Popped water lily seeds have been used for more than 5,000 years as part of Ayurvedic medicine, the holistic health care system still practiced in India. Priyal Bhartia grew up snacking on them, and when she returned to India to visit her family, she rediscovered the delicious treat. She had been living in Dubai and so took the popped seeds back to share with her friend, Nadine Habayeb. Nadine enjoyed them so much that she was distressed when she was heading back to the US to finish an MBA—there were no popped water lily seeds in the US! She and Priyal saw a wide open market and started their company, Bohana: botanical + makhana, the Hindi word for the seeds.
Since Priyal’s family was involved in the supply chain side of the tea industry, she had great agricultural connections in India and established a direct partnership with farmers in Bihar. She and Nadine wanted to cut out the middle man so that they could keep control of the quality of the seeds and the sustainability of the harvesting. They also ensure that the farmers are paid fairly.
After the seeds are hand-picked, they are roasted and packaged in the US. When roasted, the pea-sized seeds pop open to reveal a fluffy white interior speckled with the former seed coat about the size of a large blueberry and with a satisfying crunch that rivals popcorn and potato chips. The popped seeds are then seasoned with various spices. Bohana popped water lily seeds come in three flavors: Himalayan Pink Salt, Wild White Cheddar and Soulful Spice.
The popped seeds are all natural, paleo-friendly, rich in antioxidants, fiber and kaempferol, a flavonoid that has both anti-aging and anti-inflammatory properties. The seeds contain more essential amino acids than fish, soybeans, rice and wheat and 50% more protein than popcorn while being lower in calories and fat. Also, they are free of the eight most frequent allergens, grain, corn and gluten.
Nadine and Priyal are a great team and a highly accomplished one. Nadine, CEO, has an MBA from Babson College, a BS in Hospitality and Communications from Rochester Institute of Technology and a BS in Nutrition and Hospitality from University of Technology in Sydney, Australia. Her experience has been in marketing and branding as head of marketing in the Middle East for Yves Saint Laurent and as an executive for LVMH (Louis Vuitton). Priyal, COO, graduated with a double major, Economics and Communication, from the University of Pennsylvania. She has worked as a consultant in economic development and data analysis, including for Estee Lauder. She then worked in the agricultural sector for her family’s business and launched tea brands in the Indian market.
Bohana was selected as one of the first 10 startups for PepsiCo’s accelerator program, Nutrition Greenhouse, during which Nadine and Priyal received financial support and mentoring.
Bohana was named as one of the hottest foods for 2019 by Whole Foods, which was echoed by Newsweek. Jenna Bush Hager on the Today with Hoda and Jenna raved about it, and Dr. Ordon and Dr. Landry both proclaimed themselves big fans on The Doctors.