InnerBeing has introduced millets like ragi, jowar and bajra in a contemporary avatar of ready-to-eat and cook mixes ranging from breakfast mixes, hot drinks to protein bars and snacks. The ingredients for the products are sourced directly from the farmers, to make sure that they remain in the purest form. Sandesh Pandhare, co-founder and chairman, InnerBeing Wellness, speaks to Steena Joy about the brand’s commitment to bring alive ancient grains and the future roadmap for the brand.
What is the aim and vision behind InnerBeing?
At InnerBeing what we are basically aspiring to do is bring back the ancient grains, particularly millets, to the consumers in a format which they are already accepting. For example, idli, upma, poha these are all standard items. We are bringing them in millets which are very good for health and they offer very good nutritional benefits. There are about eight varieties of millets like for example jowar, bajra, nachni or ragi. Millets are basically gluten free, they also have very low glycemic index and they are good for diabetics. India is now the diabetic capital of the world. Obesity wise India is now no. three in the world. So these millets are helpful for such consumers. They are also very good in proteins. Especially foxtail millet. Ragi is very good in calcium. So what we have done is we have created this product – a ragi chocolate drink. This is a fantastic thing for mothers to give to their children. For all our products we have basically focussed on five pillars. Because we have done research and realised that people are looking for certain health attributes. All our products are gluten free. They are fortified with plant protein. They have no added sugars, so even the cake mix that we have is good for diabetic people because it will not have any sugar. We also have our quinoa and millet blended porridge which is good for young children.
So InnerBeing products use a lot of natural ingredients?
Yes, natural ingredients such as dates or maybe honey. Our products have no added preservatives and are high in fiber. So the idea is not only to have these foods or millets in traditional formats like poha and idli but also in modern formats like say, millet pancakes. My 21-year old daughter who will shy away from idlis and upmas and pohas will readily eat pancakes, waffles, etc. That’s the trend. Our packaging is also stylish so that it appeals to such millennials. Turmeric milk is a known remedy for generations but children these days refuse to have it. But now Starbucks has launched their turmeric latte and it’s hugely successful now all over the world. Ironically, India is the largest producer of turmeric in the world. So our idea is we have to take our ancient heritage like millets and bring it to consumers in modern formats that appeals to them.
Do you retail?
Yes we go through retail. We also sell through institutional sales. We also have our online store. These are our three distribution channels.
How much part is institutional sales as of now?
Institutional sales account for almost 40 per cent. Rest 40-45 per cent is retail and online is still small. But we are catching up. We are headquartered in Hyderabad where we have most of the big hotels like ITC, Hyatt, Novotel, Radisson, etc. We work very closely with the dietician fraternity as well as the chef fraternity, fitness sector like gyms etc, even marathons, the education sector and corporate canteens for our institutional sales.
What are the main markets right now regionally?
We started in Hyderabad in 2014. Now we want to get into top 10 cities in India like Bengaluru. IT people don’t have time but are very health and lifestyle conscious and they are well travelled. They are our target segment. We want to map that. We want to come to Mumbai, Bengaluru, Delhi, Pune and Kolkata. So rather than saying east, west, north, south as zones we want to get into these top 10 cities first because that’s where bulk of the market is.
I just want to add one more thing. We are the first company to be incubated with a-idea NAARM (National Academy for Agricultural Research & Management, a Government of India agriculture arm) and receive seed funding from ICAR- NAARM. We were also the first company in which they have actually made an investment. It’s a small investment but they saw the power of what we are trying to do. Hyderabad is the nutritional capital of India. We also have a technical tie-up with the Indian Institute of Millet Research (IIMR), the apex body for all millet research in the country. We get a lot of help from them in popularising millets in different food formats.
The Indian government is promoting millets big time and in fact has declared 2019 as the National Year of Millets and globally also the FAO has declared 2023 as the International Year of Millets. Initially in India there was a concern of food security now it is of nutritional security – are people getting enough of good food? So it is not just the quantity but the quality of food that is a concern now.