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INTERVIEW

“Last fiscal, we have grown 65% YoY over 20-21”
Monday, 25 July, 2022, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Mumbai-based start-up Spice Story makes ethnic Indian chutneys in a sauce form and packages the products in easy-to-use recyclable bottles. The company has shown consistent growth each year since inception. It sells its products through a mix of offline and online channels with e-commerce platforms.

Soumyadeep Mukherjee, founder & CEO, Spice Story, shares his views about the food and beverage industry, product portfolio, growth, food delivery platforms and much more, in an email interview with Kimberley Fernandes. Excerpts:

Tell us about your company's product portfolio. What type of research goes into the development of these products?
Spice Story is a chutney brand. We curate chutneys from different regions of the country and offer them in a modern day format. When I say modern day, traditional chutneys need to be spoon scooped, but ours are bottled in easy squeezy bottles. So they are hassle free and convenient to store. With 12 different flavours, we offer the widest range of chutneys to try from. I would say there is something for everyone.

The research process is fairly simple on the product choice side. We are constantly on the lookout for unique taste experiences. We are also listening to consumers to get feedback on what they would like and prefer. Once we find a product we want to develop, the R&D team led by Vibhor starts working on creating a version of it. Post-finalising the taste profile, they do a commercial run & send the product to a set of existing customers, friends, colleagues for tasting. Once the feedback is established, the product is then sent to a NABL accredited laboratory for shelf life study, determining nutritional values. Once the product studies are complete, we then plan for a formal launch.

The food and beverage industry has suffered huge losses due to the global pandemic. What are your observations?
True that the global pandemic has impacted food industry big time, but its mostly restricted to the hotel/restaurant/café/catering segment. We were fortunate to be running a consumer facing packaged food brand & hence other than the impact on the input costs, thus shrunk margins, we were able to still grow our topline.

How would you describe the current scenario for chutneys & sauces based companies in India?
The sauces and spices market is at nearly $17bn and growing at 7.4% YoY. That’s a $1.2bn is being added to the category YoY. With the increased usage of social media & exposure to varied foods, people are now looking at quick fixes to their meals. Consumers are open to accepting brands that offer great taste, good packaging & overall good value for their money!

What are the key factors that would differentiate your brand from the existing brands in the market?
The fact that we are a chutney brand! Chutneys is what we do, unlike a few brands that have a couple of chutney offerings in the portfolio. That is our biggest differentiator. Naturally, we offer the widest range of Indian ethnic chutneys from various regions of the country. Each bottle actually speaks about the city/region aloud, making us stand out in the crowd!

What are the challenges you see your brand facing in the country?
Distribution still remains one of the largest challenges in the country. Also, there a is gestation period for each brand to find its recall momentum and till that time, the struggles continue on almost all fronts of reaching out to the consumer, be it online or offline!

What are the types of costs involved in setting up a chutneys & sauces based company in India?
The costs really depend on the brand’s vision. What is it that it wants to do? For a B2B brand, the costs are much lesser & breakeven happens faster! Whereas for a consumer facing retail brand, the costs of reaching to the consumer are much higher, elongating the period of achieving profitability. But then, once the brand is established, there is no looking back.

How has your company fared in the Indian market, since its debut in 2019?
It had grown almost 4x since its launch in 2019. So I guess, we have fared pretty well.

What was your last fiscal year like and what are you expecting?
Last fiscal, we have grown 65% YoY over 20-21. We have done well on some fronts but also missed out on certain opportunities which could have helped us grown further. These small bumps will help us do better in 2022-23!

Do you plan on launching new products in light of the changing trends in the industry?
Of course! New product development is our forte and we will continue to bring in exciting products for our consumers!

Any plans on collaboration with leading food delivery platforms in India and abroad for the distribution of your products?
We are already a part of some of the leading platforms in India. We are exploring similar tie-ups in Europe and USA but India remains our main focus for now. I feel its still early days for us and will want to avoid spreading thin!
 
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