[Startup Bharat] How Jaipur-based Gladful aims to provide tasty protein snacks for children

Jaipur startup Gladful was started by Parul Sharma and her brother Manu Sharma in 2020 to create protein food and snacking products, with a special focus on children.
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In 2020, Parul Sharma, who has worked with American FMCG giant Mondelez for almost 15 years in various roles, found out that her 10-year-old son was protein deficient. She set out to look for options that could help him recover. However, she was disappointed to find that there were not enough options.

“When I started researching, I could not find food brands that were tasty for my child. I could not resort to protein shakes because he did not like it,” recalls Parul. 

“I was looking for easy and convenient solutions because I am a working parent with a demanding lifestyle. Kids are also demanding these days. They do not only want something that is tasty and nutritious, but also something that is brag-worthy,” she says.

A mother of two boys, Parul set out to find solutions to these problems and founded Gladful along with her sibling Manu Sharma in 2021. 

The Jaipur-based startup creates protein food and snacking products with a special focus on children.

“Our intent is to make kids’ food great with the protein they deserve,” says Parul. 

How was it started?

Parul comes with years of experience of having mothers and children as the target group for her products. 

“I have always loved figuring out how we can provide solutions for mothers, and at the same time make food appealing to kids,” says Parul. “But as a mother, I was also seeking a few solutions.”

Co-founder Manu, who is 10 years younger than Parul, is an early diabetic and health-enthusiast, and together they run Gladful with a team of eight people

Product development and distribution

Gladful makes snacks out of wholewheat, unrefined cane sugar, and does not use ammonia in its products. The snacks provide 7-8 grams of protein per serving, says Parul.

The startup started out with manufacturing cookies that are made out of peas, rice, and milk protein. Gladful also launched a breakfast range in February this year, which includes dosa-mix and cheela-mix, which is made of sprouts and lentils.

According to Parul, while developing a product, the startup keeps three key things in mind - making a working parent’s life easy, making food that children like, and each product should give a minimum 4-5 grams of protein per serve

“Before the launch, one of the things we did was reaching out to 300 parents and sent them our products without any branding, with just QR codes. As they consumed the product, they also started giving feedback about what is the price they are willing to pay, and what kind of flavours they want,” Parul tells YourStory. “Parents have always been a part of the Gladful journey,” she adds.

The startup offers cookies in chocolate, almond, orange, butter garlic, ajwain and Indian masala at Rs 300, while the sprouted breakfast range is priced at Rs 200 for 200 grams. Gladful claims to have recorded a gross margin upwards of 60 percent. 

Gladful’s products are available on Amazon, Cred, Flipkart, and smaller marketplaces like One Green and LBB.

The startup faces competition from startups like Snackible, The Green Snack Co, Habbit Health, Keeros Foods, Poshtick, Wellbeing Nutrition, Oziva, and Gynoveda, among others.

Market and funding

The nutraceuticals market in India is expected to grow from an estimated $4 billion to $18 billion by the end of 2025. The dietary supplements segment constitutes over 65 percent of the nutraceutical market and is growing at a rate of 17 percent and is likely to grow at 22 percent per year, especially when preventive health has become the focus for all during the pandemic, said a 2020 report by the International Trade Administration.  

India’s nutraceutical industry is also expected to hold at least 3.5 percent of global market share by 2023

In December 2021, Gladful raised an undisclosed amount of funding in a seed round led by Antler India. Other investors who participated in the round were Huddle Accelerator, Shiprocket via their programme RocketfuelXHuddle, angel investors such as Ankita Vashistha from StrongHer Ventures and Encubay Angel Network, and Paavan Nanda, Co-founder of WinZO Games.

Before raising funds, Gladful started with an investment of Rs 25 lakh.

“Across India, people want to look better, they want to eat better, and they want to live better. These are core primary human needs that all of us have and all of us aspire to improve on a day to day basis. Gladful is talking about one of these which is eating better. In the Indian market, protein deficiency in India is incredibly huge and widespread,” said Cathy Guo, Manager, Investments and Portfolio, Antler.

“This presents a massive opportunity, where a great team like Gladful with a personal connection with the problem can tackle a primary need of the Indian consumer to eat better and address the pressing and specific problem of protein deficiency,” she said. 

“Parents have now been stuck at home with their kids for 2.5 years and what's happened is that parents have also become way more conscientious about how their child is living,” says Cathy. “They are witnessing throughout the day what their eating habits are. Parental awareness of what their children need and what their children's lifestyles are is much more while parents increasingly also want to know how to improve this lifestyle.”

In the coming months, Gladful will be focusing on building more protein-rich and tasteful products, which can be a part of the working Indian’s pantry, says Parul. 

Edited by Megha Reddy

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