consists of 50 products - including herbs, spices, sea salts, and blends. But it’s constantly growing!
According to Fezzani, his blends might just be the most exciting of all these. They include things like his vegan pesto and Katsu curry. But the exotic sea salts are pretty incredible too - especially white truffle sea salt, a company-wide best seller. A simple sprinkle of these ingredients on anything (he recommends halloumi cheese!) and the flavour you get is amazing.
Fezzani loves people, and he finds that when people see you’re passionate about your product, they’ll buy it. He prepares samples and gives them out to anyone who wants to try them. He lets them smell the spices. He makes the whole interaction a wonderfully attractive, aromatic, and visually appealing journey.
Zest & Zing began selling spices about six months ago, and in that time Fezzani has successfully launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise £15,000. As an owner of a company selling products he truly believes in, he wants to share them with people. He wants others to discover his brand. Because, as he says, the quality is phenomenal.
Fezzani’s big goal now is to open his own shop so that customers can come in and have a unique and beautiful experience exploring his spices.