How healthy snacks startup Yoga Bar saw 3X revenue growth despite going online during the pandemic
Launched in August 2014, Bengaluru-based healthy snacks brand Yoga Bar’s focus on wellbeing has ensured that it stays in the pink of good health – when it comes to size of operation and revenue.
What started as an attempt to replicate the healthy and filling snack founder-sisters, Suhasini Sampath and Anindita Sampat Kumar, enjoyed as hustling students in the US has won an “extremely loyal customer base” across India. .
Staying true to the good health premise helped gain an initial set of customers and retain their trust as the brand grew.
Amid the pandemic, when Yoga Bar had to pivot from an offline presence across more than 6,000 retail stores to online channels, the customers were waiting. In fact, according to the founder, the D2C brand saw 3x growth in FY21.
But, there’s more to come.
Suhasini is positive Yoga Bar will become a Rs 100 crore brand in FY22 based on its current monthly run rate.
A bold pivot
Till the pandemic, Yoga Bar customers were picking up the range of products - protein bars, muesli, breakfast and snack bars, and now nut butter - off shelves in almost every supermarket and retail store. Now, they are adding them to their online carts amidst the pandemic.
The brand used to be primarily focused on the offline retail market, which contributes to as much as 90 percent of the revenue and 70 percent of sales.
“We had an extremely limited online presence with just two people looking after online presence before COVID-19 struck and had to change the DNA of our company by moving online quickly in a matter of a few months,” says Suhasini, adding that the company grew from strength to strength with little marketing efforts.
Yoga Bar claims to be a product-first company.
“We don’t have a single person in our marketing team and even today, at the point of being a Rs 100 crore company, my number is given as the customer service number at the back of every packet,” she says.
Over the years, the brand has secured a “consistent and crazy retention rate” among customers who came looking for the brand as it shifted online.
“Whatever products we launch, our existing customers are willing to try out our entire portfolio…that makes marketing very easy as people are willing to buy because they trust the brand,” she adds.
In November last year, the brand launched a range of healthy peanut butters. Based on customer feedback and rating, Yoga Bar has become a bestseller in all product categories across online channels like Amazon, Flipkart, Grofers, and BigBasket.
The expenses were many, but Suhasini says most were people costs that come with growing a team. This includes continuing to maintain 100 percent of the sales team responsible for retail channels and having to pay listing fees to supermarkets and retailers. The ROC filing reveals Employee Benefit Expenses also doubled in FY20.
The early-mover benefit
With the pandemic increasing focus on a healthy lifestyle and nutrition, Yoga Bar became more relevant in the market. In terms of market space, Suhasini says it not only exceeds newer brands in healthy snacking 10X but also makes dominant food MNCs relook at their strategy.
“Even as new brands are making noise and claims, being an early mover with the cleanest and nutritionally balanced products has its advantages. We are the first ones to talk about healthy food in a larger forum when most people used to say only taste sells.”
Had the pandemic not taken place, the brand’s goal was to penetrate further into the retail sector by increasing its presence in 6,000 stores to 10,000 stores, and had also recruited the manpower look after sales for the same.
Its customer target of population - between age groups of 25 and 35 years - has remained the same over the years. However, they have taken the brand forward through word of mouth. The pandemic has taken many more people online, unlocking a new set of consumers.
In February 2020, Yoga Bar raised $8,330,000 as part of its Series A round and is now aiming to enter newer categories such as biscuits and chocolates.
"We would like to look at every product category where we believe that there is a scope to make it healthy, and where we believe that things can be done a lot better. That's always been our focus. We believe we will be able to grow very, very large like any other FMCG as healthy food is now the norm; people pick health before anything else,” she says.
Edited by Teja Lele