Wharton MBA grads Lalit Kalani and Dan Garblik and their ambitious upstart Bandar Foods are about to take two types of what they’ve dubbed Monkey Sauce to market in coming weeks. The sauces, which they’re positioning as “Indian Sriracha,” are actually fairly commonplace condiments found in India that they’ve reconfigured for American tastes. Kalani, who was born and raised in India, adapted both from his mother’s original recipes. One is a spicy mango chili sauce, while the other is mint, and cilantro chile sauce. The first shipments of both will begin arriving on store shelves in September. “What we did is take common chutneys, belnd them down, puree them and add some more spices so we could market it as a hot sauce,” Kalani told Grub Street. “We put it in a squeeze bottle, because of, like, ketchup and mustard, people here are comfortable using them.”
The sauces, the Bandar brand and everything all began taking shape back in 2010 while Kalani and Garblik where working on their MBAs at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. For the school’s Innovation Tournament, they devised, formulated and produced the products themselves in their apartments kitchens, bought plastic squeeze bottles and printed their own labels. It was a smash hit, and ultimately won the tournament for them. To take their Monkey Sauces to the next level, the two spent more than 18 months seeking out a manufacturing facility, sourcing ingredients, and hiring a food scientist to adapt their homespun recipes for mass production.
They settled on a factory in India, not so much to save on costs, but rather to be closer to raw materials that go into the sauces. Kalani told us that finding quality pickled mango here in the U.S. was nearly impossible. Samples they looked at here were packed in oil, and kind of gross. In India quality pickled mango is readily available.
In recent months they were picked as semi-finalists in Rooster Design’s Next Big Small Brand Competition, and secured certification from YouthTrade, which in turn presented an opportunity to meet with buyers from Whole Foods. The supermarket chain has since picked up the Monkey Sauce line, and will offer it at its stores in Pennsylvania, New York and throughout New England. Garblik, who relocated to the West Coast after completing his MBA, has also lined up placements with retailers in California.
While they await the first Monkey Sauce shipments to arrive on U.S. shores, the two are at work on developing more products, like naan chips, and a third sauce, a roasted tomato and garlic pepper concoction to add to their line.