DTC Favorite Omsom Tackles Grocery with National Whole Foods Market Expansion
10 August 2022
Omsom, the proud and loud Asian pantry staple brand founded by first-generation Vietnamese-American sisters and daughters of refugees, Vanessa and Kim Pham, debuts its products in grocery nationwide catapulted by an exclusive partnership with Whole Foods Market. Omsom, which has earned a cult following, amassing over 1,000+ 5-star reviews, selling out 15 times since its direct-to-consumer launch in May 2020, and boasting 90% organic growth with a 30% customer return rate, has intensified its tactics to shake up the “ethnic” aisle - this time, from the inside out.
“After two years of working to bust the ‘ethnic’ aisle, landing within it on a national scale feels both ironic, but also a big first step in the right direction. To receive such a large platform to tell our story and the opportunity to shake up the category is the gift we always knew we deserved,” says co-founder Kim Pham. “We’re excited to continue to debunk the tropes that paint the legacy of Asian American food - that it’s cheap, unhealthy, or so ‘exotic’ that it can’t be eaten weekly. This is just the beginning.”
Omsom marries complex flavors and its commitment to cultural integrity with ultimate convenience. Their rip-and-pour sauces can be paired with any protein or produce (with instructions on the package), yielding complete dishes that take a maximum of 20 minutes to cook. While Omsom’s Krapow, Vietnamese BBQ, Yuzu Misoyaki, and Spicy Bulgogi will sit side by side with more widely-known counterparts like Teriyaki, Oyster, and Soy Sauce in the “ethnic” aisle, the Omsom brand-from flavor to voice-challenges the status quo in every way. The brand’s new retail packaging features dish names in Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, and Thai languages, ingredient call-outs like “Starring Korean Chili and Gochujang Pear,” and a QR code that drives to Omsom’s site with a personal message from Omsom’s co-founder, Kim. This re-formulated packaging combines the fiery branding that Omsom has become known for with crave-worthy photos of the final meal on the front of the sachets, meant to make shoppers stop in their tracks. A notable 33% increase in pouch size not only caters to family and grocery-friendly portion sizes, but also provides value to customers in a time marked by rising prices and shrinking sizes across the industry.
Since launching on the heels of the pandemic, Omsom has boldly and unapologetically embodied its mission of reclaiming the multitudes of Asian flavors through every facet of business - from exponential and tone-setting community engagement (they’ve earned 340% YoY growth on social media channels) and progressivist, forward-thinking messaging about antiquated and prejudice tropes associated with the “ethnic” aisle. Their stance is mirrored in each of their products-from the sauce that’s most personal to them, Vietnamese Lemongrass BBQ, to Thai Krapow, which was the first product to proudly boast MSG with the goal of busting the stigma around the misunderstood ingredient. As a result, the two-year-old brand carries consistent, powerful buzz that has proven to make lasting waves. Omsom is the recipient of The Kitchn’s Kitchen Essentials Grocery award, NOSH’s “Best New Product'' and “Best Packaging Design” awards, and was named one of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies with fewer than just 10 employees. Their fresh take on the “ethnic” aisle made a full-bleed page of the New York Times, strategic partnerships with Disney, Instant Pot, and Chop’t advanced their path of bringing Asian flavors to more American households, and as of January 2022, Omsom was cited as a source for Whole30 on the decision to reverse their stance on MSG.
“Folks aren’t always ready for what we have to say as a WOC-led brand so, since the beginning, we knew that being as proud and loud as we are was a risky bet. But we know it’s been a risk worth taking and one that’s been deeply rewarding - challenging palates and some of the long-standing misconceptions about Asian cuisines,” says co-founder and CEO, Vanessa Pham. “We’re grateful to be a part of a larger conversation around Asian-American culture-it truly feels like the perfect time to leverage our incredible momentum and make the move into mainstream grocery.”
Kim Pham leads the brand charge with a background in brand and community in startups, while Bain & Company alumna Vanessa Pham is CEO, spearheading strategy, operations, and product. The company’s national footprint is not only the result of the hard work of the founding team, but a powerful step in the right direction in giving Asian flavors the prevalence they deserve, both in and outside of urban markets. As of August 9, Omsom can be purchased direct to consumer and at 650 retailers across 45 states, including 490 Whole Foods stores.
Omsom is an Asian pantry staple brand that makes cooking real Asian dishes with uncompromised flavors and hard-to-find ingredients possible in any home kitchen. Each of their rip-and-pour starter packets includes all the specialty sauces, aromatics, citruses, and oils that are the foundation of Asian dishes. In addition to their chef-driven dish starters, Omsom has also released flavors in partnership with Disney in celebration of Raya and the Last Dragon, Pepper Teigen to destigmatize MSG (monosodium glutamate) and debunk the harmful stereotypes associated with the ingredient, and Instant Pot to help make Asian flavors even more accessible through an appliance that holds a place in American homes. Omsom is a recipient of The Kitchn’s 2021 Kitchen Essentials Grocery award, NOSH Best of 2020 award for both “Best New Product'' and “Best Packaging Design,” and Fast Company’s Smooth Moves award, recognized as the top “small business powering the future of retail.”
About Vanessa Pham, CEO and Co-Founder of Omsom
Vanessa is the CEO and co-founder of Omsom, the daughter of Vietnamese refugees, and a Bain & Company and Harvard alum. At Bain & Company, she advised Fortune 500 CPGs on their growth and retail strategy as a management consultant. Outside of Omsom, Vanessa speaks on entrepreneurship and heart-forward leadership at organizations like General Mills and Pepsi, mentors BIPOC founders, and finds joy in cooking all things fermented, caramelized, and braised. She has been recognized as Forbes 30 Under 30 and Create & Cultivate 100. @vanessatpham, @omsom
About Kim Pham, Co-Founder of Omsom
Kim is a co-founder of Omsom and a longtime human of the Internet. She has been building community in early-stage startups and venture capital since she was 16. Kim graduated from New York University, where she was the first female president of Tech@NYU and founding partner of Dorm Room Fund NYC. Prior to co-founding Omsom, Kim was most recently Head of Platform at Frontline Ventures in London, where she was named one of Forbes’ 30 Under 30 in 2017. When she’s not over-using garlic in recipes or biking around Brooklyn, you can find Kim thinking about the reclamation of Asian cuisines + stories, sex positivity in modern society, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.