Through Kama, her new luxury gourmet food brand, Jumana Jacir is out to show the world the many culinary delights Jordan and the wider Middle East have to offer.
By Mel Plant
Jumana Jacir, founder of Kama, is nothing if not ambitious. Just a few months after launching her gourmet food company in Jordan, she’s already planning to set up an outlet at Queen Alia International Airport and studying a possible relocation to Dubai.
Kama exhibited its first product range earlier this year during Amman Design Week. While such an environment may seem unlikely for the promotion of a culinary brand, Kama is at heart a design company.
Jacir’s concept is to package and sell the highest quality culinary products from the Middle East, taking inspiration from Fortnum and Mason, a luxury department store in London specializing in food products.
With the concept moved to the Middle East, the potential of hundreds of ingredients and palates to include is broad. This year’s launch is only the beginning.
Jacir began her career as a designer, with her touch for sleek minimalism evident in the packaging of Kama’s initial product range. Her previous career, however, meant that entering into business was a steep learning curve.
The products’ packaging speaks to Jacir’s desire to build a Middle Eastern lifestyle brand. However, the simple designs let the products speak for themselves.
Despite its international outlook, Kama’s products stick to their local roots. “There are amazing products all around the [Middle East],” Jacir explained, bemoaning the lack of “collective sourcing” through which the consumer can know where to find the highest quality za’atar or the purest olive oil.
Kama’s launch range includes most of the staple products needed in the Middle Eastern kitchen, sourced and produced entirely in Jordan. Kama’s labaneh balls come from a supplier in Jerash to Amman. The company’s date molasses, meanwhile, is sourced from Ajloun. Kama’s other spices, oils, and jams are likewise carefully chosen.
With each ingredient, Jacir and her small team scoured the country to find the finest food samples, testing each in focus groups that included housewives, chefs, and children. The process of refining the final product range for the launch took over a year, and the successful results went on show at Kama’s pop-up shop at Amman Design Week.
Taking one of the market spaces in the Raghdan Tourist Terminal, Kama exhibited their full product range. The clarity of taste in the unprocessed products was a clear draw for the customers that flooded the store to try the free samples on offer.
Prior to Kama’s launch in May, the company had been testing products carefully through focus groups and corporate gifting projects with companies such as Zain, Bank al-Etihad, and Taj Mall.
As Jacir tells it, she needed to be forced to launch by the rest of her team. A perfectionist, she wasn’t yet satisfied with either the products or the packaging, but her colleagues assured her that taking the products to the customers would be the best way to improve. She says they proved correct.
Now, with an initial range of 25 products perfected, Kama is looking to expand. While all of Jacir’s original goals have remained intact, interactions with customers in the past few months have produced a few more.
While all of Kama’s current products hail from Jordan, there are many essentials to the Middle Eastern kitchen to be added into the mix that need to be sourced from outside of the country. Jacir is now looking towards Lebanon, Sudan and other nations in the region to source additional products, like rose and orange blossom waters.
In the future vision of this regional lifestyle brand, Jacir wants to produce limited edition seasonal ranges, working with small local producers who may be able to produce only one hundred units of each product.
But the ultimate dream for Jacir is to launch a concept store to house Kama products and create a rounded experience in which customers can taste the products not just as samples but in a full culinary experience. With start-up funding from Oasis 500 and bidding for more, she hopes to make this a reality soon.
Jacir ultimately aims to move the project abroad—hopefully to Dubai next year. “Dubai is a hub. It’s easier to import the products there, and there is purchasing power and a bigger market,” she said. While the complete experience of the concept store is her initial goal, Jacir additionally wants to open an online market next year.
Jacir’s eye for design is now turned on tweaking the packaging to see that it reflects her vision of the product completely, which she terms “modern but with heritage.” She hopes to keep the designs “clean but functional,” but with a traditional Middle Eastern touch.
Her focus on packaging design is minute, with a careful attention to detail that she hopes can warrant big results. Jacir is constantly refining the ingredients and packaging, thinking of single-serving packets of honey as a next venture. The initial product range comes in small packages, but enthusiastic demand from customers has seen the designer think about creating larger versions for everyday use in the household.
Kama’s transition from a high-end design concept to an everyday lifestyle product means that Jacir is considering creating a lower-budget range, with less of a consideration around quality design but still with Kama’s central focus on quality and well-sourced ingredients, in order to avoid pricing-out many Jordanians from the experience.
Kama, after all, is thoroughly a Middle Eastern—and Jordanian—experience. “Kama means desert truffle,” Jacir explained. “The desert truffle only grows when lightning strikes in this region.” Both Kamas are rarities of a very local variety.