Anila Vaghela

Anila Vaghela, founder of Anila's Authentic Sauces

Curry queen reaches new heights

Entrepreneur Anila Vaghela has been dubbed the ‘curry sauce queen’ after growing her curry sauce brand she launched 25 years ago into an international business…

Anila Vaghela, founder of Anila’s Authentic Sauces, has served an amazing 2,168,000 meals through her range of eight curry sauces since her first sale at a fair in Weybridge, Surrey in the Spring of 1992.

On top of this, she has also provided more than three million servings of chutneys and pickles from her range of 16 accompaniments, which she sells through her own website and through stockists including the likes of John Lewis and Harrods.

“These figures are quite staggering and it seems an enormous amount of cooking, but we’ve thoroughly enjoyed producing curry sauces over the years and giving others the opportunity to create authentic meals easily,” Anila said.

“We’ve come a long way from our very first fair and now supply food halls, health food stores, garden centres and farm shops, including Harrods, John Lewis and Chatsworth.

“We also export internationally to France, Ireland, Hong Kong and Portugal, sell online and attend local farmers’ markets in the South East and food shows around the country.

“When I first had the idea to create the curry sauces, Indian food wasn’t as popular as it is today and I was one of the pioneering artisan producers making Indian cooking sauces using traditional family recipes.

“That’s very much the philosophy that we have stuck to over the past 25 years – creating tasty, healthy, curry sauces in small batches using only fresh ingredients.”

Growing up as the eldest child and grandchild in the family, Anila learnt to cook alongside her mother, grandmother and great grandmother in Zimbabwe where she was born.

Years later, as a busy mum living in Walton-on-Thames in Surrey, Anila started to make small batches of curry sauces for convenience. 

She then began selling jars of curry sauce on a very small scale in her local community, and at her first fair in Weybridge in 1992 all 80 jars were snapped up.

In 1997, at the age of 40, she was made redundant from her job as a PA and opted to launch Anila’s Authentic Sauces as a full-time business.

Initially working from her home kitchen producing four varieties of curry sauces, she later began production from a catering kitchen in Surbiton before relocating to a unit in Hounslow, with husband Dan, who left his job to join the business. She gradually increased the range and now has eight curry sauces and sixteen pickles and chutneys.

“Over the years, we have kept our promise and vision of making authentic products just as “Mum makes.” We frequently meet people who bought our products 25 years ago who are loyal to this day. 

“We have been overwhelmed by compliments and still receive great comments every week which give us the enthusiasm to continue to serve our customers,” said Anila who also runs Vegetarian Indian cookery classes.

Anila’s has also won numerous Great Taste Awards, including the Best Speciality Award for the South East and FREE-FROM Food Awards. And as well as being popular with connoisseurs of Indian food Anila’s sauces are also suitable for vegetarians, vegans and coeliacs.

They are sugar, dairy and gluten free, and contain no onion or garlic, as well as being free from artificial colours, additives and preservatives – making them popular with those on FODMAP friendly and Paleo friendly diets.

This has helped Anila capitalise on the booming free-from sector, almost by accident. Anila added: “From day one, Anila’s products have been free-from sugar, dairy, gluten, onion and garlic, as well as being suitable for vegans – that’s just how we make them. We didn’t know this sector would grow to be so big. It’s a happy coincidence.

“When we redesigned our labels, we made more of this fact, so that people who are intolerant to certain ingredients, or who choose to avoid them for other reasons, realise that our products are suitable for them.

“Many people mistakenly believe that curry sauces need to contain onions and garlic, for example, but that’s simply not the case, as our authentic sauces show. Curry lovers who are intolerant or allergic to alliums like onion and garlic, or who prefer to avoid alliums for other reasons, such as the smell or due to religious beliefs, are delighted when they discover our range.”

So, what does Anila put the company’s success down to? She concludes: “Because the sauces are so authentic and clean tasting, the flavours of the meat, fish or vegetables that are added to the sauces really come through. There’s no onion or garlic to overpower – just fresh ingredients and a great combination of spices.

“We have customers who have bought Anila’s products for years – from stores we supply, the farmers’ markets we visit or online via our website. We have several ex-pat customers who love our curry sauces so much that they order them online and we ship them over to them.

"Our customers are loyal and love the authenticity of Anila’s products.”

Anila’s top tips for entrepreneurs:

  • It’s hard work so you need to be passionate about what you do.
  • Believe in your products or services – it will make it so much easier to sell.
  • Carve out your path. Look ahead to where you are going and continue the journey.