SteamUp Foods is tapping India’s growing appetite for healthy snacks with steamed options
Move over samosas, momos are here!
Keen to satiate the Indian consumer’s growing appetite for grab-and-go foods with healthier options, Archit Agarwal in 2019 launched Mumbai-based foodtech startup. The startup, which began by offering a range of vegetarian momos, aims to make “steamable” foods such as idli, rolls, rice, and dhokla more readily available for people who cook – and those who don’t!
Apart from being quick and easy, steaming locks in nutrients, boosts antioxidants, enhances flavour, uses less oil, and is a versatile and eco-friendly cooking technique.
"India is the diabetic capital of the world and all stats point towards the need for an alternative to fried food. It’s clear that healthier habits need to be inculcated from a young age. This was the first trigger for me to do something to solve this problem," says Archit, the 25-year-old founder of SteamUp Foods.
To marry taste, health, and convenience, Archit decided to launch a “steaming revolution”. “Making vegetarian food appealing to all consumers was critical, so we began with everyone's favourite – momos," he says.
He initially invested Rs 1 lakh raised from friends and family to bootstrap the startup.
An entrepreneurial mindset
Archit says the entrepreneurial seed was sowed when he, at the age of 16 years, interviewed Pritish Chatterjee, Director of Savera Group from Aurangabad, for a school project. Speaking to a man who had built a million-dollar company from scratch was inspiring, he recalls.
The boy who never liked school but was fascinated by how businesses make money says business “is probably in my blood”. “My grandfather ran a small garment shop in Hingoli. My father has run a successful distribution house in Aurangabad for the past 30 years,” he says.
Archit started his entrepreneurial journey immediately after graduation with HaFit, a healthy snack subscription-based business. He also worked part-time with brands like Lokmat Media, Vivo India, Mahindra & Mahindra, Kwaan etc to gain experience.
The name of his new startup reflects the mission and idea of the brand. “We want to be synonymous with steamed food,” he says.
What does it offer?
SteamUp currently offers 20 momo variants in classic, Jain, vegan, and wheat options. These include mushroom, paneer tikka, cheesy corn, tofu, Peri, jalapeno cheese, and pizza. It also offers sweet versions such as chocolate fudge and white chocolate.
The momos are priced between Rs 99 and Rs 180; the Tibetan sauce is available for Rs 25. The minimum order price is Rs 300. It charges Rs 40 for shipping for orders below Rs 500; it’s free for orders above Rs 500.
The startup says the shelf life of its products is nine months.
SteamUp products are available on online marketplaces such as, , Gourmet Store, , and , as well as offline retail marketplaces such as Reliance Signature, Nature’s Basket, Reliance Fresh, Foodhall, Sahakari Bhandar, Society Stores, Avarya Stores, Dorabjees, and Haiko Supermarket. Customers can also directly order products from SteamUp’s website.
At present, offline channels account for 85% of sales while online channels comprise 15%. The vegan-Jain-wheat-based momos account for almost one-third of total sales.
“The first wave of COVID-19 worked well for SteamUp. Our sales shot up 20X for a brief period since there was high demand for ready-to-cook food. We saw hundreds of new customers trying our products on their own during this phase. The majority of these loved our product's taste and quality, which led to them continue ordering even after the pandemic,” Archit says.
SteamUp, which has 12 team members, sources products from different manufacturers across Bengaluru, Mumbai, and Pune.
“Quality standards for every flavour, ingredient, and recipe are defined by our in-house food experts,” Archit says.
SteamUp claims to have sold more than three lakh packets of momos till date. It provides doorstep delivery, and has partnered with a few logistics companies. The products are currently available in Mumbai, Pune, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, and Nashik.
About 75% of the startup’s customers are from Mumbai; the remaining 25% come from other cities. It says it has a 50% repeat rate.
"The most common feedback we get from consumers is that they find it extremely convenient to steam and eat momos in just five minutes. Some have also made this their substitute for two-minute noodles," Archit says.
SteamUp generated Rs 1.05 crore revenue in FY22 and is currently clocking Rs 15 lakh per month.
Market and the future
The Indian frozen food market was worth Rs 124.06 billion in 2021 and is expected to be worth Rs 306.61
billion by 2027, growing at a 16.2% CAGR between 2022 and 2027, according to Imarc.
The market is chock-a-block with big brands like McCains, MTR, ITC Masterchef, and Tata Q, among others. SteamUp also competes with brands such as, Imagine Meats, , Wow Momos, Sumeru, and Big Sams, among others.
Archit says the differentiator is the fact that almost 95% of frozen products available are currently “to be fried or microwaved”. “We believe ready-to-steam products have the potential to take a minimum of 25% of this market share in the next three years,” he says.
SteamUp plans to expand its product range to include mini idlis, rice, rolls, stuffed idlis, stuffed dhoklas, sauces, and more.
The startup also aims to expand across 10 cities by the end of 2022.
“We are also in talks with a few distributors in other countries. We plan to expand internationally very soon,” says Archit, adding that month-on-month (MoM) revenue growth this year should be 25%.
SteamUp also plans to serve steamed food through cloud kitchens and QSR kiosks. "We want to have a hybrid model," Archit says. The startup has already piloted its first cloud kitchen in Versova, Mumbai.