What started out as a healthy diet plan and saw tremendous results amongst family and relatives, gave Paavani Jella the confidence to scale up her homemade recipe into a retail product and launch Vie Foods Pvt Ltd. She discusses balancing production, branding and marketing of a start up business, with Roshna Chandran
Tell us about Vie Foods’ debut.
It was from my passion for baking and cooking that the idea to go commercial was born. 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, in Andhra Pradesh (my hometown) there were no subsidies being offered to encourage entrepreneurs like me. Also, due to power shortages, a lot of small scale industries would have to shut down. So, we decided to market our brand first and then get into production. So we moved from a manufacturing company to a trading company, and we now plan to take our products across the country.
We started with Rs 50 lakh and are trying to expand by investing another Rs 1 crore. We are not even a year old, but given the good response to our products, we expect to break even in the next one year.
What is the concept behind Vie Foods?
Vie means ‘life’ in French and Vie Foods is about living a healthy lifestyle. Both my husband and I are foodies and health freaks. We also believe that eating well and being healthy requires making changes in one’s lifestyle, because 80 percent of what you eat is what you are, and 20 percent is what you do for it. If you need to make a lifestyle change, then you need to have foods that do not have preservatives, are gluten free, and have tons of nutrients with low GI value. All the products under our Zealeo brand are completely natural. Zeal means energy and leo means lion – so have the ‘energy of a lion’, and the logo reads ‘powered by nature’.
What does your product range offer?
Under Zealeo, we have a lot of low carbs, high proteins and high fibre-based products. These include Quinoa, which is a high protein millet and can be a substitute for rice. The Indian government plans to supply quinoa to the malnourished poor through a project called Anantha in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. We want to make this product accessible as well as affordable for everybody. Currently, it is priced at Rs 1,599. Right now, we are importing quinoa from Peru because currently it is not available in commercial quantities and there is no machinery for processing the millet. We are working with farmers for production and plan to set up a processing plant next year.
Our second product is organic Palm Sugar, which is a very good substitute for white sugar.. White sugar has a glycemic index value of 85 while Palm sugar has a GI of 41. Low GI foods are absorbed more slowly and therefore produce a less pronounced rise in blood glucose levels. Palm sugar and Quinoa are all low sugar products. Anything under GI below 50 is considered low and above 50 is considered high. So, people who want to remain healthy will find our products helpful for controlling diabetes, losing weight, inflammation, and so on.
Our dessicated coconut can be used for preparing regular curries and for garnishing desserts. Our extra virgin coconut oil, which is made from coconut milk, does not have the strong coconut smell. Our Evco is helpful in reducing inflammation and it contains Lauric acid, which is present in mother’s breast milk, and helps building the body’s immunity against bacterial and viral infections.
Our Clusters are manufactured in Ahmedabad. They are made of dry fruits and nuts with a little bit of honey added for binding. Cluster are made in three flavours: cashew, raisin, nuts; walnuts, pistachio, cashew; and mango coconut made of desiccated coconut, almonds and honey. A 100 gm pack costs Rs 210 and 200 gm is for Rs 415. All our products are labeled under Vie Foods Pvt Ltd.
What are your current infrastructure, retail and distribution strengths?
Krazy Nuts is one of our distributors in Kolkata, and we are retailing at Hypercity, Spencer’s, Godrej Nature’s Basket, MK Retail in Bengaluru, Good Foods and Dorabjee’s in Pune, Dry Fruitz, Ratnadeep and Balaji Grand Bazaar in Hyderabad. We are in talks with Tata’s Star Bazaar and some local supermarkets. We are also supplying to The Park hotel and ITC cafeteria. For the HoReCa segment we have a separate distributer, but all marketing pan India is done by Vie Foods. For transport of our products we have tied up with Gio Park, a well known logistics company, which uses only temperature controlled vans. Though based in Hyderabad, we are already present nationally, and our aim is to widen our reach across all parts of the country. I have recently been awarded by the Confederation of Women Entrepreneurs India for the Best Start Up business in Food.