2023 Leadership award winner for Emerging Leader

David Schmunk

African Dream Foods
Emerging Leader

African foods and flavors are being discovered throughout the U.S. But not fast enough for David Schmunk, founder and managing director of African Dream Foods, which is bringing the flavors of Africa to U.S. consumers while supporting wildlife preservation on the African continent.

“African food is underrepresented,” says Schmunk, 39. “When people think of Africa, they see beads, figurines, maybe fabrics. Yet there is so much more to that diverse continent.”

Schmunk’s food journey is unusual. He worked in the oil fields and electronic medical records after graduating from Oklahoma State in 2006 with a marketing degree. He then built a career in motorcycle parts distribution.  But Schmunk wanted to make a change—and a difference. He traveled the world, visiting cities and food shows. He spent time in South Africa and became enchanted by its cuisine, especially the spices and sauces. “I wanted to create a new category and bring those flavors to U.S. consumers,” he says.

The Wildlife Connection

He studied wildlife throughout his travels. “Wildlife affects the planet but it does not receive the same publicity or funding as climate change or water resources. It is an issue to which African Dream Foods can make a contribution.

“Africa has the greatest diversity of wildlife in the world and the animals are suffering. There has been a 70 percent decline in the number of giraffes in the wild over the past few decades.”

African Dream Foods donates 10 cents per bottle sold and 40 cents per gift pack to two organizations—Paws Trail Explorers and Wild Shots Outreach. Paw Trails Explorers is a global union of people who photograph and share the voice of the vanishing species. Wild Shots Outreach’s aim is to engage young people from disadvantaged communities in wildlife and wild places through photography. Both organizations focus on wildlife and the challenges faced by local communities.

African Dream Foods launched in 2021 and offers eight sauces, including Peri Peri Sauce and Ghost Pepper Sauce. The company also offers seasoning and salt blends, such as Safari Smoke Seasoning. All products are manufactured by a 150-person company in Africa with local produce. Finished product is then shipped to the U.S. Wildlife photos on the labels make the products “stand out on the shelf,” says Schmunk.

Sales are coming along. The product is carried in more than 100 zoo gift shops, such as the Los Angeles Zoo, Pittsburgh Zoo, and Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, which increases visibility among those interested in wildlife and aligns with the company’s mission. African Dream Products are also sold in hot sauce and spice retailers across the country. Approximately 200 retailers carry the brand.

The goal is to go mainstream. “We would like to be in 3,000 stores in three years, including chain supermarkets such as Ralph’s and Publix,” says Schmunk. “And we plan to expand the line to include coffees, oils, and other African products.

“The more we sell, the bigger impact we can make.”