Ziva Mediterranean Foods – an interview with the owners

Ziva owners

ZIVA Mediterranean Foods has a mission to provide high-quality, authentic, healthy Mediterranean foods using local ingredients (whenever possible) to be sold through retail venues and to wholesale customers.

Tomer Shneor and Jody Haynes, a husband and wife team, launched the company in 2015. ZIVA is Tomer’s mother’s name, and is an inspiration for the company’s goal toward authentically Mediterranean, healthy, handmade food products.

We caught up with Tomer and Jody to ask them a few questions about their business:

How did you get into this business, what inspired you?

  • Tomer:  I grew up in Israel where we eat hummus for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  When I moved to the US in 2001 to go to Culinary school, I couldn’t find any hummus in restaurants or grocery stores that was worth eating.  They all had powdered citric acid or cumin or some random oil that wasn’t extra virgin olive oil.  I felt Americans needed to be introduced real hummus like my Mom, Ziva, used to make.  When we moved to Seattle and I found out that Washington State is one of the largest garbanzo bean producers in the nation, it seemed like an even better idea!
  • Jody: Along the way, we learned about the magic of sprouting.  That sealed it for me…if we were going to build a business off of something, I wanted to be able to digest it!

Tell us something about the product you make.

  • Jody:  Our hummus is special not only because of the authentic flavor profile that Tomer created, but also because we sprout the beans.  This intensifies the bean flavor, creates a lighter, fluffier texture and makes it easier to digest.  We also fully cook the garlic to aid in digestion, which makes a big difference for me.  And our customers regularly come to us and say that ours is the only hummus they can digest, so I guess it’s not JUST me…
  • Tomer:  I really tried to replicate the flavor of the freshly made hummus I grew up on and that’s one of the first things a customer says when they taste it for the first time:  “it tastes so fresh!”.  Our “Original” flavor has a good amount of tahini, but not so much that you can’t taste the beans any more.  For our “Roasted Garlic” flavor, we slow-roast the garlic in extra virgin olive oil until it gets caramelized and nutty.  And then we preserve lemons and blend them whole (pith and all) into our “Lemon” flavor for a zesty tang.

Where can we find it?

  • Jody:  Our products are available at all the PCC Community Markets and Whole Foods stores in the region as well as both Central Coops, all three Ken’s Market locations, and lots of other independent stores all listed in the “where to buy” section of our website.  When they start up again, we’ll be at the Ballard and Tacoma Proctor Farmers Markets.

Do you have anything new on the horizon?  Anything new in the next year?

  • Tomer:  We are working on a spicy flavor right now.  And after things calm down from the Covid pandemic, we are hoping to start looking into compostable packaging.  So far, we haven’t found anything usable for our product, but someone must be developing it, right?

What else would you like us to know about you, your company, your product?

  • Jody:  Well, I think amid this pandemic, I’d want you to know that Tomer keeps our production kitchen cleaner than anyone other kitchen out there!  But also that we’re striving for a low environmental impact:  we deliver to the stores from plastic crates rather than creating the extra waste associated with cardboard case boxes.  Our production process creates very little waste.  And buying from us translates to support for the local economy:  we use a local label printer, a local distributor for our containers, a local supplier for lemon juice, not to mention the amazing bean farmers of Eastern Washington…
  • Tomer:  We’re husband and wife and we met in culinary school – we are ALL about food – not some corporate guys deciding to “introduce a new CPG brand into the channel”.  And we’re still super small – I am in the kitchen producing and packaging, Jody does all the sales calls and we work the farmers markets ourselves.  Right now, we’re doing everything we can to support our small team:  Stewart, Jaime and Mike.  They and/or their family members have each lost income from their other jobs in restaurants or at Boeing due to the COVID pandemic.  Every package of ZIVA Hummus you buy goes toward their (and our) health insurance, job stability, rent, and the food we live on…so we really appreciate your support!