Hyderabad-based HeartandSoul.co.in tames the tough sorghum for healthy snacks

You are what you eat. The truth of the matter is we eat a lot of junk food, especially in a startup culture where Pizza, Redbull combo is a staple diet. As much as we need technology advancements, we also need startups that help us enhance wellness and fitness.

HeartandSoul.co.in is a food technology company that was started in July 2012. The startup is doing its own in-house R&D focused on disrupting the snacking industry by coming up with wholegrain-based ingredients to make food products that are just as tasty, and a lot healthier. Local wholegrains like ragi and jowar have always been side-lined for wheat and refined all-purpose flour (maida).

If you are a health freak, by now you’ve noticed the lack of sincere health food manufacturers in the local market. Terms like ‘nutritious’ and ‘healthy’ are being applied to food products whose nutritional values don’t quite match up. The ‘health’ foods that are there, do not give priority to local flavours. That is why Heartandsoul.co.in aims to be the one-stop shop for people who want chemical-free products with a local (and healthier) twist.

 The genesis of Heart and Soul

The Founder and CEO of Heartandsoul.co.in, Arjun Durr, says, “After I learnt how to decipher the real meaning

Arjun Durr, Founder & CEO

Arjun Durr, Founder & CEO

of nutrition labels on packaged foods, I was determined to make something healthier than what I was seeing, and tastier too.  The ‘aha-moment’ came when we took a look at the much awaited nutrition analysis for our first and most popular flavour – chikki flavour (peanut-sesame-jaggery).”

The company is bootstrapped with funding from family and friends. This healthy food startup is located on the outskirts of Hyderabad. By being a pioneer in this field, they feel they are in an important situation where they have the potential to develop Hyderabad’s local health food scene to match that of Bangalore or Mumbai. Despite its size, Hyderabad has a relatively undeveloped, local health food scene.

The founder story

Arjun Durr was born in a happy family with an Indian mother and an American father. Just like many entrepreneurs, his journey has been eccentric, and like most dare devil entrepreneurs, who tend to give up a safe corporate pay cheque and a cushy family business, he also took the road less travelled. Arjun grew up in a predominantly Telugu-speaking area and has grown to love the local food and its flavours.

He went to the University of Cape Town in South Africa for higher education where he majored in Social Anthropology, Politics and Spanish. Living in South Africa for three years made him realise the similarities between India and South Africa, and the potential to learn from each other.

 The core offerings of HeartandSoul.co.in

Researching with local grains, the R&D team tried to figure out how to ‘tame’ sorghum (jowar). It is a difficult and bland wholegrain to bake and render tasty. Since jowar is high in fibre, it’s important that oxygen and moisture are kept to a bare minimum when packaged. This is why they pack it in a nitrogen flushed pack. Heart & Soul now offers premium quality jowar crackers. The company have been able to fuse local ingredients and flavour combinations with jowar flour to make it tasty and healthy.

One of the biggest features about this product is that it helps reduce post-meal hunger pangs. It’s great for people who are trying to cut down the amount they eat. The fibre snack takes care of the job for you because fibre expands during digestion.

HeartandSoul.co.in has a range of products in the pipeline. Everything from 100% jowar cookies which are gluten free to instant jowar porridge to jowar pizza dough bases, and the list goes on!

Free offline sampling activities and surveys helped the team to zero down on flavour combinations. Sampling activities with the option to buy slightly bigger samples helped them determine their pricing. Social media surveys also helped them to determine the response levels of target market.

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Target market

The company’s key target demography is people who are health conscience, especially concerned parents who want healthier food for their children, and at the same time have an appreciation for classic and at times, quirky Indian flavour combinations.

The design of the packaging is done by local artists who understand the intricate relationship between nutrition and tradition that Heart & Soul aims to maintain with all of its products.

Being based in Hyderabad and working with local flavours, they aim to target the range of flavours that are quite popular throughout AP. Some of their flavours like chikki (peanut, sesame and jaggery) or chai (cardamom, ginger and jaggery) are popular nationwide. They have even diversified a bit using spices like cinnamon and combining it with jaggery and cumin to create a savoury-sweet combination. It doesn’t fit under any particular category, but it’s their popular product by far. Arjun says, “All our products are targeted at the health conscious. From parents who are trying to get their children off junk and processed food, to gym goers, we appeal to several groups.”

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Distribution goals

The company’s aim is to first establish itself in supermarket chains, gyms/fitness centers, and social clubs here in Hyderabad.

 Once we have accomplished setting up our base here, we aim to supply to retail chains, health stores and wellness centers across the country. We plan to take our time for this though. As we scale up, our top priority is to maintain our premium level of quality,” says Founder & CEO Arjun.

Regarding its competitors in this space, Arjun says, As far as I know, no one has focussed on transforming sorghum into something that is healthy and tasty at the same time. There have been some advancements in incorporating ragi and bajra into the market though. As for the international market is concerned, there are a few companies who have used sorghum in their baked products, but it is so laden with chemicals to make it ‘palatable’ let alone affordable that it may not be able to be branded as ‘healthy’.”

 Final thoughts

According to the Harvard School of Public Health Study, for the period 2012-2030, the economic burden of lifestyle diseases in India will cost the country $6.2 trillion.

For now, whether you crave something with your chai or an extra crunch in your lunch, Heart & Soul has the answer.

Emmanuel Amberber

Inhales & exhale everything startups, tech, entrepreneurship, and the intersection of India & Africa. You can reach him via emmanuel[at]yourstory.com