Afet Ahmadova

EY World Entrepreneur Of The Year™ Class of 2022, Azerbaijan
Afet Ahmadova, Owner and Director of ZIRA Natural & Gourmet

Afet Ahmadova is creating a high-quality local food industry, one orchard at a time.

In response to a profound lack of locally sourced, high-quality food products in Azerbaijan, Afet Ahmadova launched ZIRA Natural & Gourmet in 2015, buying fresh, chemical-free produce from small farmers. ZIRA now produces the country's first premium line of jams, sauces and vegetable antipasti. 

Being a fresh-market pioneer didn’t come easy. Not only were foreign buyers skeptical about the quality of food from Azerbaijan, but domestic grocers were also reluctant to make room on their shelves. It took three years of perseverance to win them over. “Once the public tried the products, we earned our right to exist and grow in the local market,” Afet recalls. Exports picked up, and customers as far away as Japan now enjoy traditional Azerbaijani recipes.  

ZIRA has expanded its offering to 30 products including baby purees, and supplies jams to an organic yogurt maker. Thanks to its robust supply chain, sales doubled during the pandemic. Next, Afet plans to install mobile production units directly into fields and orchards without refrigerated facilities to avoid food wastage and support local farmers.  

Afet’s commitment to improving the lives of others around her is reflected within the company. She hires women above 40 with no work experience, giving them new skills and confidence. Ultimately, she wants entrepreneurs to join her in building a strong, internationally recognized food industry that will diversify the economy and benefit the entire country.   

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