A hard shell taco with yellow cheese and sour cream: Call it Tex-Mex or Cal-Mex, but it’s not authentic Mexican. And it’s not the kind of freshly prepared, richly flavored foods that Kind founder Daniel Lubetzky, who was born in Mexico City, or his former colleagues Miguel Leal and Rodrigo Zuloaga ate growing up in Mexico.
Changing this American perception of Mexican food is the trio's goal with Somos, their new line of meal kits, sides, salsas and chips.
Leal, the former CMO at Kind and now CEO of Somos, described the brand as an "homage to the traditional way of eating Mexican food." And like the better-for-you, clean-label snack bars that made Kind famous, Somos tries to elevate the importance of quality, simple ingredients that are gluten free and non-GMO.
"A lot of these Americanized versions … are all highly processed, they have preservatives. Some of them even have artificial colors,” Leal said. “We want to celebrate ingredients in exactly the same way that my mom used to cook for us when I was growing up.”
The three friends began developing Somos during the pandemic. Zuloaga, who comes from a family of chefs, formulated the various entrees and sides and sent them to Leal and Lubetzky to prepare at home.
The line features entrees like smoky sliced mushrooms in a chipotle adobo sauce of roasted tomatoes, onion, garlic and ground bay leaves. A tinga — a traditional dish typically made with shredded chicken — instead features fire-roasted cauliflower in a sauce made with tomatoes, chipotle peppers and onions. And the line includes two varieties of “pea-cadillo” — a yellow pea-based version of the traditional Mexican dish picadillo, which is a popular taco filling.
Keeping the products plant-based was important to Somos, to keep a connection to Mexican culinary tradition.
“If I go way back into Mexico's history ... we didn't really have in our culture animal-based proteins until the Spaniards came into the country and they brought it with them," Leal said. Somos also taps into the health halo that plant-based foods have for many consumers.
The entrees and sides — which include Mexican brown rice and cilantro lime white rice, black beans and refried beans — are packaged in 9- to 10-ounce pouches that can be heated up in the microwave in 90 seconds.
Leal said launching Somos as a meal kit with a variety of entrees and staples provides a framework for consumers to try different combinations in meals such as tacos, tostadas or breakfast options like chilaquiles. Somos has instructional videos online that show how to prepare different meals. The entrees can serve a family of four in under 10 minutes, Leal said.
The pouch packaging is popular in Mexico for its convenience, he noted. “But the other thing that we really like is we saw a lot of Mexican food in the U.S. comes in cans,” he said. “This was healthier and a more elegant way of also elevating the food.”
Somos is first launching in beta online with “Unusually Thick & Crunchy” tortilla chips that contain stone-ground corn flour, non-GMO vegetable oil, sea salt and rosemary extract. As an accompaniment, there are four salsas, including roasted tomatillo jalapeño and pasilla pepper varieties, another with a mix of four chiles — catarina, ancho, serrano and chile de arbol — and a smoky chipotle red salsa.
The meal kits will debut online in January, with products rolling out at retail that same month and in February.
Somos means “we are” in Spanish. The team picked the name for different reasons, including the fact that it is pronounced the same way in English and in Spanish, and “it's also a beautiful word to write,” Leal said.
They also wanted a brand that created a sense of community. The product line is produced in Mexico, with most ingredients sourced from family-owned farms there. Leal noted that Somos plans to provide a platform for Mexican artists, musicians and social entrepreneurs to assist with its branding and to create content.
Ultimately, Leal said that he, Lubetzky and Zuloaga want Somos to bring people together through food.
“We think that as a culture we have a lot more in common than we have apart," he said. "And we want the name to reflect that."
Clarification: This story was updated with details of Somos' initial product launch.