2015 Leadership award winner for Business Leadership

Adnan Durrani

Saffron Road
Business Leadership

Adnan Durrani started out on Wall Street as an investment banker. “The dark side,” he jokes. But after turning his attention to the food world, he has made his mark.


While in finance in the 1980s, Durrani was disturbed by the corruption he saw and wanted to find a different way to live and contribute to society. He started by helping to launch a green-oriented spring water company, Vermont Pure, and went on to become a partner of Gary Hirshberg’s at Stonyfield Farm in the early 1990s. “He called me ‘the suit,’” Durrani recalls. “We shared the same values, but I did not look like a hippie.”

Witnessing the World Trade Center towers fall on September 11, 2001, horrified him, not only because he once worked there but because men from his own Muslim faith were responsible. He was upset by how his religion came under increasing attack and wanted to get out the word that the vast majority of Muslims in America abhorred terrorism.

“I’d fought for the environment and social causes and built up social responsibility in the food business, but not done anything in the halal category,” Durrani says. “I knew there was an opportunity to use food as an instrument to bring about understanding.”

A savvy businessman, he crunched the numbers. More than
7 million Muslims live in the U.S., many of them highly educated (1 out of 5 has a Ph.D., he says). With virtually no high-end, ready-to-eat, organic halal-certified food on the market in 2009, it was an untapped demographic. The frozen foods category was especially deficient, he notes.

American Halal Co. and its packaged food brand, Saffron Road, launched in 2010, and from day one Durrani aimed to appeal to educated consumers who sought healthy, organic world cuisines. In addition to being halal, the brand incorporates other ethical consumerism practices: ingredients are sustainably farmed, antibiotic free, and vegetarian fed.


Today the Saffron Road brand is carried in 10,000 stores across the country, with shelf-stable products like artisan-grade broths and Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce as well as frozen meals like Manchurian Dumplings with basmati rice, Moroccan Lamb Stew, and Thai Basil Chili Tofu.

Durrani, 54, says he has seen Saffron Road reach a much broader audience than just the Muslim community. The brand has grown in triple digits every year—more than 200 percent annually for the past three years. “Our food is inclusive, not exclusive,” he asserts. “Because we source our meat from family farms, not factory farms, many people who share these values come on the journey with us and enjoy our products. Rabbis have advocated for us and evangelical Christian bloggers have said, ‘Your values are my values.’”

The Future

Saffron Road recently launched a Korean line of frozen entrees—Beef Bulgogi, Bibimbop with Tofu—and a new Mexican line is in the works. “We partner with high-end, epicurean chefs to develop our recipes so there is authenticity, and we’re off the charts in terms of quality,” Durrani says.

So far, everything the entrepreneur has touched is gold. “Not a single loser,” he says of the companies he’s helped launch. “If you’re in tech or media and not up to speed, you’re basically roadkill after six months. But in the food business you can course-correct and turn things around, have staying power.”