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Scaling up a Homemade Brand

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What started out as a healthy diet plan and saw tremendous results amongst her family and relatives, gave Paavani Jella, Founder and Director, Vie Foods Pvt Ltd, the confidence to scale up her homemade recipe into a retail product. Tackling ongoing issues of balancing production with branding and marketing for a start up business, Jella talks with at Progressive Grocer about Vie Foods’ debut and unique product portfolio

How did it all begin?
It was actually from a personal experience and from my being a passionate baker and cook that my family and I decided to set up Vie Foods Pvt Ltd. When my husband, Jagadish Pamidimalla (co-Partner at Vie Foods) and I made one of our core recipes into a product called Clusters, the initial plan was to manufacture it and brand it. Unfortunately, due to the situation in Andhra Pradesh (my hometown) there was no proper subsidies and no one encouraged first timers. Also, due to power shortages, a lot of small scale industries would shut down quickly. So we had to rework our plan; we decided to market our brands first and then focus on production, thus moving from being a manufacturing company to a trading company. We now plan to take our products across the country.

What is the USP of Vie Foods?

Vie means life in French and Vie Foods is about living a healthy lifestyle. It is like a pyramid devised by me and my husband. Both of us are foodies and health freaks. This pyramid explains how one can get healthy by eating this food. It requires a life style change, so 80% of what you eat is what you are and 20% is what you do out of it. If you need to make a lifestyle change out of food, then you need to have foods that do not have preservatives, that are gluten free and have tones of nutrients with low GI value. All our products are completely natural and that is how a person can attain health.

Vie Foods is the registered company under which Zealeo is our retail brand. Zeal means energy and leo means lion, we have put the words together to give the meaning ‘energy like a lion’. Zealeo’s caption line is ‘powered by nature’ which we have also incorporated into the logo.

Tell us about your product range.
Under Zealeo, we have a lot of low carbs, high proteins and high fibre based products that are rolled into five categories. Quinoa is a high protein millet and we intend to market this in such a way that it becomes a substitute for rice. The Indian government has also plans of supplying Quinoa, as the product’s high protein content takes care of malnutrition problems among the poor, through a project called Anantha in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu areas. We want to make this product accessible as well as affordable for everybody. Right now, we are importing this from Peru because currently Quinoa is not available in commercial quantities and there is no machinery available for post-processing the millet. We are working with farmers for production of Quinoa and plan to set up a processing plant next year.

The second product that we have, is the organic Palm Sugar which is a very good substitute for white sugar (white sugar has a glycemic index value of 85), as Palm sugar has a glycemic index value of 41. Low glycemic index foods are more slowly absorbed and therefore produce a less pronounced rise in blood glucose levels. Palm sugar and Quinoa are all low sugar products. Anything under glycemic index below 50 is considered low GI and above 50 is considered high GI. So, people who want to attain good health or to prevent some of the chronic diseases, will find these products helpful. These are applicable for diabetics, to achieve weight loss, inflammation and so on.
We believe in cure by food.

We also have dessicated coconut which is raw coconut that has been dehydrated and can also be used for preparing regular curries and be used as garnishing on desserts. Our fourth range of products are extra virgin coconut oil, which is made from coconut milk. This does not carry the regular strong coconut smell which is dessicated using micro filters. EVCO is helpful in reducing inflammation. Lauric acid which is present in mother’s breast milk is present in EVCO, which helps building your immunity against bacterial and viral infections.

Then we have Clusters which are made of dry fruits and nuts with a little bit of honey added for binding purpose. We have three flavours in this category which is cashew raisin, nutties, which is walnuts, pistachio and cashew and then we have mango coconut, which is made of desiccated coconut, almonds and honey.

How are these products priced?
In Clusters we have 2 variants; one is 100gm at Rs210 and the 200gm at Rs 415.
Our Quinoa is priced at Rs.1599.

Do you process everything from your own manufacturing unit?

Since we wanted to focus on the brand and not the production issues, we do not have a manufacturing unit. We got ourselves officially trained and now we have acquired all these products and labeled them under Vie Foods Pvt Ltd.

From where do you source your ingredients?
Some of the ingredients are from Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The Quinoa is imported from Peru and the Clusters are manufactured in Ahmedabad.

What was the kind of investment made for Vie Foods?

We are just 9 months old. We initially started out with 50 lakhs and we are trying to expand by investing another Rs1 crore. We expect an ROI in the next one year.

Do you have your own logistics in place?
We do have our own logistics in place and we also have a restricted distributorship at this point. We have Krazy Nuts as one distributor in kolkatta. Currently, we retail with , Spencers, Godrej, MK Retail, Good Foods in Bengaluru and Pune, Dorabjees in Pune, Dry Fruitz, Ratnadeep and Balaji Grand Bazaar in Hyderabad. Apart from this, we are also associated with other hospitality industries like The Park and ITC cafeteria. For the hospitality segment we have a separate distributer, whereas when it comes to the pan India market, it is all done by Vie Foods. We are also associated with Gio Park, a very well known logistics company that has certified transportation. All our products are transported using closed containers which are temperature controlled, especially for products like Clusters.

Where else do you plan to market Vie Foods?

The products have come on the shelf from May 1st onwards. We are in talks with and some local supermarkets. We are also associated with Big Basket and the Organic shop. We are present nationally, even though the company is based out of Hyderabad. The idea is not confined to Andhra Pradesh, it is a national brand.