Snacking to the top: How health foods startup True Elements is charting its growth path

Pune-based health foods startup True Elements is looking to enter six to seven new categories by the end of FY22 from the 13 at the moment.
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About a decade ago, when Puru Gupta, a former Procter and Gamble executive, had set up an ecommerce website called Healthy World, which majorly sold healthy food options, a minuscule population in the country had become conscious of what they eat. 

But by 2016, Indians had gotten a taste for better eating and were not shying away from spending a bit extra on such alternatives. 

The market size for health and wellness foods was at Rs 10,352 crore with a growth rate of about 10 percent, according to a 2016 report released by Nielsen, a US-headquartered market research firm. 

“Men focus on fortification and nutrients, while women focus on making dietary choices that prevent health disorders,” the report said. 

This could be the result of better awareness created by larger internet penetration due to the Jio boom, among other things. Puru, who was also experimenting with private labels for his digital store, had now completely pivoted to being a brand-focused firm in 2015. 

“We launched True Elements as our private label. But decided to become a snack brand startup from an aggregator as many people were now looking for better brands, which were not easily available,” Puru told YourStory.  

Puru and his team of about 280 people were able to run the manufacturing units by creating bio bubbles.

Mid-sized stores for the win

Being present across physical and digital stores was the only way forward as people were still not prone to online shopping. While most other new-age brands — including cold-press juice maker RAW Pressery, greek yoghurt player Epigamia, and snack brand Wingreens Farms — were focused on modern trade stores, Puru decided to launch in general trade stores. 

“These were not exactly kiranas but were also not big supermarkets. These were mid-sized stores that stocked more categories besides essential groceries,” says Puru. 

Since there were not many brands operating in categories including flax and sunflower seeds and breakfast granola, it was also easier to convince store owners to stock their products at comparatively less margins, he claims. 

Currently, True Elements, which is run by HW Wellness Solutions Pvt Ltd., is present across approximately 12,000 stores and is planning to be in 20,000 stores by the end of FY22. The brand will also enter six to seven new categories, from the 13 at present, in the breakfast and snack category. 

“What we have at the moment are non-Indian breakfasts. Now, we want to add healthy versions of dosa and upma to our portfolio,” Puru adds.  

Credit: YourStory Design

Growing steadily

True Elements, which is backed by SIDBI Venture Capital and RP Sanjiv Goenka Group, has its manufacturing plant located in Pune. The city, which was majorly affected during the second wave of coronavirus, brought in some logistics trouble for True Elements. 

While Puru and his team of about 280 people were able to run the manufacturing units by creating bio bubbles, a few store closures and transportation issues during the lockdown caused delays in delivering items to customers. 

But since the unlock, things have come back in full force, and the startup is expecting to generate Rs 80 crore in revenue by the end of FY22. 

True Elements currently competes with Sequoia Capital India-backed The Whole Truth, Elevation Capital-backed Yogabar, and Mumbai-based Snackible, among a slew of other health food brands. So far, the Pune-based brand has raised Rs 150 million, according to Crunchbase. 

To differentiate itself in the crowded market, True Elements is focusing on brand building and brand awareness. Puru is showing his customers where each product is sourced from. 

To that end, the company has hired Ved Agarwal, a former category head at Amazon, who joined the team this July and aims to create brand differentiation for True Elements. 

“We want to build trust and show our customers the entire farm to fork journey,” says Ved. 

The retail market value of naturally healthy food is expected to reach $8.43 billion by 2023, according to Statista

Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta

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