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How Mondelez India’s Cohort Of CoLab Startups Is Changing The Snacking Behaviour Of Consumers In India

SUMMARY

D2C early stage snacking startups that have been selected by Mondelez India and Huddle for CoLab’s India cohort, are Evolve Snacks, Happy Jars, Flyberry Gourmet, TruVitals and Nova Nova

These startups are leveraging emerging snacking trends to create innovative product portfolios that balance health and taste

These startups will receive a $20K grant, along with the opportunity to raise funding from Huddle and other prominent VCs in India

With millennials and Gen Z accounting for 50% of Indian consumers today, the demand for variety in snacking options has never been higher. What has fueled this demand is the growing new-age customers’ awareness of a variety of ingredients that make snacking a comforting experience, while catering to nutritional needs. 

The demand for more flavourful snacking options has set the stage for a plethora of direct-to-customer (D2C) snack brands. These brands are attuned to the snacking habits of their new-age consumers and are reshaping the snacking landscape with ingredients that are as deliciously satisfying.  

To give the efforts of these brands a further boost, Mondelēz International has launched its startup accelerator programme, CoLab, in India. Mondelēz has collaborated with Huddle, an early stage VC fund, to work with early stage snack brands.

Mondelēz International is a multinational snacking company that is headquartered in Chicago (US). It is also the parent company of Cadbury. It targets brands in the snacking space to drive growth. For this, it launched its startup accelerator programme CoLab in the US in 2021.

The early stage snacking startups that form this year’s cohort are Evolve Snacks, Happy Jars, Flyberry, Tru-Vitals and Nova Nova. These snacking startups will receive mentorship from both Mondelez senior leaders as well as industry experts across business topics of interest as the startups scale to their next phase of growth. 

The CoLab India accelerator programme includes a 12-week curriculum, consisting of virtual sessions and personalised interactions. These startups will also receive a $20K grant, along with the opportunity to raise funding from Huddle and other prominent VCs in India.

With that said, here is a sneak peek into the D2C snacking brands that have been selected under CoLab. 

Evolve Snacks

  • Founder: Angad Sehgal  
  • Founded In: 2017
  • Headquarters: Delhi NCR
  • Key Competitors: Snackible, TBH (To Be Honest), Fab Box

Delhi-based Indian snacking startup Evolve Snacks was conceived when marketing professional Angad Sehgal was forced to take a career break after fracturing his ankle in San Francisco. His doctor asked him to change his snacking habits from highly processed, oil-loaded snacks to more nutritious options that could help him recover. 

On his doctor’s recommendation, Sehgal included nuts and seeds in his diet. He was surprised to witness the impact of switching to healthier snacking options. This became the starting point of his entrepreneurial journey, and he launched Evolve in 2017 to promote healthy snacking habits. 

The brand offers snacks like multigrain puffs, oats chips, ragi chips, roasted seeds, makhana, pita chips and more. Ragi chips and bhakarwadi are the best-selling products, according to Sehgal.

The startup leverages high-end tech in manufacturing and packaging its products to ensure the food does not lose its taste and nutrients. Sehgal said that the customers can get their snacks delivered to them on a monthly subscription basis. 

Happy Jars  

  • Founder(s): Vikram Sekhar, Surabhi Talwar
  • Founded In: 2016
  • Headquarters: Delhi NCR
  • Key Competitors: Urban Platter, Whole Truth, Two Brothers

Vikram Sekhar, a marketing professional and an avid horse rider, found it challenging to meet his protein goals while staying committed to clean eating, besides horse riding demanded significant energy. One of his major pet peeves was that he didn’t trust store-bought products that claim to be healthy. 

Therefore, in 2016, Sekhar and his wife, Surabhi Talwar, founded the D2C brand Happy Jars. 

The venture made its humble beginning in the founders’ kitchen, where they created small batches of homemade peanut butter. Today, the startup’s peanut butter product portfolio comprises nut butter (made of almond and cashew), unsweetened peanut butter, and dark chocolate peanut butter.

Sekhar claims that Happy Jars’ peanut butter is made from 100% peanuts, sans additives, oil and preservatives. The startup also offers batter mixes for Indian breakfast dishes like idli, dosa and chilla, all manufactured in-house to ensure quality.

The brand has retail points of sale across cities such as Delhi NCR, Chandigarh, Dehradun, Ahmedabad, Jaipur and Lucknow. Happy Jars also leverages quick commerce platforms like Swiggy Instamart, BBDaily (BigBasket), Amazon and Zepto.

Flyberry Gourmet

  • Founders: Akarsh Makhija
  • Founded In: 2017
  • Headquarters: Hyderabad, Telangana
  • Key Competitors: Open Secret, Epigamia, Yoga Bar 

According to a study, 53.2% of women are anaemic and 50.4% of pregnant women suffer iron deficiency. Realising this, serial entrepreneur Akarsh Makhija, along with entrepreneurs Sumit Gurdev Singh Rajpal and Surender Singh Makhija, founded Flyberry Gourmet, a D2C snacking startup, in 2017.  

The startup claims to source natural, clean dates to make products like dried dates, granola and trail mixes and date derivatives like date syrup and powder. In fact, the startup allows customers to grind fresh nuts themselves, seeds and spice ingredients to create their own spreads and jars of seed butter at its branded retail stores. 

According to the cofounder, the brand’s savoury range of vegetable chips is first pre-treated for filler-free ingredients and then vacuum fried using 70 to 80% less oil to preserve nutrients. Akarsh says that the in-house R&D sources the best ingredients that have natural probiotics, prebiotics and adaptogens. 

He added that the R&D intensively researched for the brand’s smoky corn chips to replicate roadside ‘bhutta’ (corn) taste. 

To touch all points of sale, the brand has taken an omnichannel approach. It has leveraged quick commerce platforms like Swiggy Instamart and ecommerce platforms such as Amazon and Bigbasket. The startup has five branded retail stores in Hyderabad and Vijayawada, and its offline presence can be found only in South India.

Additionally, Flyberry Gourmet products can also be found in other retail outlets like Spencer’s, Q Mart and Organic World. Its corporate partnership includes the likes of Deloitte, Coca-Cola, Taj Hotel, Marriott, Accenture, and Google, among others. 

Talking about what lies ahead for Flyberry Gourmet, Akarsh said he would leverage social media to increase the brand’s online presence. The startup is also planning to establish an export arm to cater to South East Asian and African markets.

TruVitals

  • Founders: Nikita Tamta, Rashi Sethia
  • Founded In: 2022
  • Headquarters: Delhi NCR
  • Key Competitors: HealthKart, Sasta Sunder, Kapiva

Nikita Tamta, a marketing professional, and Rashi Sethia, a business executive, found it challenging to provide their kids with a balanced diet. According to Tamta, their kids were underweight and had chronic respiratory issues. 

To combat these issues naturally, they searched for ingredients that would improve their kids’ health but only came across ingredients that were marketed as effective but lacked nutrients to fulfil all the nutritional demands of a growing kid.

Tamta and Sethia then decided to take charge of their kids’ nutrition needs and help other parents who too were sailing on the same boat.

The two mothers launched TruVitals, a D2C snacking and health supplement brand, in 2022.

TruVitals offers biscuits, protein powder, protein-based bars and cookies, protein pasta and fibre gummies. Tamta said that each product took between nine months to one and a half years before the launch.

The startup has leveraged WhatsApp commerce to offer personalised experiences to their customers. For instance, customers can place an order on WhatsApp that will directly lead them to the checkout page to complete their shopping journey. 

Talking about the future plans, Tamta said that the startup aims to expand its online presence to drive stronger repeat rates.

Nova Nova (formerly known as Waffle House)

  • Founders: Nidhi Gadia, Harsh Gadia
  • Founded In: 2014
  • Headquarters: Mumbai, Maharashtra
  • Key Competitors: Yoga Bar, Epigamaia, Open Secret

The chocolate market in India has substantially grown over the past decades but has been majorly dominated by legacy players like Cadbury and Nestle. 

While Cadbury’s tablet-like chocolate bar and Nestle’s chocolate-coated wafer sticks are still ruling the chocolate market, this template has created a lot of white space for experiments in the chocolate sector. While the loyalists will choose the legacy brands, the new-age consumers are willing to experiment with new products. This gives early stage startups an opportunity to cater to the evolving consumer taste. 

Understanding this, advertising professional Nidhi Gadia and serial entrepreneur Harsh Gadia, started D2C indulgent snacking startup Nova Nova.  

The Gadias launched Nova Nova (earlier known as The Waffle House) in 2014. By 2019, Waffle House opened 25 more outlets in Mumbai, including partnerships with multiplexes like PVR  and INOX. 

However, it faced a major setback due to Covid when all its outlets were shut within weeks. It was then the startup pivoted and became a digital-first brand. It also rebranded itself to Nova Nova. 

“We understand that Indian consumers are interested in trying new products, but the traditional ways of selling them through stores are challenging. That’s why Nova Nova uses the direct-to-consumer (D2C) model,” said Gadias.

As the snacking landscape transforms to cater to consumers’ evolving preferences, the disruptive snacking D2C brands are enabled by initiatives such as Mondelēz International’s CoLab. Snacking has become more than a routine. Consumers are driven by modern lifestyles and are frequently replacing meals with snacking items. Besides, snacks have become an expression of comfort, further emphasising the impact of these innovative D2C brands in driving the snacking industry.

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