Gladful was founded in December 2022 by a sister-brother duo to provide convenient, high-protein foods for Indian families. Its product range, based on lentils, millets and legumes, includes pre-sprouted mixes, cookies and desserts.
Speaking to FoodNavigator-Asia, CEO Parul Sharma – a FMCG veteran with 15 years of experience in some of the world’s biggest snacks manufacturers – explained where the brand fits in the backdrop of India’s protein deficiency problem: “India is amongst the largest countries when it comes to protein deficiency in the world - with 80% of Indians and 73% of urban Indians deficient in protein. It’s not really a problem of the poor or vegetarians. Indian diets are by nature carbohydrates-heavy, and there is also limited awareness of its functions.”
She added that the pandemic heightened interest in better-for-you products, despite the market being very value-conscious.
“[In my previous jobs], I spent a lot of time talking to mothers and youths. Somewhere I feel that there was a dissonance happening. Consumers are starting to become more aware, and they wanted to look at the back of the pack to check what kind of ingredients go into their food.
“Despite India being a very value-conscious market, people were asking about their dietary allowances. Can I get something better for me in the same bite? They were expecting a lot more. When the pandemic happened, suddenly consumers, including me as a mother, became hyper aware of what we were consuming and there was this rush for health and wellness products.”
Boosting acceptability for alt-protein in India
Sharma also believes that much of the protein sector in India is devoted to addressing specific health needs, instead of driving mass market appeal. This is why the firm is adopting a family-friendly approach in hopes that it will drive ongoing consumption across the generations.
“If you tell some Indian family, only the grandfather that he needs to have this and it’s only for him, he would possibly only have it for six to eight weeks. The moment you make it relevant to the entire family, consumption will likely be continued. We wanted to build something that can be consumed by Indian families at large.”
The brand also works closely with mothers – ‘the key decision makers’ - to build up its product categories
“If you look at India or the entire globe, the purchasing of grocery items and FMCG goods for the household is 80% of the time decided by the mother. When it comes to her kids, she's hyper aware and cautious. She prepares the lunchboxes for her kids. Our focus on them will continue to be unwavering, whether it is for her family or child. She is the key decision maker on more occasions than we want.”
Building alt-protein that appeals
Each serve provides about 15 to 20% of the daily protein intake, with its hero ingredients being lentils, millets, and legumes – already familiar ingredients in the Indian diet.
Its products are also supplemented with fibre. Sharma said that traditionally, protein shakes that are high on whey protein lack the “competence of fibre” and its products seek to “pack as much nutrition in their lunchboxes.”
Before launch, the brand had interviewed 300 mothers on preferred product categories. The top three formats being protein biscuits, Chilla and Dosa (pancake), and breakfast cereals.
Given its products fall within the mid- to high-price range, it primarily targets Indian consumers in Tier 1 cities. Within the next six months, it plans to expand to Tier 2 and 3 cities.
Its products are currently available on its website and e-commerce platforms such as Amazon, Flipkart, OneGreen.in and going on Blinkit soon. The founders also hold sporadic pop-ups at kindergartens and elementary schools to raise awareness about healthy eating.
The brand teased that within the same timeframe, it is launching an offline distribution channel “focusing on a certain geography.”
Gladful recently received a Rs 50 lakh (USD $60,768) investment in the business reality show Shark Tank India, which Sharma said will be channelled towards NPD and expanding distribution.