Napa Valley - Sepoli Submission
Updated: Sep 14, 2022
Napa Valley Inspires Local Mom to Bring Her Mediterranean Heritage to the Table with a Delicious and Nutritious Date and Tahini Spread
Mother, endurance athlete, and hospitality professional turned food entrepreneur, Sezin Kutlu was inspired to launch her new venture, Sepoli, while riding her bike through the lush vineyards of Napa Valley and recalling the sweet and savory grape molasses she enjoyed for breakfast each morning as a child growing up in Turkey. Her introductory product, Datehini, was then formulated as a solution to her personal endurance athletic training goals, and as a way to introduce her young daughter to tasty, yet nutritious options to chocolate and other sugary spreads and snacks.
Known among her family and friends as a food “mixologist,” Kutlu took her culinary skills to the next level, creating her signature mix of organic dates and tahini. Datehini launched in October 2021, and has since become a fast-growing national brand, enjoyed by busy professionals, parents, and athletes looking for quick, simple, and delicious ways to include the many nutritional benefits of dates and tahini in their diets.
Once inspired to launch Sepoli, Kutlu began by searching the shelves of many regional stores to find ingredients, but could not find anything like the pure grape molasses that her mother made when she was a child. She then sourced ingredients, specifically organic medjool dates from Coachella Valley and organic sesame tahini from Ethiopia, and began what ended up being eight months of research and development until she achieved the perfect blend of dates and tahini to create a delicious sweet and savory spread.
“My taste testers were my American born and raised friends who had never heard of this combination,” said Kutlu. “Many of these friends are notable chefs and well-travelled foodies, so to get the thumbs up from them was a big win. Ultimately, my goal is to influence healthy eating by introducing a traditional food from my culture.”
Wanting to also create a product that would be pleasing to the tastebuds of young children, Kutlu’s six-year-old daughter, Alisa, played a significant role in the research and development phase.
“My daughter is a very picky eater, as are most young children, and I was concerned about her growing desire for sugary spreads and other snacks,” said Kutlu. “Being a busy working mom, I wanted to create a product that is quick and easy to use. Alisa was one of my toughest tasting gurus and when she gave it her approval, that’s when I went to market. Now as I develop new flavors, such as vanilla and cinnamon, she continues to be a part of the R and D process.”
Kutlu notes that her biggest business challenge to date has been the lack of knowledge in the U.S. about tahini, such as what it’s made of and its many health benefits. Datehini’s combination of tahini and dates is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B6, potassium, magnesium, zinc, calcium and other antioxidants. It’s also safe for those with nut allergies and has been quickly recognized by athletes as a good source of energy.
Because the spread is unique to consumer palates in the United States, Kutlu has focused much of the company’s marketing initiatives on recipe development and education around the many health benefits of dates and tahini.
“It’s a quick, no-fuss way to add a healthy, sweet and savory ingredient to almost anything you eat,” explains Kutlu. “Some of my top tips for incorporating Datehini into your diet, include as a spread on toast, crepes or pancakes; as a topping for sandwiches and as a replacement for peanut butter and jelly; as a natural sugar-free sweetener for oatmeal, smoothies, sauces and dressings; as a dip for fruits and vegetables and an accompaniment to cheese boards; and as an ingredient in baked desserts.”
Datehini is sold in 12-ounce jars for $13.50. This month, the brand will launch 8-ounce jars for $9.50.
The company is currently focused on developing additional Datehini flavors and recipes. As it continues to grow, the Sepoli brand will maintain its focus on creating organic, healthy, and Mediterranean-influenced food products. Kutlu is also dedicated to giving back and has a strong commitment to supporting nonprofit organizations that help those affected by hunger and food insecurity. Sepoli has a dedicated product donation initiative for qualifying organizations.
Locally, you can find Datehini at gourmet and specialty stores throughout Napa, including Browns Valley Market, Contimo Provisions and Jeffries General. The brand is also available on Amazon and at www.sepoli.com