Jackie Zitelman Horvitz, Amy Zitelman and Shelby Zitelman are co-founders of Soom Foods, a Philadelphia-based tahini company. Jackie Zitelman Horvitz, Amy Zitelman and Shelby Zitelman are co-founders of Soom Foods, a Philadelphia-based tahini company. Jackie Zitelman Horvitz, Amy Zitelman and Shelby Zitelman are co-founders of Soom Foods, a Philadelphia-based tahini company. (Photo: Zoom Foods)

Soom, makers of wildly popular tahini, graces Forbes' 30 Under 30 list

3 Philly sisters turned a popular Israeli spread into a career. And it's paying off in spades.

You can't spell SUCCEED without SEED.

While that may sound like a cheesy cliche coined at a business seminar, it's actually quite accurate when you consider the resounding success of Shelby, Amy and Jackie Zitelman, the sisters who founded Soom.

Jacqui, Shelby and Amy Zitelman, the 'Soom Sisters,' sampling their wares at Haven's Kitchen, in New York City. (Photo: From The Grapevine) Jacqui, Shelby and Amy Zitelman, the 'Soom Sisters,' sampling their wares at Haven's Kitchen, in New York City. (Photo: From The Grapevine)

The company, in only its fourth year, is the largest maker of premium tahini in the U.S. And it's led the three Philadelphia-born sisters to a spot in one of the most prestigious rankings to which a young professional in this country can aspire: the Forbes 30 Under 30 list.

The list celebrates young up-and-comers who represent the future of leadership and innovation. And for a company that really only does one thing – grinds up sesame seeds and bottles up the result – this is no small feat.

Tehina, or tahini, is a sesame-based paste. Tehina, or tahini, is a sesame-based paste. (Photo: bozulek / Shutterstock)

The Zitelmans' sesame-based product line really took off after James Beard Award-winning chef Michael Solomonov, of Zahav and Dizengoff fame, began making his signature hummus with Soom tahini. It was the Zitelmans' first big client, but far from their last. Restaurants sweetgreen, Superiority Burger and Turkey and the Wolf now all use Soom tahini as an ingredient in their dishes.

Zahav's world famous hummus dish. Zahav's world-famous hummus. (Photo: Zahav / Facebook)

The sisters' quest for sesame success was hatched essentially by accident. The eldest, Jackie, moved to Israel after college and met and married Omri, who works in the sesame seed industry. (Yes, there is one of those.) Omri instilled an appreciation for tahini in the sisters' palettes, inspiring them to turn it into a business.


"We started doing the market research and we realized that tahini wasn't really a thing yet in the [U.S.]," Amy Zitelman recalled. "People kind of knew what it was – but it was mostly being used for hummus or salad dressing."

With tahini as a base, the women went to work concocting several products, including a chocolate spread that aimed to be more wholesome and tasty than Nutella and can be spread on cookies and toast. They called it chocolate sesame butter, and it was one of their bestsellers.

Soom Foods chocolate tahini Soom's Chocolate Tahini spread gives Nutella a run for the money. (Photo: Soom)

Indeed, the Soom sisters are credited with helping to turn on Americans to tahini. Now, it's an ingredient in all manner of foods, from cakes to cookies to salad dressings to popsicles.

Tahini Carrot Cake Soom's website includes recipes for all sorts of delicious tahini-based goodies, like this carrot cake. (Photo: Soom)

Nomi Zysblat's paletas use ingredients ranging from halva and tahini to arak and avocado. These popsicles use ingredients ranging from halva and tahini to arak and avocado. (Photo: Assaf Dudai)

A stack of Tahini cookies. A stack of Tahini cookies. (Photo: Alexsvirid/Shutterstock)

mint tahini Tahini with a little crushed, dried mint in it helps the traditional dressing of olive oil and lemon juice to pull all the elements together. (Photo: Miriam Kresh)

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