When it comes to diet, it’s all relative. Food is just as important to one person as it is to another. Yet, what makes food important to each individual cannot be detached from individual cultures and a culinary tradition that seems disgusting to one society may be revered by another.
For Nigerians, there may be the temptation to travel with extra baggage of local food stuffs, the likes of gari, groundnut or kuli-kuli, palm oil or groundnut oil, egusi (melon), kilishi, ogbono, etcetera. Meanwhile, immigration officers may not allow you travel with them making it difficult altogether.
It is worthy of mention here that an estimated one million Nigerians and Nigerian-Americans live, study, and work in the United States; while on the other hand, over 25,000 Americans live and work in Nigeria. Therefore, it is not an overstatement to call Nigeria a consistently pro-America nation.
Unfortunately, these millions of Nigerians often face a problem that most Americans don’t: and that is grocery shopping. Nigerians prefer eating their cuisine to others available in the US, but Nigerian staples are hard to find.
Of course there are African stores that cater for multiple African nationalities. Yet even these stores have struggled to support the increasing demand for special Nigerian products.
Similarly, these stores are on the outskirts of major cities as against the 65% of Nigerians living in other cities for which the stores’ locations are inconvenient.
Nigerians who live outside of metro areas have to travel hours for their groceries, often to discover that the items they were looking for are out of stock.
To this extent, the need for an online grocery store with the ability to deliver Nigerian delicacies at the doorstep of Nigerians in America cannot be overemphasized.
NigerianFoods.com is a platform that inspires and enables people to cook, eat, share and learn about Nigerian cuisine. It honors tradition but is unabashedly modern.
Interestingly, Nigerianfoods.com has succeeded in delivering local Nigerian ingredients and foodstuffs to 47 of 50 states in the United States of America (USA) including Puerto Rico as at June 2015.
Stressing the importance of Nigerian online grocery store to Nigerian-Americans and American locals, Ian Cohan-Shapiro, co-founder Nigerianfoods.com said: “We arrived at providing this service when my school mate at the University, Tosin had to travel several kilometres in search of egusi and eba. Then we agreed on establishing a platform to meet that need for other people who might feel like him.”
To confirm that, Tosin Osibodu, co-founder and CEO said: “The idea for NigerianFoods.com came when I was studying in New Hampshire and craving Egusi soup. Finding the ingredients I wanted was impossible – I had to resort to bringing extra suitcases full of ingredients from my trips back to Nigeria.”
According to Cohan-Shapiro, the publicity for Nigerian food stuffs has not been enough and that constitutes the reason why Nigerian recipes are not well known across the world.
“I have been in Nigeria for a year and half now and my best meal is moi-moi and pepper soup. I like both because they are entirely new to me and I find them interesting.
“Nigerian foods mean different things to different people. Pepper soup helps me quench cold and it is just perfect for me. I enjoy moi-moi and already mentioned it to my mum who initially had difficulties preparing it but with our practical videos on cooking, she has tried her hands on it a couple of times except that I am yet to taste and certify her moi-moi,” he said.
The platform was established to deliver the widest selection of Nigerian ingredients in the US (over 180 products), so Nigerians in the US can enjoy the taste of home without hassle.
It carries egusi seeds, suya seasoning, kilishi and hundreds of other Nigerian special delicacies. Through rich content – videos, food articles and recipes – the platform also provides new ways for Nigerians to engage with their food and identity.
The online grocery store, headquartered in Lagos-Nigeria, definitely has plans to grow its staff strength but currently has 11 employees across Canada, Indonesia and the United States. “I am the minority in the team,” Cohan-Shapiro enthused.
The American also added that his presence became necessary when an European called for inquiry, expecting to hear a Nigerian voice but heard a voice close to his from the other end.
“I picked the call and said hello, how may we help you today. Instead of the caller to answer my question, he was quiet for a while and then asked me a question instead.
“How come I am not hearing a Nigerian speak for Nigerianfood.com and I replied him because all and sundry needs to be served without the stress of intonation or language barrier. And he was amazed.”
Furthermore, besides meeting the needs of diasporans, Nigerianfoods.com also has the potential to assist young women and men who have difficulties in preparing certain Nigerian delicacies.
“We have different practical videos on the platform with clearly indicates steps and procedures for preparing each recipe desired. We do not have all Nigerian recipe yet but you would be amazed at our collections within these 6 months of our operations.
“We observed that the identity around food is not singular and there are diverse audiences for Nigerian delicacies. Imagine how we combine Chicken Suya Tacos – to suit the appetite of a Nigerian who visits Mexico where Tacos is commonly found,” Cohan-Shapiro said.
For Osibodu, the group endeavours to meet the need of these diverse audiences who crave Nigerian delicacies while appearing really Nigerian.
The company hires locally and supports exports of local agricultural products thereby contributing to the revenue of the Nigerian Export-Import.
Source- The Nation
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