How this entrepreneur is building ‘low-carb’ or keto alternative to Haldiram’s namkeens, Britannia biscuits, others

MSME success stories: Snacking in India is not just about home cooking, it is incorporated into the culture of the country through traditional namkeens, biscuits, desserts, breads and other items, with each state having its own variety, recipes and tastes. think of fada in Gujarat and the place in Maharashtra to Litti Chokha in Bihar. In recent years, packaged healthy snacks like energy bars, cold-pressed juices, ragi chips and more have tried to replace savory and sweet products like aloo bhujia, milk biscuits, murukku, banana chips, mathris, pakoras, etc. But to get people to actually embrace healthy snacking, they don’t need to move away from what they’ve been eating for decades, but rather by reinterpreting their existing binge eating habits, according to Bengaluru-based Sudarshan Ganggrade, which owns the low-carb keto snack brand Lo operates! Food.

“You have to offer them what they prefer for their evening tea or coffee, but in a low-carb form. So essentially, I’m offering a keto version of what companies like Haldiram are offering in Namkeens, Britannia in biscuits, and ITC in wheat flour. This is because, according to nutritionists, many health issues are related to traditional snacking options,” Ganggrade told Financial Express Online.

Please refer! Foods, which currently employs over 100 people, is the second company Ganggrade launched in August 2019 in the health and fitness space. Previously, he ran a nutrition and fat loss consulting firm Leanscience for two years until around mid-2018, before realizing the greater opportunity to positively impact people’s health lay within a manufacturing company.

“I have always been interested in the health and fitness field. So I really understood the pain points of people trying to lose weight or struggling with chronic diseases like diabetes and heart problems. My goal was to help people reduce their carb intake, as a typical Indian plate is 70-85 percent carbs. I wanted to bring it down to 50 percent,” said Gangrate, who served as Ola’s vice president of marketing from 2014 to 2016. Reducing carbohydrate consumption among people was not possible by consulting them, so launching the Keto Snacks brand was the right way forward for him towards his goal.

Market size was another reason for Gangrade to jump into low-carb Indian keto snacks. According to him, Rs 30,000 crore is the market size for organized snacks in India while unorganized could be ten times that. Within the organized portion, 8,000-10,000 rupees was allocated to the mix market and 5,000-6,000 rupees to bhujia.

Please refer! Grocery is divided into two branches – packaged and cloud kitchens. Under Packaged Foods, the Company sources raw material through distributors spread across Mandis in India to produce Keto Atta, Bhujia, Mixtures, Cookies, Desserts, Breads etc. at its Bengaluru facility. For example, raw materials in Atta, which is the company’s best-selling product after Namkeens, include sunflower seeds, flaxseed, melon and pumpkin seeds, defatted soy and coconut flour, etc. The amount of carbohydrates in a 20g serving size is the company’s extremely low-carb Keto Atta is 3g compared to about 14.5g in the traditional 20g wholemeal flour.

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On the other hand, under the cloud kitchen model, Lo! Foods operates 18 cloud kitchens in Bengaluru, Delhi, Gurugram and Hyderabad to sell keto meals through food delivery platforms like Swiggy and Zomato. Ganggrade said the company is also supplying Keto-Atta to around 12 restaurants or hotels in India to boost their keto menus such as Via Milano in Bengaluru, Hyatt Place in Hyderabad and Sheraton Grand Bangalore.

“We are by far the Amazon’s Choice brand for keto atta and keto snacks and the largest keto cloud kitchen network among 40-50 players in the keto space in India,” Ganggrade said. The Keto Kitchen and FitMirchi based in Gurugram, Dee’s Keto and Food Darzee in Mumbai, Keto Kadai in Chennai, Parafit Delivers in Delhi NCR etc are some of the players offering keto meals. Please refer! Foods currently offers around 25 products that are tested in laboratories certified by the government’s National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL).

Serving the burgeoning Indian keto market for about a year and a half after launch, Gangrade also decided to expand overseas to target mature markets in February last year. “Keto is a $15-20 billion global market. In fact, the top 200 keto products on alone account for around $800 million in sales for the e-commerce company,” he added. Aside from the US, Lo! Foods expanded into the UK, Singapore and Dubai last year to serve markets in Europe, Southeast Asia and the Middle East.

Currently, the company gets 6-8 percent of its annual business from overseas, while the rest comes from e-commerce and cloud kitchens in India. In FY23, Ganggrade said the packaged food business is expected to grow 2-3 times, while the number of cloud kitchens in a total of eight cities will increase to about 35. The company had recently launched an online meal subscription model and would soon launch a new range of products for diabetics. Please refer! Foods last raised $1 million in April 2016, led by Chona Family Office, former promoters of Havmor Ice Cream. As of August 2019, the company had raised $500,000 from angel investors including Venture Catalyst’s Anuj Golecha, Myntra co-founder Raveen Sastry, Mitesh Shah, CFO of BookMyShow, and others.

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