September 21, 2023

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How Asian American food brand Omsom is becoming a grocery store mainstay

Omsom has disrupted the food and beverage industry at large, too. When the diet plan Whole30 added monosodium glutamate (MSG) to the ingredients allowed within the program, it cited Omsom as a reason why. This happened after Omsom partnered with Pepper Teigen, the mother of model Chrissy Teigen who has her own cookbook, on a product with MSG. Omsom has achieved all this with only eight full-time employees including the two co-founders.

Below, how the co-founders burst onto the Asian-American food scene by playing hard and working harder. 

How it started

Kim and Vanessa Pham had been talking about starting a business together for years—one that was based on their shared experience growing up as the daughters of Vietnamese refugees. They began working on Omsom in 2018 with an emphasis on community building, according to the co-founders.

“Building a community in advance is just helpful from a product feedback perspective. And obviously, we also wanted to set our launch up for success,” Omsom co-founder Kim Pham said in an interview. 

“In the early days, when it was just the two of us … we literally would pop up at Asian American markets and events and expos and just serve our cooking sauces,” she said. But the strategy wasn’t just a way of checking if people liked the products that would become Omsom—it was part of “sneakily building up an email list,” Pham said.

“The deal was, you’d get a little bite for free as long as you left your email,” she continued. “That was a really wonderful way for us to get in front of our community, especially our OG evangelists.”

The sisters weren’t heading to any old farmers markets, however. They were popping up at “very specific” Asian American community building and networking events, such as Asian Hustle Network and The Cosmos. 

“We knew from the start that to build a brand like ours, we needed to have this ride-or-die OG community of Asian Americans who would advocate for our flavors,” Pham said. 

Also read: Top 5 food and beverage marketing ideas

By the time Omsom officially rolled out, initially as a DTC brand, it had “a very decent sized list of Asian Americans, largely” who were ready and waiting for the products. Pham did not provide details on the size of that list. 

That official rollout happened at an inopportune time in many ways: May 2020. It was not only a difficult time for the world from an economic and pandemic standpoint, but also a difficult time to be part of the Asian-American community, with hate crimes against Asian Americans rising. 

“We had mentors and investors tell us we should hold off [on the launch],” Kim Pham said. But the co-founders didn’t listen. They believed that, with everyone stuck at home and the Asian American community especially searching for a sense of connection and home, the timing of the rollout still made sense. The launch sold out in 72 hours, Pham said. 


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