WATERLOO — Souheila Boukraa grew up in Tunisia and watched her mother make homemade spreads from pomegranates, almonds, strawberries and other produce grown on the family farm.
Healthy, tasty food was a must in her family, and when she arrived in Canada in 1989, she missed the freshness that was available at home.
When Boukraa’s first three children were young, she began making her mother’s spread recipes to recreate the taste of home.
“This was something I was so used to growing up and I wanted my children to have the same experience as me,” said Boukraa, who lives in Waterloo.
The company name, Mama Susu’s, pays homage to both Boukraa’s nickname, Susu, and the importance of her role as a mother of five children.
One of Boukraa’s daughters, Meriem Mahrez, said her mother’s mission to make healthy home-cooked meals was something she’s been doing for as long as she can remember: She started making jams and spreads for them in the mid-1990s.
“My mom always made her sauces and bought the highest quality foods for us because she knew the importance of whole, organic foods for our health,” said Mahrez. “Making sure we had a healthy breakfast to start the day, she would make us some types of spreads, like organic strawberry jam.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Boukraa realized that more people than ever before, including herself, were investing in their health to avoid illness.
The family team liked the idea of being able to have their own business.
So Boukraa decided to test the market by selling his homemade spreads to family friends. His spreads took off, and before Boukraa knew it, more and more people were ordering.
“With many layoffs during the COVID-19 pandemic, (my mom and I) realized that it was important to create a source of income that is entirely our own while doing what we love most, which is promoting health and wellness,” Mahrez said. .
A fan favorite is their ‘Chocohaze’ spread, a healthier alternative to Nutella made with Boukraa-roasted hazelnuts, organic cocoa powder and organic honey cream.
“People have come up to me and told me that they not only use our products as spreads, but also as ingredients in smoothies, which shows that our products can be used in many different ways,” said Boukraa.
The early offline success of the business prompted Boukraa to launch it online on February 10, 2021, his mother’s birthday, which serves as an ode to the origins of the business.
“In the beginning, Meriem would help me take orders through Instagram messages, but it was becoming overwhelming due to the number of requests we were receiving on a daily basis,” said Boukraa. “After a couple of months we launched our website where people could order curbside pickup in Waterloo and we continue to sell out fast as we make our spreads in small batches.”
With her customer base quickly spreading the word outside of Waterloo, Mahrez and some of her siblings began bringing their mother’s spreads to emerging markets like Mississauga Square One Mall’s Christmas and Ramadan markets.
Within the next five years, Boukraa hopes to have its spreads available in local and independent supermarkets and for bakeries to use its spreads in their offerings.
“I think about having one of our delicious spreads like our caramel nut butter spread on a warm croissant at a bakery and savoring it,” Boukraa said.