IIM alumni’s startup whips up good health in sugar-free fruit smoothies
With an aim to solve nutritional needs for the on-the-go working professional who is increasingly looking towards packaged foods for their day-to-day food, two IIM graduates Anusha Bhushan and Siddhartha Deb launched Smoodies, a healthy beverages startup, in 2016.
“Both Siddhartha and I are foodies. When we were management consultants we were on the lookout for products that were built on the pillars of integrity of ingredients, health, and taste. When we didn’t find them on shelves, or in the channels that suited our on-the-go lifestyle, we felt passionate about solving this need, and decided to create a brand that is built firmly on the principles of natural wellness. All our ingredients are natural, and we use no added sugar, preservatives, added colours or flavours in our products,” says Anusha Bhushan, Co-founder and CEO, Smoodies.
Headquartered in Bengaluru, which houses its ISO-22000 manufacturing facility, Smoodies is built on the ethos of all-natural products. The brand houses two product ranges: fruit smoothies and juices.
Its fruit smoothies range contains an Essentials range, which has flavours such as mango, guava, and berries, and the Plus range, which comprises jamun, litchi-aloe vera, and orange-peach. Its juices range includes a sugarcane juice, watermelon juice, aam ka panna (green mango juice), and a shikanji (lemonade).
The Smoodies mission
Smoodies’ mission, Anusha notes, is a simple one: to create products that are natural and high quality, and that consumers can trust don’t have any additives or added sugar.
“We were also cognisant of the fact that to have consumers adopt healthy habits and products, we would have to pay equal importance to taste. So we have a simple rule of thumb for all products that we create: if it cannot be made to taste good, with natural ingredients and in-line with our brand values, then we would rather not make the product than take a shortcut,” Anusha says.
Besides on its own website, Smoodies is available across supermarkets, ecommerce platforms such as BigBasket, Swiggy, and Zomato, in offices, at restaurants, and in leisure and sports centres.
“We chose Bengaluru as our base because both Siddhartha and I are from here. The Bengaluru market is also a great first market to launch in, since it contains a great cross-section of people from various cultures and parts of India,” Anusha says.
Apart from Bengaluru, Smoodies has business operations in Mumbai and Delhi as well.
Siddhartha and Anusha met at IIM Calcutta in 2012, while they were doing their MBA together. Besides their MBA degrees from IIM Calcutta, Anusha is a BSc (Hons) Economics from the London School of Economics, and Siddhartha has a BTech degree from IIT Madras.
Siddhartha, who runs the operations at Smoodies, has worked in oil & gas engineering from McDermott, and management consulting at TSMG and Bain & Company.
Anusha takes care of the sales, branding, and marketing, as well as spearheading new product development. She was an investment banker with Deutsche Bank in London, before returning to India.
The startup’s team has 35 members across sales, marketing, and operation functions.
What a Smoodies bottle holds
Smoodies’ target consumer is the young urban working professional in India, typically between the of 25-and-40 age group.
“Our consumer looks for convenience and innovation in the everyday products they consume, when it comes to taste, health and delivery formats. Our consumer also enjoys supporting businesses that make responsible decisions around sustainability, which is a cause that we are aligned to. We bottle in glass packaging only, and then collect and recycle bottles from consumers who choose to give them back, and are making constant efforts to reduce the use of consumable plastic in our packaging and manufacturing unit,” Anusha adds.
Started with an investment of Rs 25 lakh, the startup has raised close to $1 million from 1Crowd’s fund as well as angels such as KK Natarajan, Subroto Bagchi, and NS Parthasarathy, co-founders of Mindtree.
“Our next steps are to expand to other metros in India, and extend our product range to working on super smoothies, juices, and other wellness-based beverages,” says Anusha.
“Monetisation in our business is a simple one – we make our products and then sell them. Credit terms and working capital can sometimes be a challenge to manage, but the bulk of our revenue comes from organised retail and large food service and ecommerce accounts,” she adds.
A juicy future
According to Anusha, the juices segment is a Rs 4,000-crore market in India, and Smoodies wants to grab a good portion of it.
“We have obvious competition from the cold-pressed juices market. However, our smoothies and juices are also highly differentiated with respect to taste and texture, and that’s what keeps us differentiated from the competition,” Anusha says.
“The difference between juices (cold-pressed or otherwise) and Smoodies is typically ours represent more of the fruit, since we don’t filter or throw out the fibre in the fruit. So our smoothies are pulpier and more satiating than the typical juice you will find in the market," she adds
The cold-pressed juice players in this space include Mumbai-based RAW Pressery, which is backed by institutional investors such as Sequoia Capital, Saama Capital, and DSG Consumer Partners; Fresh Food Concepts Pvt Ltd, which sells its products under the brand Juice Up; and Delhi-based MyGreens, which had acquired Food Ideas Pvt Ltd-backed JusDivine in an all-stock deal in 2017.
This April, health and fitness startup CureFit also acquired Bengaluru-based cold-pressed juice brand Rejoov for an undisclosed amount.
Smoodies is currently present at around 500 points of sale, across stores, ecommerce platforms, vending machines, restaurants, offices and other institutions.
“We sell to B2B customers such as organised retail customers such as Foodhall, Nature’s Basket, Big Bazaar, Namdhari’s Fresh, ecommerce platforms such as Swiggy and BigBasket, and quick service restaurants or corporates and their tuckshops, who then resell the product to our consumers,” says Anusha.
“Our production capacity is currently 2,500 bottles per day and will increase to 10,000 bottles per day in the next quarter,” she added.
(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)