This Sequoia-backed clean food startup is raising the bar in a crowded D2C market

Started by former HUL executive Shashank Mehta in 2019, Mumbai-based The Whole Truth, which offers healthy bars, butters, and cereals, is planning to enter a new category every three to four months.
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Losing weight is not easy, especially if there are no healthy substitutes in the market. And we all know how “healthy” labels by mass-produced brands work. Even if a cereal box says no-added sugar, there will be an asterisk explaining what zero sugar actually means. 

Growing up as an obese kid and losing 40 kgs, Shashank Mehta resonated very deeply with this issue. 

“I would lose weight, but then I would gain most of it back after a span of time. It was very hard to understand initially, but then I started reading product labels and things really started to make sense,” Shashank tells YourStory

The former Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) marketing executive started a blog, where he started reviewing food brands and compared them with others.

“While writing the blog, I realised how big the problem is. I used to think that maybe it is hard to make a clean product. But then I started making my own protein bars in the kitchen as a weekend hustle. I used to bring it to the office and my colleagues would like it,” says Shashank. 

The Whole Truth's team

After a few variations, Shashank found his first go-to market product and decided to quit his job and create his own clean food brand, The Whole Truth

Founded in November 2019, The Whole Truth, run by Fitshit Health Solutions Pvt. Ltd., sells around 50-70 products across nutrition bars, muesli, and peanut butter categories without hidden sugars, artificial flavours, and harmful preservatives. The nutrition bars, which is also the brand’s first product, are priced at Rs 100, while other products have different price ranges. 

With a team of 35 people, the startup plans to enter a new category every quarter, where it can clearly show what its ingredients are up-front. 

“I don’t want to tell consumers what’s not there in their product. I want to show them what is there up-front,” says Shashank, who started the health food brand through the direct-to-consumer (D2c) channel by selling through their website. 

Challenges

Shashank claims The Whole Truth never shut down its operations, except for 12 days when the first COVID-19 lockdown was announced. 

The Mumbai-based startup opened its in-house production with about 100 members in April last year.  

Seeing an increase in demand, the startup, which was only selling products through its website, has now started selling through ecommerce marketplaces like Amazon, Flipkart, and Vegan Dukan, among others. 

The business

The pandemic gave a major boost to digital-first brands. Bored at-home consumers had no option but to jump online for entertainment, shopping, and social networking. This led to brand discovery and people were opening up to trying newer products. 

While D2C brand Mamaearth’s valuation soared to $700 million, SUGAR Cosmetics and Vahdam Tea made over Rs 100 crore in revenue. More than 80 D2C startups have raised venture capital money in the last nine months, amid a massive funding boom, compared to 37 deals in 2020, according to YourStory research. 

The Whole Truth is now looking to enter retail stores in cities including Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Pune, Hyderabad, and Chandigarh, due to its accelerated growth.

Credit: YourStory Design

While Shashank did not reveal any revenue targets, he says the brand aims to be a Rs 100 crore business in the future. 

The startup raised an undisclosed seed round from Matrix Partners India and Sauce VC in November 2019 and also scooped up $6 million in Series A funding in July 2021 from Sequoia Capital India, which has had a record exit year, with angel investors including Flipkart’s Kalyan Krishnamurthy and Sujeet Kumar, Co-founder of Udaan investing in the startup.  

The startup generated Rs 78 lakh in total revenue at a loss of Rs 93 lakh during FY2019-2020, according to financial statements sourced from the Ministry of Corporate Affairs. 

Operating in a crowded D2C space, The Whole Truth is competing with Fireside Ventures-backed Yoga Bar and MyFitness, a peanut butter brand backed by 9Unicorn, among others. 


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Edited by Megha Reddy

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