What took this executive from opening casinos in the US to eyeing a Vegolution in India
Siddharth Ramasubramanian is no stranger to opening new restaurants and casinos. As the VP of Marketing and Entertainment at Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa in Atlantic City, New Jersey, US, he opened the first new casino resort in Atlantic City 13 years ago, in 2003.
Since then, he has been part of over 50 successful destination restaurants across the globe. His one big realisation: the joy of discovering great food brings people together like nothing else.
This led him to start Bengaluru-based nutrition startupin 2019. The venture aims to address the protein gap for vegetarians, and to introduce protein-rich meals and snacks for the modern Indian.
“Our single-minded focus is to create a new and adaptable 100 percent vegetarian protein-rich food ingredient that easily fits into the modern Indian kitchen in ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat formats,” Siddharth says.
The Vegolution team
Studying Indian food habits
Once he had the idea in place, Siddharth roped in his long-time friend, Los Angeles-based Rajit Malhotra, a seasoned foodtech, health, and wellness investor, and entrepreneur and former McKinsey Managing Partner.
“We started our journey in India by keenly studying food habits of the modern Indian consumer at home, and at restaurants and social gatherings,” Siddharth says.
This research offered Vegolution’s core insight: meals can get pretty monotonous due to the limited number of options that fit vegetarians’ taste profile while providing power-packed protein and nutrition.
“Consumers are yearning for new staples on their main plate,” Siddharth says.
Vegolution aims to solve this problem with a range of flavourful, ready-to-cook and eat products that are clean-label, high-protein, low-carb, and packed with vitamins.
“While there are many supplements (bars and shakes) entering the market, we are focused on the main plate where we see a large gap,” the co-founder explains.
He adds that in India the number of vegetarian meal moments far exceed the non-vegetarian ones. However, a large number of vegetarians in the country continue to struggle with finding sufficient variety in their daily diet for the essential protein and nutrition – all this while satisfying their taste buds.
The need for conscious food
The team found two important factors in play - consumers have become more conscious about food and health due to the COVID pandemic, and metro dwellers are starved for time and are keenly looking for ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat options that are easy to pull together.
“Over the last year, we focused extensively on establishing product-market fit because we firmly believe that we have a very large addressable market. We deployed our resources on India-specific product R&D and development, flavour profiling, and consumer trials. Now we are working on our launch slated for early 2021,” Siddharth says.
Funding and plans
Vegolution recently raised $1 million from external investors. The founders have also pumped in an additional $500,000 in this round. Investors who participated in this round include KS Narayanan, former president at VKL Seasonings; Ashok Barat, former CEO at Forbes and Company; and Robert Boughner, former CEO of the US-based Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa.
With this funding, the team is looking at a product reveal and launch in January 2021 in Bengaluru, on-going product development for B2C and B2B channels, marketing and awareness building, and talent recruitment.
“We have a clear B2C plan to launch our new branded protein-forward vegetarian ingredient, in ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat product formats that’s versatile across consumption moments and cuisines. We will quickly follow up with our B2B channel strategy to supply to food manufacturers and the HORECA segment as consumers look for healthy new alternatives,” Siddharth says.
Vegolution’s audience comprises two distinct groups of conscious foodies: vegetarians and non-vegetarians looking to reduce meat consumption.
Market and the future
According to a Pure and Eco report, the global market of plant-based foods is expected to reach $10,892 million by 2022, with a CAGR of 6.7 percent. The ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook segment is also growing quickly.recently launched its ready-to-eat segment.
The meal box and ingredient box space is also growing with Japanese startups like Cookpad and recent market entrant Swiggy.
“With the aspiration of taking India from a protein gap to being protein-positive, we aim to be a pan-India brand across B2C and B2B channels,” Siddharth says.