This entrepreneur's gourmet brand is from the spice capital of the world
A third-generation entrepreneur from Kerala’s Synthite family, Ashok Mani got the idea for Sprig Gourmet and World Food from colleague and friend, Vishal Menon. A little background - the Synthite Industries is believed to be among the world’s largest producers of oleoresins and spice oils.
The duo felt that the food and beverages industry in India had a glaring gap when it comes to gourmet foods.
“It was really hard to locate quality products which delivers the same experience as one encounters in Spinneys, Waitrose and other such gourmet stores across the globe. Key insight also was that with the well-travelled younger population, the Indian market was ready for such offerings. Also, with increasing digital consumption of content on International cuisine, customer aspirations has grown over time as well,” says Ashok.
Sprig has been funded by the Synthite Group. It is part of Intergrow Brands, an initiative by Synthite to create a group of brands that would encompass several product families such as – Green Tea, Sauces, Sweet Spreads, Honeys, Natural Extracts, Spices and Seasonings. The company, founded in 2014, is based out of Kochi in Kerala.
Inspite of being part of an already established group, Ashok explains that Sprig’s team still found it challenging to get acceptance with customers and channel partners.
Building the base
“The gourmet foods space was in a very nascent stage when we started Sprig – we had to run multiple iterations in getting offerings right, and ensuring that channels found it relevant to be listed. We overcame challenges by keeping the basics in place - keeping customers first in our thinking, being ambidextrous in choosing between mass-scale products and niche products, and building a young and dynamic team who are very passionate about food,” says Ashok.
The manufacturing and production happens at Synthite. Ashok explains that their fully soluble Green tea range Sprig TE.A is developed through a specialised process. Within a few hours of leaving the tea gardens, the tender green leaves reach our ultra-modern manufacturing plant, where they are cleaned, juiced and gently dried into a fine powder using Synthite’s unique, proprietary – cold-cCrafting technology.
“It’s no secret that too much heat degrades nutrients and destroys flavour. Using sophisticated machines, we carefully control the thermal impact (heat) on the “tea-leaf juice” to a minimum, and ensure that TE.A is redolent with fresh flavour and naturally rich in bio-protective anti-oxidants,” says Ashok.
He adds that the quality of products and packaging are two key aspects that customers look for in this space. Ashok says their attempt was in terms of figuring how the team can deliver this at a reasonable price-point.
Pricing and market
Currently Sprig products are priced between Rs 500 to Rs 1200, and are sold online and offline at gourmet brand stores like Foodhall and Nature’s Basket. While the team refused to share their revenue details, the average basket is between Rs 600 to Rs 1000.
“We work with channel partners across modern trade, general trade and online to drive business,” explains Ashok.
According to several media reports the domestic gourmet food market is projected to grow at a CAGR of over 13 percent to reach $1,340.5 million by 2024. Some of the other Indian brands in the space include- Wingreens,, Sauces, and Habanero. These brands have even partnered with larger restaurants and food places like KFC, Domino’s Pizza, etc.
Speaking of their future plans, Ashok says,
“In India we are looking to expand our market access through both offline and online channels. We currently operate through 3000 outlets and all major online channels. With regards to the international market, it has been a year since we started operating in UAE. We are in the process of expanding our presence in the UK, the US, Saudi Arabia, Qatar. We also hope to bring out over 200 products over the next year covering gourmet sauces, oils, baking ingredients etc.”