How Shan Masala Spiced Up Diaspora Tables

Despite competition and import bans, the Pakistani venture built a global, $250 million business whose fans swear by its innovative spice blends.

Patel Bros 23
Shan Masala at Patel Brothers (Trisha Gopal for The Juggernaut)

Mehr Singh


May 17, 2023


10 min

On December 28, 2020, as pandemic-addled netizens swiped through Instagram, they noticed a story from supermodel Gigi Hadid. Hadid, famed for gracing Vogue covers and chowing down cheeseburgers on late-night TV, had shared an image of an immaculate spice cabinet with stacked glass jars labeled in neon pink in Hadid’s cursive handwriting of everything from “turmeric/haldi” to “garam masala.”

“lol I was a psycho pregnant person,” Hadid wrote, insinuating her love of organization while pregnant with her daughter, whom she shares with British Pakistani singer Zayn Malik. South Asian Twitter collectively gleamed with pride. While Hadid’s seasoning prowess was perceptible, something else in the corner of the frame drew attention as well: the unmistakable edge of a box of Shan seekh kabab masala. Within hours, #GigiGotShan began trending on Twitter. “Welcome to the club, Gigi! #GigiHasShan” declared one user. Hadid was officially welcome to the khandaan.

Shan Foods, the once mom-and-pop operation, is now a reliable standby of subcontinental kitchens. Despite multiple bans, jingoism, and an influx of alternatives, the masala company, valued at a quarter of a billion dollars, continues to occupy a prime spot in not only grocery aisles, but also South Asian diaspora hearts.

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