You can meet the conscientious shopper in the aisles of grocery stores – pick up an item and read the packaging before deciding whether to buy it. Since the Covid-19 pandemic began, these shoppers have increased.
A report by UK market research firm, Euromonitor International and PepsiCo India, titled ‘The Impact of Covid-19 on Nutrition Choices of Urban Indian Consumers in 2021’, released in December, revealed that nearly 90 per cent of urban consumers were willing to pay more for healthier alternatives in food, and when it came to breakfast cereals, 53 percent of urban consumers were interested in the ingredients.
The pandemic has changed attitudes towards food and the market has responded by filling stores with products claiming to be “healthy,” leaving the buyer confused about the different definitions of the word.
Now, Pune’s breakfast and snack business True Elements is helping solve the problem. One of the market leaders in India in putting clean food on the table, True Elements, which achieved an annual run rate (ARR) of Rs 70 crore in June 2021 and aims to push it to Rs 300 crore in 18-24 months, enabling consumers to track the antecedents of their product from through its tracking feature. If you enter the product name and batch code on the company’s website, you can learn about the product’s journey from farm to shelf.
“In the next few weeks, the customer will also be able to see the name of the farm where the product was purchased along with the picture of the farmer. We believe in complete transparency because our version of Clean Food is absolute, not relative. Every ingredient is 100 percent whole grain, zero percent preservatives. zero percent additives, zero percent sugar,” says Puru Gupta, co-founder of the company with Shrigeth Mulayel.
In December, True Elements signed an agreement with co-operatives and entered into contract farming in Maharashtra to obtain clean grains such as wheat, pulp, flax and chia, directly from farmers.
“Before we did not have the scale to go to the farms and say we would buy their crops all year round, but today we can. We have started teaching farmers the basics, like sowing seeds. They are expected to have better production and better yields. We are also working on empowering them technologically,” says Gupta.
Currently, True Elements offerings come in 13 categories such as Western and Regional Breakfast, Seeds & Blends, OTG (On the Go), RTC (Ready to Cook), and Ready to Eat (Ready to Eat) snacks. RTD (ready-to-drink) drinks, and 65 products, such as gluten-free rolled oats, dark chocolate granola, wholemeal oatmeal and chocolate pancake mix. Gupta says the focus is on clean, chemical-free food that also tastes good.
The average consumer falls into one of these two parts – the health-conscious person who finds True Elements products delicious and comes back for more and the taste-conscious consumer who realizes, after the first bite or sip, that they’re healthier than most other brands, and repeat purchase. Both divisions grew during the pandemic and led sales of True Elements.
“If we have to grow, we have to go mainstream. We don’t believe in the word ‘nish’ which means small. We have to go into every space in a client’s kitchen. We plan to do so while staying true to the people, true to our word and loyal to the planet. Gupta adds.
The company has responded to the pandemic’s demands with innovations like joey-grain cake — a cookie-like cake that melts into a porridge, with the sweetness of sorghum that is the stem of the guar plant — and a confection called Chocolate Icecream Indulgence that is chemical- and sugar-free.
Realizing that people were skipping breakfast in their rush to get started in the world of work from home, True Elements created an instant oatmeal, almond, and jaggery shake, and according to the comments, keep it full until lunch.
“There will be five to seven product additions every month from 2022 on the Indian food side, but we will continue to focus on our Western breakfast stronghold. We cover consumption points at 8 a.m. breakfast, 11 a.m. snack and 4 p.m. snack time. Mulayel says: “There are more and more people who are smart and think they should eat healthy food in the morning and evening.”
In December, the Delhi High Court instructed the relevant authorities to fully disclose all ingredients that have been used in a food item, not by their code names, but by clearly mentioned sources, regardless of the quantity in the product.
We welcome the court’s decision. These are the principles we have established since the day we started. Our packaging was jargon free. He adds that the primary reason for what we do is to ensure people have a more preventive healthcare mindset.