Intergrow Brands, part of the Synthite Industries – a leading Indian oleoresin extraction firm, supplying ingredients to food, fragrance and flavour houses, has set a high note in the spices and masala space with its entry in the space with Kitchen Treasures brand. Soon, Intergrow Brands went on to launch a range of gourmet products under the name of Sprig. With a lot of enquiries coming in from the hospitality segment, Ashok Mani, MD & CEO, Intergrow Brands, decided to tap the industry by introducing institutional packs of their Kitchen Treasures and Sprig products under the brand name Intergrow Culinary Solutions.
Giving details about the advent of Intergrow Brands, Mani informed that the parent company, Synthite
Industries started in 1972, since it’s inception by his grandfather, has been focussing on spice extraction business. “For example, if you take 100 kgs of chilli and convert it into 1 kg of liquid, that is exactly what extraction is. It is not the concentrate. With the food industry majorly focussing on standardisation, extraction helps food processors to standardise their products across regions. This is one of the reasons why the extraction business exists. We are the largest spice extraction firm in the world sitting being a 2000 Cr business. Over the past years, what we have learnt is that extraction is similar to all the natural ingredients. For which, we extended into vanilla, coffee, tea, fruit, herbs including the exotic ones like rosemary, sage, thyme, among others. That is how the business avenues for the brand grew. Traditionally, we started by servicing the food and flavours companies, but we later extended into nutraceutical companies. For example, some of our ingredients go into certain formulations which leads into a curcumin capsule. Also, we supply marigold extract to Japan, which is used in the animal feed industry, especially for poultry, as Japanese like the eggs yolk to have more orangish colour, but naturally. Our jasmine extract is largely used by many fragrance companies. So, our extracts have gone through a spectrum of applications wherein natural ingredients can be used. After over four decades, we learnt that we are a large player in the B2B space; we understand natural ingredients; we have worked with FMCG companies which gave an understanding of their functionality as well for which we thought why not go and promote our brand by us. So, with that, we started the spice and masala business – Kitchen Treasures, five years ago. Since we knew there were many players in that space, our knowledge about the ingredients and their rightful sourcing and composition gave us an edge over the other brands. The venture is a 150 cr business in five years in the spice and masala space.”
Speaking about the launch of Sprig, Mani informed that looking at the limited exposure of the Indian market to international flavours, “We soon came out with the Sprig brand in which we have come out with vanilla and lavender extracts and natural colours used in baking. Also, in India, we have until now only used chocolate as a spread, but the global flavours are changing significantly with flavours like salted caramel, getting popular. Sprig intends to introduce gourmet products in India.”
What also happened in the light of hospitality is, after launching both these brands, Mani expressed that they started getting calls from hotels for chilli powder and cafes which demanded vanilla extract. “That is when we thought of instead of just sticking to hardcore retail space, we also have an opportunity to mark a significant presence in the hospitality space. Hence, we started a dedicated division servicing to the hospitality industry called Intergrow Culinary Solutions. In the division, we have about 30 people with 10 chefs. We took all of our products and converted them into larger packs, and furthermore added a range of products to it as well. What we do in this division is that the chef accompanies the salesman to our prospective clientele i.e. restaurants and cafes wherein we try and tell them how we can improvise the menu with a supply of better-quality products. The larger challenge that chefs are faced with today is the quality of ingredients. Also, we are not providing the end product, hence we are giving the convenience to the chefs by providing them premix sauces and other food solutions, but not the final solution. Furthermore, having a spectrum of solutions, we have something for each restaurant, hotel and catering brand for their varied demand,” he added. To a query about quality control of ingredients from sourcing, Mani replied, “Getting into backward integration, we work with a lot of farmers. We have a team of 60 people who are on the ground and they work with the farmers in terms of regulating pesticides use and educate them about the acceptable ones and the dosage of the same to be used. Hence, ensuring a very robust quality control system at the back-end to have a quality product that comes in the house.”
Expressing the demand sensed by the hospitality industry, Mani said that their products seek demand from both the hotel and the restaurant space. “The challenge with hotels is that their team of chef culinaires seldom accept newer products in the market while keeping their brand standards in mind. However, the restaurant space is more open to accepting newer products, for the space is seen to be having real-time innovation. For catering space, it is a lot more about cost optimisation, so at that level, our products are highly accepted too,” he added.
Talking about the USP of Intergrow Brands, Mani exuded, “We excel in doing food tech which is a wrongly tagged to the logistics/food delivery tech companies. Food tech is about the different kinds of flavours that can be generated with the application of technology. We have got state of the art systems for making these flavours. For us, that is food tech and how do you convert it into acceptable formats for the chefs. Our USP lies in our ability to rightfully use food tech to make products that bring a sensorial experience to the dish.”
Speaking about the future roadmap of Intergrow Brands, Mani said, “Our motto with Intergrow Culinary Solutions is not branding per se, but reaching out to the lesser-known yet potential markets in the country. The tier II markets are growing faster than the tier I markets. HoReCa is adding on to the portfolio. We have touched what we believe is the savoury segment. There is also a large segment under sweets and desserts base, which is another focus that we want to create. Also, we are an eight-city company right now, and our vision is to be a 30-city company. As of now, we have a significant presence in all the metros. We are looking forward to tapping the tier-II cities.”