How A Box Of Cookies Can Transport You To A Different Country
by Theresa Christine Johnson on 03/12/2019 | 4 Minute Read
Travel and food are undeniably intertwined. You don’t need to be an avid watcher of Parts Unknown or Somebody Feed Phil to envision sipping hot, fragrant chai in India or indulging in a bite of creamy chocolate in Mexico. Eiman Behmanesh certainly could.
“I realized that travel and ethnic cuisine had become a substantial part of my and my friend’s lives,” he said. “Topics of conversation increasingly revolved around the next travel destination or ethnic dishes, and the idea of exploring a new country and learning about a different culture through food is what excited us most.”
Eiman felt like he could tap into this passion—one which seemed to resonate with many people in his generation—and in turn, Makabi & Sons was born.
The best way to describe the brand is through their own slogan: “Purveyors of Exotic Tastes.” Currently, they offer a line of cookies all inspired by far-flung destinations and the flavors you’ll encounter there. The treats are as close as you’ll get to a plane ticket in edible form.
“I looked to beverages that are traditionally consumed in these countries,” Eiman explained. The inspiration for the cookies starts with the flavors and the locations—Indian chai tea, Mexican spiced sipping chocolate, or Cuban mojito cocktails for example. Then comes the packaging design which is typically inspired by traditional works of art, vintage home furnishings, textile designs, or other handcrafted objects found in the area.
“I try to identify a symbol that is representative of the country or region that I’m hoping to communicate through the packaging,” Eiman added. This is one of the hardest parts of the process because the image must pique your interest without giving too much away, convincing consumers to go on a delicious journey.
“There’s so much riding on that one image, and if it’s not done right, I think it will fail to have its intended effect of making you a little intrigued," he added.
It also has to remain respectful to the culture and avoid cliches and stereotypes that tend to define certain ethnicities. “A Google search for something like ‘Mexican-themed icon’ would return images of sombreros, cactuses and tacos, which is what I do my best to stay away from,” Eiman mentioned.
“I try to dig deeper,” he added. “I research as much as I can about the location that I’m hoping to capture through imagery. Through this process, I find items that may be less-known but are more representative of the craftsmanship and artistic talents of the country’s natives.”
It’s a balancing act, something which “requires research and discovery on the part of the designer,” he said. In some cases, like with Mexico, he was able to avoid what may be considered obvious and discovered handwoven Zapotec rugs which ended up on the packaging. With Cuba, though, he opted for a cigar, which may seem like a stereotype—although it pulls from Eiman’s own experiences there and what he discovered as a traveler.
“I had been fortunate enough to visit Cuba and take a tour of its cigar and rum factories, and speak to its people to see the pride they take in their country’s largest export,” he explained. “In this instance, I felt that the image was in fact appropriate.
“With that said, I don’t exactly know if I’ll always get it right, but it’s important to spend the time, become a student of the region’s history and give it its due diligence. Ultimately, you need take a step back and ask yourself if you’re representing the culture in a beautiful way.”
The text is an added treat for the curious mind. “Each copy is intended to paint a picture of the destination, both past and present, and hopefully teach you something new,” Eiman mentioned. “The references are not particularly self-explanatory, so it’s up to the reader to explore further.”
Take what is written about the sandwich cookies inspired by Japan: “A remote teahouse sits solo along the banks of river Kamo. Inside, a ceremonious act transpires, and warmth gives rise to a state of Zen. A mode of being is discovered.”
Makabi & Sons doesn’t just want to bring the flavors of a place to consumers. “The combination of images, flavor names like Bombay, Habana, and Oxford, and the copy are the primary elements that I hope will transport people,” Eiman stated. But it’s not just about transporting consumers to a different place, which gives the packaging a bit more meaning. The boxes seem to set a tone that experience is more than a mere peek at a destination, but something deeper.
“I try with the packaging and brand at large to not only transport people through space but time as well,” he added. “The illustrations tend to have a vintage, old-world aesthetic which was done intentionally to take people away from the now.”