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INTERVIEW

“Lo! helps cut down carbs from regular diets”
Monday, 20 May, 2019, 08 : 00 AM [IST]

Lo! Foods, which has researched and developed low-carb products for the Indian consumer, is now looking to expand the market, as consumers are increasingly looking for such a range.

The Bengaluru-based company is now gearing up to reduce the incidence of diabetes and cardiac-related diseases in India by five million by 2023. They aim to do this by reducing the overall consumption of carbs, which has been proven to significantly help with weight loss and lifestyle diseases like diabetes.

“We are leveraging the huge health trend of consumers across small and big towns reducing carbs from their diets by cutting down sweets, sugar, maida, rice and potato,” said Sudarshan Gangrade, founder and chief executive officer, Lo! Foods, in an e-mail interaction with Nandita Vijay.

Excerpts:
How would you describe the current scene for Keto and low-carb products when there are views that such products are not good?

Views on Keto are mixed. This is mostly due to ignorance of the science and how exactly to do it. You will find people talking for and against it, and that is the nature of the health industry. Sponsored research drives all kinds of opinions.

The good part is low-carb and Keto have been around for more than a decade now, and there is now enough research on its positive impact on health.

Since a lot of its tenets go against the earlier norms\ that fats like whole egg, ghee, etc., are bad are now proven and recommended as healthy foods, consumers are confused. Plus, anything that is new takes time to spread.

People who have tried this diet speak about its benefits favourably. While Lo! Foods’ products are all low-carb they are also Keto-friendly.

Lo! is a brand that helps cut down carbs from your daily regular diet. Cutting down carbs is universally accepted and practiced, even in India.

Everyone knows and acknowledges that sugar, sweets, rice and potatoes should be cut down in general, and most people do it.

What they do not realise is that these are all actually forms of carbs. For instance, sugar is a simple carb, while grains are complex carbs. Hence, a product that helps cut down carbs is actually known and proven to be beneficial.

How has Lo! Foods fared so far in the market?
We are a new brand as we entered the market in early 2019, and have been staying in a stealth mode and building the business. Within a few months of rolling out select products in select markets, we have clocked a repeat ratio of 35 per cent.

We are the only low-carb brand that is live on the top two major health platforms in India. Swiggy has made an exception for us and have listed us on their Fresh Food delivery app, even though we are an FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) brand. Freshmenu has listed us on their platform, and are launching a range of co-branded low-carb desserts using our Lo! Atta as the base.

Amazon is listing us on Prime Now, Pantry along with the FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) programme. We have signed up with bigbasket too. Our products have been recognised and appreciated by many verticals, ranging from health platforms to food delivery platforms.

Which are the fastest-growing products?
While Lo! provides the widest range of low-carb packaged foods in India, our popular products are low-carb atta, biscuits and mixture.

We believe that as Indians, we love our snacks, and as of now, due to the lack of good options, we end up consuming a lot of junk food in the name of namkeens and bhujias.

But increasingly, people are wanting to substitute those with healthier alternatives without compromising on the taste element in packaged products.

We have identified this as an opportunity and the results have validated the product idea.

What is the marketing strategy devised to increase consumer reach?
Since the launch in early 2019, the company is at the stage where our focus is on building the brand.

Lo! Foods is involved in multiple marketing initiatives where the key objective is to drive brand awareness, brand presence and above all provide a delightful product experience.

We will soon initiate our digital campaigns, beginning from social media contests and engagements to influencer-based activities to technical-based campaigns, and additionally organise offline activations for better product experience.

We are also testing the market as we grow. Currently our products are available on multiple online portals, including our website. We will gradually also move towards the offline marketing space.

We are confident that our efforts will translate to repeats, as we believe we have an incredible product that are high in fibre, protein and good fats.

Where are these products manufactured? Can you share details of the production plant?
We have a manufacturing facility in HSR, Bengaluru. This is where all our products are produced and processed completely.

All our ingredients are procured from within the country. We take pride in our cooking and baking staff, who are local food experts, with majority of them being women.

Where is the R&D for the products done?
Lo! is developed from scratch after over six months of formulating and reformulating the recipes for each products. All these are formulated in-house, by a team of food technologists and nutritionists.

Each item we offer is a unique blend of superfoods which makes it an extremely healthy alternative to the regular high-carb Indian snack.

You have indicated that the products are tested and proven by your team. Could you please share the findings here?
Lo! products provide less than 5g net carbs per serving, which is almost 60-80 per cent lower than regular products. This makes them perfect for a Keto diet, diabetics and anyone looking to cut down on carbs.

All our products are tested and certified by NABL- (National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories) accredited labs, and our reports are published on our website.

The product has also been tested by individuals who are on Ketosis, using blood and breath ketone meters. Findings showed that Lo! product lets them remain on ketosis.

In addition, the founder and a team member have personally tested the products by using a continuous glucose monitor (CGM). This is a device made by Abbott Laboratories, where a probe is inserted in the skin for 14 days.

The device tracks the sugar levels of the Individual in real time and shares the data through NFC (near-field communication).

The results have been staggering and validates that the products not just claim lower carbs, but actually deliver 55-80 per cent lower glucose spikes and the body was able to recover much faster.

We also have testimonials by customers who are Type-I and Type-2 diabetic and used Lo! Products. They are glad with the results.

Any other trials conducted for the product?
There are some trials being done by a doctor in Tamil Nadu, along with some dietitians in their personal capacity.

What is the kind of funding you have received for this venture?
Lo! Foods has received significant appreciation and interest from institutional investors, as well as veterans from the FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) industry. We are completely bootstrapped as of now.

In your opinion how receptive are VCs (venture capitalists) and PEs (private equity firms) for this business model?
There is tremendous interest from VCs in the health foods space. They are looking for new companies that are building products that consumers would love to switch to.

What are the challenges for companies like yours to enter this space?
The key issues are building a brand and a distribution network while keeping the pricing affordable and competitive.

Going forward, what are the future efforts to maximise growth?
Our focus would continue to be on maximising our presence and leadership in the online space.

Additionally, we will move to key offline partners, as well as work towards building our B2B (business-to-business) segment.

 
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