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

Success Stories of MSMEs: Snacking in India is not just about comfort food, it is absorbed into the country culture through traditional namkeens, cookies, desserts, breads, and other items with every state having its own variety, recipes, and taste. Think of fafda in Gujarat and thepla in Maharashtra to litti chokha in Bihar. Over the past few years, packaged healthy snacks such as energy bars, cold-pressed juices, ragi chips, and more have tried to replace savory and sweet items like aloo bhujia, milk biscuits, murukku, banana chips, mathris, pakoras, etc. However, to get people to actually adopt healthy snacking is not by moving them away from what they have been eating for decades but by reimagining their existing munchies, according to Bengaluru-based Sudarshan Gangrade who runs low-carb keto snacks brand Lo! Foods.

“You have to offer them what they prefer with their evening tea or coffee but in low-carb form. So, essentially, I am offering a keto version of what companies like Haldiram’s offer in namkeens, Britannia in biscuits, and ITC in wheat flour. This is because according to dieticians, many health problems are linked to traditional snacking options, ”Gangrade told Financial Express Online.

Lo! Foods, which currently has over 100 people, is the second venture launched in August 2019 by Gangrade in the health and fitness space. He earlier ran a diet and fat loss consulting business Leanscience for two years till around mid 2018 before realizing the bigger opportunity to positively impact human health was in a manufacturing business.

“I have always been interested in the health and fitness space. So, I really understood the pain points of people trying to lose weight or dealing with chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart issues. My goal has been to help people reduce their carbs intake as a typical Indian plate has 70-85 per cent carbs. I wanted to cut it down to 50 percent, ”said Gangrade who served as Ola’s Vice President for marketing from 2014 to 2016. Reducing the consumption of carbs among people was not possible by consulting them, hence launching the keto snacks brand was the way forward for him towards his goal.

The market size was another reason for Gangrade to jump into low-carb Indian keto snacks. According to him, Rs 30,000 crore is the organized snacking market size in India while unorganized could be 10x of it. Within the organized share, Rs 8-10k crore market was for mixture and Rs 5-6k crore for bhujia.

Lo! Foods business is under two verticals – packaged and cloud kitchens. Under packaged foods, the company procures raw material via distributors spread across mandis in India to manufacture keto atta, bhujia, mixture, cookies, desserts, breads, etc., from its plant in Bengaluru. Raw material for example in atta, which is the company’s best-selling product following namkeens, includes sunflower seeds, flax seeds, melon and pumpkin seeds, defatted soy and coconut flour etc. The carbs quantity in a 20 gm serving size of ultra-low-carb keto atta of the company is 3 gm in comparison to around 14.5 gm in the traditional 20 gm whole wheat flour.

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On the other hand, under the cloud kitchens model, Lo! Foods operates 18 cloud kitchens across Bengaluru, Delhi, Gurugram, and Hyderabad to sell keto meals via food delivery platforms such as Swiggy and Zomato. Gangrade said the company also supplies keto atta to around 12 restaurants or hotels in India to power 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 in keto cloud kitchen network among 40-50 players in the keto space in India, ”said Gangrade. 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. Lo! Foods currently offers around 25 products that are tested at labs certified by the government’s National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL).

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

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, Gangrade said the packaged foods business is expected to grow 2-3x while cloud kitchens would increase to around 35 across a total of eight cities. The company had recently launched a subscription model for online meals and would soon launch a new range of products for diabetic customers. Lo! Foods had last raised $ 1 million in April 2016 led by Chona Family Office, the erstwhile promoters of Havmor Ice Cream. In August 2019, the company had raised $ 500,000 from angel investors including Anuj Golecha of Venture Catalyst, Myntra Co-founder Raveen Sastry, Mitesh Shah, CFO of BookMyShow, and others.

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