I did not imagine I’d be building a hot sauce condiment company off of my multiple design degrees,” says Alyzeh Rizvi, who, until recently, was working full-time in the field she’d trained for. “But, you know, I enjoy challenges.” Peepal People emerged as a pandemic project—sparked in New York City, developed during a stint in Dallas, and brought to fruition in Atlanta, where Rizvi and her husband and coproprietor, Ahmer Zaidi, moved nearly two years ago. The degrees don’t hurt—the bottles are beautifully designed. But it’s what inside that counts.
Born in Pakistan, the pair were motivated by a distaste for the hot sauces available on the shelves around these parts—too vinegary, too much sodium. Their three funky, superfresh sauces, which can be purchased online, ferment slowly in a salt brine and are spiked with ingredients found in the cuisines of the subcontinent, like turmeric, pomegranate seed, and dried mango powder. Kashmiri peppers figure in the spiciest version, the ghost pepper–based Bhoot Bangla, or “haunted house”—whose smoky kick makes it a fabulous addition to Bloody Marys, Rizvi says. The names of the different products come from Urdu, which Rizvi says is a disappearing language she and Zaidi want to keep alive: “We wanted to pay homage to our mother tongue.” They decided to name the business, too, from an Urdu word referring to a South Asian tree otherwise known as the sacred fig—and to the nostalgia Rizvi and Zaidi have felt for family and friends back home. They became “attached to this idea,” Rizvi recalls. “We are the people of the peepal tree.”
This article appears in our April 2023 issue.