“I wanted to make up something that people use everyday like mayonnaise, or ketchup, or mustard,” she told FoodNavigator-USA. “So I thought, what is something people use every day that I can make better and you can make it in different flavors, and is easy to use?”
To Gunsagar, who is an avid yogi and whose mother studied Ayurveda at the California College of Ayurveda, the idea to make ghee came naturally. “She always would make ghee and we always had it in our kitchen,” she said.
Flavored by happenstance
Several years ago, Gunsagar was making her own ghee and accidentally dropped some sage that fell from a cabinet. “I just went with it, and I made a brown sage ghee—that was in my early 20s,” she said.
Around fifteen years later, as she was brainstorming a business to start, this little kitchen vignette came back to her. “I thought, this is probably going to trend. It’s lactose free, I knew Ayurveda was going to trend—it’s all about timing,” she said.
As of now, Gunsagar said her brand is the second to market nationwide, after Organic Valley’s Purity Farms Ghee which launched 10 years ago, and she thanks the timing of her brand’s launch to that.
Today the product has four varieties, Green Chili Ghee, Himalayan Salt Ghee, Vanilla Bean Ghee, and Original Ghee, sold at around $15.99 a jar.
The community catered, and the community served
“We target Millennials and Baby Boomers,” she said. “Millennials are hyperinformed and very healthy, while the Baby Boomers are the ‘former hippies,’ they get really excited about [our ghee] and it reminds them about their past—that was our hunch from demos, but we did surveys and it confirmed our hunch.”
Additionally, most of the stores they sell in are in affluent neighborhoods. “But eventually, once we get into more groceries and educating more people about ghee, I’m sure it could be just a like a typical butter alternative.”
Sales of the ghee supports a charity called Yoga Gives Back, dedicated to raising awareness and funds in order to alleviate poverty in India, which Gunsagar learned about because its founder practices yoga at her studio.
“It’s a smaller charity that’s already doing something, and its transparent because we can see where the money is going,” Gunsagar said about the charity partnership choice. Instead of distributing little money to a lot of people, the partnership allows Gunsagar’s company to one person a lot.
In the beginning, the proudly woman-owned company donated enough to sponsor a girl in India to attend school for five years. This year they’re doing two. As they grow bigger, they’ll aid more. “We did not want to wait until we were profitable,” she said. “We wanted to do this right away.”
The brand was originally called Tava, the first two syllables of Gunsagar’s maiden name as well as the Hindi word for cast-iron pan. But she didn’t get to copyright the name, and a rebranding effort became necessary. “We wanted to do it while the brand was still young,” she said.
Working with business partner Lilly Wunsch, the duo hired a California-based branding firm which Gunsagar originally wanted to hire when the product first launched in 2013, but she wasn’t able to afford them at the time.
The company now has 13 people working for them, and they produce 1800 pounds of ghee a day. “We’ve grown exponentially since last year, we’re now in Whole Foods north California, and we’ll be in seven Whole Foods regions by May,” she said.
This nationwide expansion will be done with the product under its new banner, Fourth and Heart, a nod to Hindu-Buddhist South Asian culture. “It’s about the heart chakra—and the heart chakra also connected to the planet Venus, which is the planet that rules my birth sign and coincidentally also the birth sign of my cofounder Lilly,” she said.
“There’s a multitude of meaning the new branding, it’s also about being inspirational and living life to the fullest, which represents why I wanted to start this company.”