Specialty Food Magazine

WINTER 2015

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

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Ahmed and Reem Rahim, Numi Organic Tea I n 1999, Reem Rahim and her younger brother, Ahmed, launched Numi Organic Tea from a small apartment in Oakland, Calif. Today, Numi is the No. 1 importer of fair trade certified teas in North America. Through the siblings' business and foundation they support arts programs in California schools as well as environmen- tal sustainability and worker well-being in China, Egypt, and India. Inspiration The siblings, who grew up in Ohio, are originally from Iraq, where desert-dried lime tea is a symbol of hospitality. They decided to bring the refreshment to the U.S. market. Numi means citrus in Arabic. They also initially packaged South African-grown rooibos and sweet honeybush, long before those teas hit the mainstream. Today Numi imports and packages dozens of varieties. As it's been from the beginning, Numi teas contain only real fruits, spices, and f lowers. The same farmers have supplied ingredients for 15 years; Reem says Numi is the No. 1 brand importer of fair trade teas in North America. Going a step further, the company has partnered with the organization Scientific Certification Services, which sets standards for sustainability in agriculture, fisheries, forestry, and green building. "Certification is important so we can be transparent," Reem says. "We want to show retailers and consumers we're doing our best and we've gone the extra mile to verify it." Impact Because Numi emphasizes fair trade for its sourcing, farmers in China, Egypt, and India have earned extra money per harvested pound of tea leaves. Impoverished communities have been able to buy mosquito nets to prevent malaria and build hospitals and school dormitories with their farmers' steady income. Reem and Ahmed have pushed farmers in India to install air conditioning or fans for their workers. In China, they encouraged bamboo suppliers to allow women to work from home so they can care for their children. On learning the bamboo Numi used for its gift boxes was dyed with toxic ink, the siblings showed their Chinese supplier a natural, nontoxic option and pay him the cost difference to use it. "We want a healthy system for the workers," Reem says. "We feel good about making an impact however large or small." Amid their global efforts, Reem and Ahmed Rahim have not forgotten about their local community. Numi Foundation works on a curriculum for inner-city schools in Oakland, funding the teach- ing of art, gardening projects, and social studies. The Future "We're looking at how to do an integration model for all our vari- ous do-good things," says Reem. Instead of having several different labels—organic, fair trade, B Corp—the siblings hope to combine these seals efforts into one standard that would also address carbon offsets and encourage farmers to grow more trees. Numi is also embarking on a mission to bring clean drinking water to people in need. The business is currently raising funds for Charity: Water to dig wells in Sub-Saharan Africa. "We're running a business," Reem says, "but all the [additional] things we're doing make it exciting." Because Numi conducts fair trade sourcing, its farmers in China, Egypt, and India have earned extra money per harvested pound of tea, funding hospital and school dormitory construction in local communities. 2015 LEADERSHIP AWARD: CITIZENSHIP 28 ❘ SPECIALTY FOOD MAGAZINE specialtyfood.com

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