A state-of-the-art manufacturing plant in southwest Oklahoma City with the capacity to process 4,000 pounds of sesame seeds an hour is being touted as the world’s most advanced tahini factory and the largest in the U.S.
Seeds ‘n Snacks opened the 18,216-square-foot facility to the public Thursday for tours and a grand-opening celebration.
Tahini is a paste made from ground sesame seeds that is commonly used in Middle Eastern cuisine. Tahini is a key ingredient in hummus, but it also can be used on its own as a dip for vegetables or pita bread or as a base for sauces and dressings.
Seeds ‘n Snacks uses the “world’s most powerful grinder,” which creates an extremely creamy product. Because the company has a proprietary right to that equipment, it was not featured on the tour.
The factory has invested 10 times more in production equipment than any other tahini producer, according to a company spokeswoman, and to date has invested $10 million in the plant.
CEO Marcel Hage said planning for the factory started about two years ago.
“We noticed a major trend in the U.S. that more and more people are looking to eat healthier and focusing on certain foods and the nutrients of those foods,” Hage said, pointing out Mediterranean cuisine has been known for its satisfying taste and health benefits for years.
“Tahini manufacturing was the thing that we elected to start with,” he said, and Oklahoma is the place “we wanted to establish one of the most advanced tahini plants.”
“Today we are here because the state welcomed us,” he said. “Tomorrow we’re going to create more jobs. And the day after, hopefully, our research and development will let us team up with the local farmers and be able to expand our business and expand the local farmers’ business and create more opportunities.”
Mohamad Fakhran, chief operating officer, said Oklahoma and Texas both produce a lot of sesame seed. Currently the company imports its seeds.
The opportunity for a nearby local supply was one factor in the company choosing Oklahoma, along with its central location for distribution and its business-friendly climate, Fakhran said. “It made sense on all levels.”
State Sen. Michael Brooks-Jimenez, D-Oklahoma City, attended the grand opening and said, “I’m so excited to be able to see new businesses and – especially being an immigration attorney – seeing international businesses choose to locate in Oklahoma.”
Initially the factory is producing tahini for industrial suppliers to hummus manufacturers, Fakhran said. Next will be shipping to distributors that supply stores, especially ethnic stores, and restaurant chains. He noted that nearly every restaurant today features hummus as an appetizer.
Lastly, there will be the production of tahini and its byproducts like salad dressings and protein bars for retail sales in natural grocery stores and health stores, he said. The target for in-store sales is the third quarter of 2024.
“Tahini is extremely healthy,” Fakhran said. It can improve the nutritional content of many foods and is tasty in all types of sweets, he said.
“This plant has the largest capacity of producing tahini of anywhere in the U.S.,” Fakhran said. There currently are 11 employees but that number is expected to more than double in two years.
Seeds ‘n Snacks is the American sister company of an established family-owned brand, Rasagra, Turkey’s biggest producer and exporter of hulled sesame seed and tahini, according to a company news release.
“Our goal is to become a versatile, healthy staple in your kitchen and a go-to at the grocery store for international flavors,” the release stated.