It’s a tragic fact that hate crimes against Asian Americans continue to rise in the United States. These injustices are nothing new, but growing anti-Asian sentiment and media attention are shining a light on an issue that’s plagued the Asian American and Pacific Islander community for generations.
Countless crimes against Asian, like the shooting deaths of Asian spa workers in Georgia or the countless attacks on Asian elders, have prompted brands to raise money for the AAPI community. The COVID-19 pandemic already made it hard enough for brands to get by — for many AAPI-owned brands, racism is an everyday struggle when it comes to owning a brick-and-mortar store or online retailer. A report by UCLA’s Asian American Studies Center found that AAPI-owned businesses took a harder hit earlier in the pandemic as compared to other businesses because of “racialized blaming,” further perpetuated by racist terminologies in reference to COVID-19 coined by the former president.
By shopping AAPI-owned brands, consumers can help to dismantle the toxic “model minority” myth that perpetuates the idea of Asian Americans as being considered “others” and “foreign.” Buying things won’t cure xenophobia and racism, but there are brands that could use your support, and shopping from them will mean you get high-quality products while standing in solidarity with the AAPI community.
So in honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we rounded up over 20 brands that make home, food and drink products that you should know and support. These are just a handful of AAPI-owned brands out there, and we encourage you to find more and spread the word about shopping from such brands.
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A Good Used Book
A Good Used Book‘s name is pretty self explanatory — founders Jenny Yang and Chris Capizzi find, grade, clean and sell used books. While the founders couldn’t operate at their pop-up at Melrose Trading Post in West Hollywood because of the pandemic, they did move their operations to social media and online so they could continue to build relationships with their customers.
Bachan’s is a family-run business of Japanese barbecue sauces inspired by the condiment made by founder Justin Gill’s grandma (aka banchan), Judy Yokoyama. Enjoy the tangy, sweet and savory sauce as a topper or use it as a marinade to make it feel like banchan is cooking for you.
Anu Menon and Suyog Mody founded the coffee subscription brand Driftaway Coffee after leaving their corporate jobs to pursue a career in something they were actually passionate about. Go for the subscription to make sure you get excellent coffee to your door whenever you need it, or go a la carte to tailor your purchase to your taste preferences.
Erica Liu Williams founded Gr8nola with the intention to make granola less “granola.” The US Olympic Trials swimmer’s granolas are low in sugar, and made with superfood ingredients like matcha, turmeric, activated charcoal and ashwagandha. No matter which flavor you get, all are made with organic coconut oil, whole grain oats, coconut flakes and sunflower seeds.
Ken Tomita’s Grovemade is arguably one of the best desk accessories brands on the market. It’s like the Apple of desk organization. Look to the brand to keep your work essentials in order and you’ll fall in love with just how clean, simple and well-made everything is.
Makgeolli is an underrated beverage outside of the Korean community, and it deserves to have a bigger audience. Craft makgeolli brewery Hana Makgeolli is making the rice-based drink out of Brooklyn, and it’s like the perfect combination of beer, natural wine and sake.
Samantha Lee’s Hopewell Brewing, based out of Chicago, is making exceptional beers with no frills but lots of flavor. Head to its Logan Square taproom to drink what all the fuss is about.
Immi is instant ramen for healthy eaters. Founded by Kevin Lee and Kevin Chanthasiriphan, the instant ramen brand blurs the line between convenience and luxury offering restaurant-quality flavors like tom yum and black garlic without all the garbage ingredients (and a lot less sodium).
Hard seltzer didn’t need another brand in an already crowded category, but Lunar is, hands down, better than White Claw. Kevin Wong and Sean Ro make Lunar with Asian flavors like lychee and yuzu, which should really be in a lot more things by now considering how delicious they are.
Material Kitchen, co-founded by Eunice Byun, is a direct-to-consumer cookware brand (with a new tabletop line) that makes hard-working, long-lasting cook and prep tools that just so happens to look really good just sitting in your kitchen.
Jared Blake and Ed Be will forever be linked because of their love of vintage furniture. Blake sold Be a Herman Miller chair, which sparked the idea of Lichen, a Brooklyn-based used furniture store that equal parts store and local gathering spot.
20 Products You Can Buy to Support the Asian American and Pacific Islander Community
From a mug to all kinds of cool apparel, profits from these items go towards supporting Asian and Asian Americans.
Makgeolli is usually sold in large bottles, so Makku switched it up by going with cans. Carol Pak, Makku’s founder, keeps her makgeolli clean and simple without artificial ingredients or boatloads of sugar. Plus, fun flavors like mango make this a party pleaser.
Nguyen Coffee Supply
The eponymous founder of Nguyen Coffee Supply, Sahra Nguyen, is bringing Vietnamese coffee to the states through direct trade with Mr. Ton, a fourth-generation coffee farmer in Vietnam’s Central Highlands. The brand is redefining robusta coffee (arabica is the prized species of coffee for most), and bringing it to the attention of the specialty coffee community.
O-M, short for “object-matter,” is a Los Angeles-based design studio that focuses on minimal and contemporary styles. Carrie Lau is the brand’s founder, and her works are marked by playful designs, bright colors and bold shapes.
Sisters Vanessa and Kim Pham founded Omsom as a middle finger to the ethnic food aisles at the grocery store. The Phams make pre-made Asian sauces that don’t dumb down the flavor for western palates. Each packet of sauce is a faithful recreation of the flavors of specific Asian dishes.
Stationery doesn’t have to be boring, and Poketo certainly is not. Husband-and-wife duo Ted Vadakan and Angie Myung founded Poketo for the design-conscious, and the brand makes stationery you’ll actually want to use.
This picture of Ramen Hero is actually what you get in a packet of Ramen Hero. Yes, you get all the toppings and not just the noodles. Founder Hiro Hasegawa is making frozen ramen meal kits that actually taste like what you may find in Hasegawa’s native Tokyo. Shopping the website is like perusing a legit menu, so browse with an open stomach.
Jasleen and Tarush Agarwal, lifelong vegetarians, were inspired by their home country of India when they came up with Sach, a line of paneer, or firm, creamy cheeses, that can be eaten as a meal or a snack. They’re high-protein alternatives for those who don’t eat meat — think of it as an alternative for tofu, too.
Sandro Roco is making sparkling waters infused with the fruit flavors he knows and loves — like calamansi and mango — as a Filipino American. Sanzo is the drink you reach for when you’re done with soda and the seltzer aisle is looking a bit flat.
If you can’t make it to a nursery, The Sill brings the nursery to you. The online marketplace sells everything plant related from live and faux plants to soil and planters. Can’t pick a plant? Let founder Eliza Blank choose for you by going with The Sill’s Plant Parent set.
What you clean with is just as important as the cleaning itself. Founder Jenn Tsang founded Sqwishful to make planet-friendly home essentials like sponges and dish brushes that are free of plastic and protect the earth by being biodegradable, compostable and carbon saving.
Shop your grocery list from the comfort of your sofa with Umamicart, an online grocer that specializes in Asian products. Not sure what to buy? Umamicart makes it easy to shop its website whether or not you know what hoisin sauce is.
Soju, a popular distilled spirit in Korea, is dominated by a few big brands that seem to prioritize getting you drunk over offering a you a pleasant drinking experience. Carolyn Kim’s Yobo Soju is a stateside-crafted drink that puts all others to shame. It’s made in the New York Finger Lakes, and it cuts out the preservatives, additives and sugar that so often accompanies soju.
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