Sheetal Bahirat was a graduate student studying to become a food researcher at the prestigious Drexel University Food Lab when inspiration struck. On a day Bahirat will never forget, the assignment was simple enough. She was tasked with making guacamole for her class to study the textures and tastes of the classic Mexican dish.
But for Bahirat, it wasn’t what was on her classmates’ plates that caught her attention. It was what was left on the prep table when she was done.
“When I found out that raw avocado seeds can’t be composted, and that many actually ended up in landfills, I did my master’s thesis on the avocado seed to figure out what we can do with them in a more sustainable way,” Bahirat explains. “And that’s really what started this business.”
Bahirat connected with guacamole manufacturers for supplies of avocado seeds. Her team then developed a method to extract the antioxidants from the seeds and then even set up a system for composting the processed seeds at the end.
The result was Reveal, the first beverage line of Bahirat’s company, Hidden Gems. Bahirat describes it as somewhere between tea and kombucha — not too sweet and not too carbonated. Reveal comes in a variety of flavors, such as the newly created strawberry calamansi and jasmine yuzu, but there are characteristics that all the beverages share. They each have three times more antioxidants than green tea, and there’s just one gram of sugar per bottle. And each is made with just five — all natural — ingredients.
How does the avocado seed brew taste? “It’s not a flat road, but it is not a roller coaster. It’s like a nice drive,” Bahirat says. That metaphor could also describe the trajectory of her growing business.
Bahirat’s journey landed Reveal in more than 30 stores in the Philadelphia area, as well as the corporate headquarters of major Philadelphia corporations like Urban Outfitters and PECO. And like many good products with dynamic owners who are either BIPOC, identify as female, or — as in Bahirat’s case — both, Reveal eventually made its way to the Weavers Way Co-op vendor diversity initiative.
So for Bahirat, the most advantageous aspect of being a part of the vendor diversity initiative is the opportunity to sample her products with Weavers Way’s clientele at one of their many locations or at events set up solely for businesses in the initiative.
“I think the sampling is probably the most important part, especially when you’re launching a new product that never existed before,” Bahirat explains. “A lot of times stores don’t let you sample as much so you have to really ask for it. But Weavers Way has been really supportive that way.”
Bahirat envisions many more delectable and healthy creations derived from discarded food. “I feel like people would buy the product because it’s healthy and it tastes good,” Bahirat acknowledges before adding, “and then I think they would stay loyal to the product because it’s upcycled in a way that is good for the environment.”