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Sana Javeri Kadri, founder and CEO of Diaspora Co.
Photograph: Gentl & Hyers

14 women who are changing the way we eat and drink in 2021

Get familiar with the women who are revolutionizing the food and drink industry right now.

Morgan Olsen
Written by
Morgan Olsen
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What does the future of food and drink look like? We’re hopeful that the road ahead is paved with more certainty and recovery than the past year brought. After all, there’s plenty to celebrate in the industry right now, especially when it comes to women around the world who are hellbent on fixing broken systems, fostering inclusivity and building a brighter future. All of the women-owned businesses on this list are actively changing the way that people around the world eat and drink. There’s a food-sharing app that’s tackling waste, a cannabis company that’s revolutionizing edibles, and a grassroots group that’s holding the hospitality industry accountable. And that's just scratching the surface.

Take a look at these groundbreaking small businesses and remember the names behind them — we're confident that these women are blazing the trail ahead.

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Women who are changing the way we eat and drink right now

Tessa Clarke was in the middle of moving when she came across some food she couldn’t bear to throw away. It sent her on a wild (and ultimately unsuccessful) goose chase to find a good home for the orphan produce. 'Through the whole process, it seemed to me crazy that I should have to throw this food away when there were surely plenty of people within hundreds of metres of me who would love it,' Clarke says. 'The problem was they just didn’t know about it.'

So she dreamed up the idea for an app and brought it to life with help from friend and co-founder Saasha Celestial-One. OLIO is a neighbour-to-neighbour food-sharing platform that combats waste by allowing folks to list and claim surplus eats. It’s a mission that’s become increasingly urgent over the past year.

'COVID has resulted in an outburst of neighbourly sharing, as reflected by the fact that the amount of food being shared each month has increased five-fold since the pandemic struck,' Clarke says. 'That’s because COVID highlighted just how precious food is, which led to a collective leap in terms of how much we value it.'

With more than 3 million users and almost 15 million portions of food shared, Clarke and Celestial-One are setting their sights on an even bolder target: 1 billion OLIO users by 2030 – an effort that could ultimately help ease climate and hunger issues around the globe.

Shanel Lindsay is a mother, a lawyer, an entrepreneur and a cannabis connoisseur. Every unique element of her identity paved the way to Ardent, her Boston-based biotech and medical cannabis device company that’s revolutionizing the way we get high.

Lindsay finds motivation in educating and empowering her customers to understand exactly what’s going into their bodies every time they puff puff pass. The company’s crown jewel is the Ardent FX, an 'Easy Bake' device that allows you to decarboxylate, infuse and bake flower—all inside a vessel that’s about the size of a rice cooker. It doesn’t take long to crank out weed-infused treats without stinking up your entire block.

On the sidelines, Lindsay also co-founded Equitable Opportunities Now, a nonprofit fighting to preserve equity provisions in local cannabis laws and create opportunities for women and people of color in the industry.

'There’s no other industry that is so intrinsically connected to the criminalization of Black and Brown people,' Lindsay says. '… If there’s not equity baked into cannabis, what hope is there left for any kind of justice when it comes to the unfair treatment of people of color in America?'

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Following the horrific and public murder of George Floyd in 2020, a group of Chicago hospitality professionals noticed that many local restaurants were posting messages of solidarity with Black Lives Matter. The thing was, most weren’t actually doing anything to back up their black squares.

So the group founded Chicago Hospitality Accountability Action Database (CHAAD) to hold the industry accountable and track which businesses were making good on their promises. Their sprawling, public-facing spreadsheet tracks COVID-19 safety, staff complaints, statements of solidarity and more.

'The hospitality industry is made up of a majority of women. And the problems that make this industry so toxic mostly impact that same population,' says Raeghn Draper, one of the group’s co-founders. 'Working toward creating a hospitality industry that is accountable and equitable is a feminist mindset.'

The group isn’t stopping with the spreadsheet, though. Throughout March and April, they’re hosting a workshop series called Getting Out of the Weeds, with sessions on managing stress, setting boundaries and navigating microaggressions on the job; tickets are just $5. Up next? CHAAD will work to educate restaurant patrons on how best to support hospitality workers.

For many, becoming a Master of Wine is the end cap on a successful career, but for Sarah Heller it was just the beginning. As Asia-Pacific’s youngest person to hold the honor, she’s shaking up the industry with Radix, a branded platform that engages a new generation of vino lovers.

'I worry that too often people – especially younger people – try to innovate by bending over backward to ‘demystify wine’ and end up losing the mystique that made wine magic in the first place,' Heller says. '... At its best, wine can be a portal to another culture or era: That's the experience I want to share with people.'

To help spread the boozy gospel, Heller wears many hats: She’s the wine editor for Asia Tatler, the chairman for China’s largest wine competition and the founder of Virtual Tasting Notes, a collection of educational videos that’s amassed more than 6 million followers.

Threaded throughout her career is the desire to elevate women in the industry, whether she’s writing a profile or placing women on prestigious panels. 'Seeing female faces again and again really helps get more women in the door,' she says.

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In 2019, friends and food lovers Mex Ibrahim and Janie Ash founded Women in the Food Industry (WiFi) to form a safe space for women to communicate and nourish each other while pushing toward gender equality.

'We are creating a space for all talented women in the food industry to tell their stories and be heard,' Ibrahim says. 'In a male-dominated industry, our aim is to bring women to the forefront, showing collaboration beats out competition.'

When it first launched, WiFi was rooted in in-person events, networking lunches and nights out so that members could meet and collaborate. That all came to a screeching halt in March 2020, but Ash and Ibrahim have found new ways to keep their mission alive.

In addition to sharing stories of women-owned businesses pivoting through the pandemic, WiFi is also offering support to restaurants in underserved communities of London through training courses on menu development, marketing and food photography. And just in time for International Women’s Day, Ash and Ibrahim relaunched their initiative with new benefits for members and the promise of new events on the horizon.

When New Yorker Sutanya Dacres found herself divorced in Paris, she didn’t pack her bags and head home. Instead, she started recording a podcast in her tiny Parisian kitchen. Through three seasons of Dinner for One, she talks heartbreak, healing and expat life – all while preparing a meal.

'After my divorce, I used my solo dinners to nourish my body, spirit and soul to heal from that experience,' Dacres says. 'I use my podcast as a platform to share my story and hopefully encourage more people to cook for themselves and care for themselves in that way.'

No matter your relationship status, it’s impossible not to be drawn to Dacres’s conversational tone, laugh-out-loud anecdotes and poignant life lessons. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that she shares some killer recipes along the way for everything from confit canard and sole meunière to Non-Engagement chicken.

Like what you hear? Keep an eye out for Dacres’s debut book, which will hit shelves in spring 2022. Until then, you can follow her wine-fueled cooking adventures on Instagram.

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The founders of Women Who Farm Africa are into math. They estimate that about 80 percent of the world’s food is produced by small-scale farms and that women make up about 43 percent of that workforce in developing countries. And yet women in agriculture – especially in rural areas – struggle to access essential resources needed to keep up with their male counterparts.

Desperate for change, farmers Sussana Phiri and Ruramiso Mashumba teamed up with advocate Slyvia Tetteh to launch Women Who Farm Africa, a campaign that advocates for women through leadership development training.

'We believe the voice of women should be heard through story-sharing in order to create a community of support,' Mashumba says. 'We also believe in the importance of creating tailormade content to support women farmers.'

Throughout March, they’re shining a light on amazing women agricultural workers across Africa – take a look at their Facebook page to learn about trailblazers like Paidamoyo Patience Chadoka, the CEO of the Zimbabwe Association of Dairy Farmers.

On the surface, D’ Market Movers is an online healthy food delivery service in Trinidad and Tobago, but Rachel Renie likes to think of her business as a 'portal to the freshest, safest, local foods in the Caribbean.'

She and co-founder David Thomas met while working at a bank in the early 2000s; the duo quickly found a fruitful side hustle in selling fresh fish to their coworkers. It wasn’t long before they realized there was a business opportunity there, especially if they could tap into the online shopping market, which was relatively new at the time.

Since launching D’ Market Movers in 2009, Renie and Thomas have created a one-stop virtual grocery store that’s stocked with a vibrant supply of farm-free produce, meats and seafood, household items and fresh meals. Today, residents and restaurants use the service to shop for everything they need with ease.

'I love empowering anyone to look at food differently, more as an extension of themselves,' she says. 'Eating vibrant, healthy foods helps us in turn to feel the same.'

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On the nights she wasn’t drinking alcohol, Ellie Webb struggled to find something she wanted to sip on – and she knew she wasn’t alone. So ensued months of kitchen experiments and, ultimately, a new non-alcoholic spirit that doesn’t sacrifice flavour or fun.

Inspired by Webb’s Columbian roots, Caleño is infused with Inca berries, pineapple, papaya, juniper and lemon peel. It’s designed to be paired with tonic and served over ice – a flavour-packed, fuss-free alternative to a classic G&T.

Throughout lockdown, Webb says she’s seen a huge boost in sales, which she attributes to a shift in attitude toward drinking, social situations and self-care. What’s next? Webb says she’s hoping to grow the UK-based brand to reach as many people as possible.

'What I find incredibly exciting right now is just how quickly this space is growing,' Webb says. 'Over the last 12 months, people have placed an increasingly large focus on their health and wellness, and brands like ours are really helping them on that journey.'

Disrupting a 600-year-old system isn’t for the faint of heart. Luckily, Sana Javeri Kadri didn’t let roadblocks stop her from shaking up the spice trade industry with a 'radically new and equitable vision' that puts power and money back in the hands of Indian farmers.

Founded in 2017, Diaspora Co. cuts out the middleman (and their middlemen) to deliver beautiful spices to consumers straight from small farms. 'The goal is to undo hundreds of years of oppression and injustice by being super thoughtful, intentional and accountable, by pivoting, growing and evolving constantly,' Javeri Kadri says.

Shoppers can browse single-source spices like turmeric, nutmeg, cumin and saffron while reading about the families who harvested each product. By the end of the year, Diaspora Co. will offer a library of 30 spices from 45 farms – a wildly impressive reach for a 4-year-old company.

'I think of that quote "you are your ancestor’s wildest dreams" all the time,' Javeri Kadri says. 'To me, that's Diaspora Co. in a nutshell. Building the systems of empowerment and a culture of possibility that our ancestors deserved.'

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