Will Single-Serving Blister Packs Make Jarred Spices Obsolete?

'Old spice is for armpits, not food,' says the entrepreneur behind a new, millennial-targeted single-serving spice company.

Photo by: Peter Garritano

Peter Garritano

Cleaning out your spice drawer can feel like a brutal task, bringing you face to face with all those big plans to cook exotic foods that, sadly, never quite came to fruition.

“Dead spices, unlike spoiled yogurt or moldy cheese, somehow feel like failures,” Jennifer Steinhauer recently wrote in the New York Times. “But sniff, accept and toss you must.”

The difficult truth is that spices, despite our best efforts to convince ourselves otherwise, don’t stay fresh forever. Ground spices tend to lose their flavor after about six months. And yes, that can affect the taste of the foods you cook with them.

Photo by: Peter Garritano

Peter Garritano

But while the rest of us shake our fists at the universe and howl about the injustice and waste of tossing our aging, unused curry and cumin, pepper and paprika, someone has come up with an actual solution: single-serving spices in recyclable aluminum blister packs made to “seal in freshness at the molecular level” to minimize waste, maximize flavor and extend the lifespan of your spices.

Occo, which recently went live on Kickstarter and has blown past its original $18,000, racking up $52,622 in pledges with 910 backers with well over a week still to go, was co-founded by Lisa Carson with an eye toward addressing spice waste.

With plans to scale up this year, it has introduced a collection of 12 spices – “selected based on frequency of use and flavor diversity” – that each come on a card containing 12 quarter-teaspoon servings. Among the spice offerings in this initial “Essential Collection”: basil, chili, paprika, curry, fennel, oregano, cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin, ginger, mustard and coriander.

Photo by: Peter Garritano

Peter Garritano

“I dreamed up Occo standing in the grocery aisle six years ago, annoyed I was about to spend 20 to 30 bucks on spices to make a recipe I just wanted to try,” Carson tells FN Dish.

She says she is especially excited to bring the product to market now as millennials like her are both “invested in cooking with fresh, high-quality ingredients” and delaying marriage and children, therefore cooking for only one or two people longer into their adult lives.

Sustainably made, single-serving, stay-fresh spices that prevent the overbuying and underuse that often come with jarred spices, she contends, is an idea that is long overdue.

“I think the way spices are sold today is so messed up,” Carson says. “When I walk down the grocery store aisle, I see food sold in quantities that make more sense for a 1950s nuclear family than for me. People should be able to cook with quality, fresh ingredients and experiment with new recipes without being forced to buy a quantity they don't really want.”

Carson says she conducted 50 taste tests in which she served people two versions of the same dish – one made with fresh spices and one made with spices that were, um, not so fresh. In 47 out of 50 cases, people preferred the dish made with fresh spices.

“You don't have to have a refined palate to appreciate fresh flavor,” Carson says. “Fresh spice is a game changer.”

Photos courtesy of Occo

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