“When building a food brand, some of the top challenges are finding access to capital, but also being able to source high quality ingredients and production capabilities … and we were fortunate enough find a business [in the Jain Group] that helps us solve both of those challenges,” CEO Anshu Dua told FoodNativator-USA, adding that other investors also contributed to the seed fundraise.
In addition, he said, the partnership with Jain is one he feels good about and his company’s consumers can too because Jain Irrigation, of which Jain Farm Fresh Foods is a subsidiary, is focused on the welfare of Indian farmers and the agriculture community.
“I was truly astonished at their dedication towards that mission,” Dua said, explaining that Jain works with more than 6 million farmers and helps them increase the efficiency of their farms by providing sustainable agriculture solutions such as irrigation, solar powered equipment, consulting and processing.
“I was really attracted to that mission, the culture they built up, the fact that they are at the scale they are at it. It is a global business that has plants all around the world … and is now at the point where it is interested in launching consumer brands and investing in consumer brands,” which is where The Chaat Co. comes in, Dua said, adding that the partnership is a “win-win.”
He explained that chaat is the word for Indian street snacks, which are typically plant-based proteins combined with spices and chutneys and intended for on-the-go consumption. It is based in a rich culture of bold flavors and fresh ingredients – two dominating trends in today’s food and beverage industry. Combined with Americans’ love of snacking, now is the perfect time to introduce chaat to the US, he added.
The company began last year by launching a trio of savory yogurts that are paired with fresh fruits, vegetables and spices and have a puffed lentil mix-in that consumers can add when they are ready to eat. But with the infusion of capital from Jain, Dua says, The Chaat Co hopes to bring more “great Indian snack experiences to the American consumer ... with a couple of different products that we are currently working on.”
Because the products are still in the research and development phase, Dua wouldn’t share many details but he said they are focused on fresh, convenient grab-and-go snacking and will help transform the company into “a true grand platform” in the US and eventually globally.
An iterative approach to food
The influx of funds will help Dua and his partner continue their “iterative approach to building a food brand,” which includes soliciting a lot of feedback from consumers and retailers about their products to continually improve them, he said.
For example, he explained that when The Chaat Co. first launched its savory yogurt products last year it was immediately pigeon-holed into the dairy aisle alongside mostly sweet products that are eaten primarily at breakfast and not as snacks.
At the same time, consumers told the company that while they were familiar with Indian food, such as curry, they hadn’t heard about chaat and they really wanted to learn more about the stories behind the products and what buying street snacks in India is like.
That is when the company realized the concept of chaat and Indian street snacks needed to be front and center in the packaging and branding, Dua said.
He explained the company replaced the original branding of a “savory yogurt snack,” which was emblazoned across the original yogurt cartons, with a much more colorful scenes of Indian streets and a large logo of the company name with “Indian street snacks” underneath.
Out of dairy and into prepared foods
The company also worked with retailers to move its snacks out of the dairy aisle and into the grab-and-go chilled set alongside the premade sandwiches, sushi and other ready-to-eat products that consumers understand are snacks and meals, Dua said.
“When we began merchandising our product in the prepared food segment, we saw velocity increase by double or triple of when our product was placed in the dairy aisle. And that, for us, really solidified that we want to build a brand of fresh snacks in the grab-and-go prepared food environment,” Dua said.
The company also is exploring distribution in more traditional food service settings, cafeterias and corporate offices – a move that also will reduce the branded competition that the company must cut through to catch consumers’ eyes, Dua said.
He added, “The future of grocery is this hybrid model of restaurants and grocery stores and we want to be right there on the leading edge.”