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August 10, 2016
One of Mekhala Living’s taglines is “delicious, easy, healthy Asian” – and once you’ve tried one of their products, you’ll soon understand why!
Mekhala’s sauces and seasonings have become true kitchen staples here at Profood; a quick, easy and guilt-free inspiration for many a meal, they’re super convenient to use and packed to the brim with authentic Asian flavours. We’re also huge fans of Mekhala’s mindful company philosophy; their commitment for sourcing natural, high-quality ingredients from local farmers dedicated to organic, sustainable produce means this is food that comes with a real feelgood factor. We spoke to Mekhala’s director and co-founder Daphne Hedley to find out more about this fantastic company.
What inspired you to start Mekhala?
My co-founder Jang was running a retreat in Chiang Mai and found it hard to source good quality, vegan products for her clients. She started making a few items herself and I, along with some of her other friends and clients, thought they were great products that there was a real market for; we founded Mekhala in 2006 to fill this gap in the market. The retreat where Mekhala was born is an institute that teaches “mindfulness” in leading organisations, so this philosophy naturally became the company’s ethos too.
Can you tell us more about how you source your ingredients?
We work with a few local farms that are run by amazing people who believe in sustainability and organic farming. These farms are certified either locally (by Organic Thailand) or by international organisations, like the EU or the US Department of Agriculture and its National Organic Programme. It took us a long time and a few false starts to find the right sources and build relationships based on trust, but it’s all proved worthwhile!
How do you come up with the ideas for your products?
Initially, our products came from the retreat’s kitchen based on what Jang loved and found hard to source, like vegan curry paste and simple dressings. Our later ideas came from customer feedback, local ingredients, seeing what was already available in the market and external inspirations like street food and traditional and fusion Asian recipes, all following the company’s philosophy of Asian-influenced flavours made well.
How long does the process from conception to final product take?
We trial various ideas in the test kitchen, do group samplings to get feedback and whittle down the options. After that, we test producing these items in large quantities before sending them out for more feedback and ensuring the product meets certain food stability and hygiene standards. If all the boxes are ticked, we do some mock-ups and approach retailers to see if they are interested, then the item is ready for sale! The whole process takes about six to eight months.
What are some of your personal favourite Mekhala products?
My absolute favourite is our Lemongrass and Turmeric Paste, inspired by Vietnamese street food. It’s so versatile and absolutely delicious – I use it as a marinade for skewers and roasts, as a non-spicy curry or as a paste for frying rice or noodles [check out our Profood recipe for lemongrass and turmeric roast pork here!]. I also love our Roasted Sesame Garlic Dressing; this was inspired by Japanese sesame dressing, which we usually find too sweet and full of ingredients we don’t want. Our version is more savoury and a little goes a long way; I use it as a dressing, for noodles and steamed vegetables, and even on avocado on toast for breakfast!
What are your other kitchen pantry essentials?
Describe an average working day at Mekhala?
The best way of describing it is that every day is different! I suppose I check emails like everyone else – usually marketing and sales-related enquiries and general admin. Then we manage our purchase orders and plan our deliveries; we get regular online orders from retailers like Redmart and Amazon, so we pack those too. Some days, we set aside a half-day to do recipes, or we brainstorm new marketing or product ideas. I talk to my team in Thailand about production and sales daily, and work with our managers and accounts on their tasks. Aside from day-to-day sales orders, production and deliveries, we’ve usually got one or two projects running in the background – it could be a new product being tested, a marketing initiative with an influencer, applying for a certification, or renovating our factory.
What else is in the pipeline for Mekhala?
We recently received US and EU-recognised organic certification for our facility and products – something we’re very proud of that has taken the better part of 2.5 years – so we’re hoping to expand beyond Asia. We’ve already got a good range of products but we’d like to introduce a range of healthy chilli-based products in the future too.
What is the biggest piece of advice you’d give about people’s attitude to food?
I would say enjoy everything in moderation and don’t obsesses or fixate too much on diet trends. What you eat should make you happy and healthy whilst also being sustainable – there’s no point being on a paleo, gluten-free or all-organic diet if it makes you miserable and means that all you think about is what you’re eating and what your next meal is going to be!
For more cooking inspiration, check out more of our recipes using Mekhala goodies or shop the full range of their products here.
Rachel Read is a freelance writer, editor and blogger with over a decade’s worth of media experience under her belt. In addition to co-founding writing & editing agency Editors’ Ink and writing her own lifestyle and beauty blog Through The Looking Glass, Rachel is a food lover whose job frequently involves checking out the latest restaurant openings in Hong Kong – yum! Follow her on Instagram for #foodporn aplenty.
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