While working at her family's Lebanese restaurant in the Silicon Valley, Elghani regularly got requests for the garlic sauce that was served with the menu's wraps. It wasn't available on grocery store shelves, so customers would ask for trays of it to go, prompting Elghani to wonder whether she could develop a version of the sauce that could be packaged for retail sale.
Elghani and her father began tweaking her grandmother's recipe until they got it right, and it first landed at retail markets in 2018. "We had an obsession with getting it perfect because it's not an easy product to make," she says.
Today, the dips are available at more than 80 locations throughout California, including Mollie Stones' Markets, Andronico's Community Markets, Farmer Joe's Marketplace, and Berkeley Bowl Marketplace.
In addition to grocery stores, the company sells its dips wholesale to restaurants and catering services that need large quantities. It also ships dips ordered by customers through the online shop it launched in July.
Mariam's Garlic Goddess uses only local, non-GMO ingredients in its products, many of which are organic as well. Its garlic comes from Christopher Ranch -- the number one garlic producer in the U.S. -- located in Gilroy, California.
The vegan dips are available in three flavors: garlic, jalapeno, and chili pepper. They can be used as a party snack, taco topping, sandwich spread, protein marinade, or salad dressing. Mariam's Garlic Goddess products can even be used as a replacement for raw garlic. "I have a family friend with mobility issues and wants to add garlic to cooking but doesn't want to hassle with smashing it or peeling it," Elghani says. "It's been a great benefit to that community."
Rather than use a co-packer as many small food manufacturers do, Mariam's Garlic Goddess leases kitchen space and machinery from a salsa company to make the roughly 5,000 units it produces each month. "The owner is a mentor and friend," Elghani says.
Elghani isn't ruling out using a co-packer to produce the products in the future, but it will be several years before she makes that decision.
"One of the big reasons I don't use a co-packer is that early on, I was continuing to perfect it," she says of the family's secret recipe. "I had a goal of making it vegan and didn't want to bother with a co-packer because I wanted to make sure it was perfect. If we manufacture it ourselves, I'm in total control of the quality. I taste test every single batch. Co-packers don't care that much."
Challenges: Like most businesses, Mariam's Garlic Goddess is experiencing a shortage of supplies -- primarily the plastic containers and the film sealers it uses for packaging -- and increased costs because of disruptions to the supply chain. Elghani estimates she's paying about 50 percent more for materials. "I'm trying to figure out how to make sure the quality stays where it's supposed to be," she says.
Opportunities: Elghani expects an agreement with Sacramento-based Tony's Fine Foods to distribute Mariam's Garlic Goddess products will help it get onto the shelves of retailers like Whole Foods. "Our goal is to be successful on the West Coast," she says. "Then we'll slowly take it elsewhere as we grow and perfect things."
Needs: More funding to put toward marketing would help Mariam's Garlic Goddess succeed, Elghani says. "Our main thing is getting that word out there, getting people to know what it is and how to use it," she explains. "People try it and fall in love with it and are totally addicted to it."