Prepared Food Brand Cafe Spice Opens 70,000-Square-Foot Facility in Beacon | Chronogram Magazine

Prepared Food Brand Cafe Spice Opens 70,000-Square-Foot Facility in Beacon

You might recognize Cafe Spice’s eye-catching packaging. You’ll find their Indian, Thai, and Mexican prepared meals in Price Chopper, Hannaford, Adams Fairacre farms, and at smaller local outfits such as the Hawthorne Valley Farm Store. If you’ve ever treated yourself to the hotbar at Whole Foods, you may well have had the Cafe Spice experience.

Founded in New York City in 2000, Cafe Spice is a nationwide food distributor that provides stores, whether they’re big chains or family-run corner shops, with original, ready-to-eat meals. Chicken Cashew Korma, Bombay Lentils and Spinach, and Saag Paneer are just a few examples of their dozens of products. They also produce white label goods—bulk foodstuffs that other retailers purchase then apply their packaging and branding to. But wherever you pick it up, before a Cafe Spice tikka masala or massaman curry lands in your hands, the ingredient gathering, cooking, and packaging first take place in the Hudson Valley, now at the newly opened 70,000-square-foot building at 511 Fishkill Avenue in Beacon.

click to enlarge Prepared Food Brand Cafe Spice Opens 70,000 Square Foot Facility in Beacon
Chutney chicken naan toastie

Originally from Mumbai, India, Cafe Spice cofounder Sushil Malhotra originally moved to New York City in 1966 to pursue engineering. However, in the 1970s he saw a gap in the market for Indian food in New York City and pivoted to the restaurant business. Starting out as a spice courier for local restaurants, he eventually went on to open the top-rated Indian restaurant in the city, Dawat.

Cafe Spice followed soon after as a brick-and-mortar restaurant in Manhattan (with locations in other cities), as well as an express location in Grand Central Station’s food court. Moving slowly away from fine-dining and in the direction of food supplying, Cafe Spice landed a huge distribution client when Whole Foods opened their Manhattan flagship store in 2003.

click to enlarge Prepared Food Brand Cafe Spice Opens 70,000 Square Foot Facility in Beacon
Father-son and Cafe Spice cofounders Sameer and Sushil Malhotra

Cafe Spice has had a 50,000-square-foot facility in New Windsor since 2008, and although the company’s story begins in New York City, the Hudson Valley, with the addition of the new Beacon facility, has become a newfound home, accommodating Cafe Spice’s staggering growth. “We love the Hudson Valley. We love the ingredients that are available to us,” says Sameer Malhotra, Sushil’s son and Cafe Spice’s CEO and cofounder.

Space Upgrade, Tech Upgrade

With the new space comes new technology. “There's a lot of automation,” said Malhotra. “When [our main production] was in New Windsor, our average batch size was 400 pounds, now we're looking at an average batch size of 2,000 pounds.”

Despite fancy tech and a growing curiosity in robotics and artificial intelligence, 160 human beings are employed by Cafe Spice. Malhotra is keen on retaining the human touch in their products to, as he put it, “give that extra love in our recipes.” The New Windsor location is still an integral part of the operation, where many of the handmade products are created.

click to enlarge Prepared Food Brand Cafe Spice Opens 70,000 Square Foot Facility in Beacon
The spacious new 70,000-square-foot Cafe Spice Facility in Beacon

Some of the employees have been with the company since 2008, and a few even from the New York City days. In the research and development of new products, workers are often encouraged to give their input. For example, this fall Cafe Spice is launching a Latin American foods brand under the name Cantina Latina, and wants to hear the input of its many Hispanic employees. “We're having everybody dig into their family recipes,” says Malhotra, keen on amplifying the singular joy that only home cooking can deliver.

From spice courier to owner of Zagat’s highest rated Indian restaurant in New York City to supplier to Whole Foods, Amazon Fresh, and an uncountable number of stores across the country, Sushil Malhotra, his son Sameer, and their family’s company bolster the oft-battered concept of the American dream.

“It's great that this is being built in the Hudson Valley by people in the Hudson Valley,” says Malhotra.