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  • Writer's pictureGreat Companies

Sonali Kocharekar, CEO at Appetite Food


Great Companies: How did you get your idea or concept for the business?

Sonali Kocharekar: Growing up in middle class family with strong values & work ethic, I’ve also always been a conscientious eater since my growing years, and other than good academics, extra-curricular activities etc., my parents also instilled in me, the role of good health & nutrition, in leading a happy and fulfilling life.


I discovered my passion for healthy food and nutrition early when I started my professional career about 12 years back. I was therefore always interested in exploring for healthier versions of the oily snacks & unhealthy processed food that were the only options available to me during the grueling workdays at my workplace in my phase as a professional working in the pharma data analysis domain.


I started off experimenting & making healthy versions of snack foods, and sharing them with my colleagues, friends and extended family, and was surprised at the amazing response I received from them. After sampling these recipes that I had created, I found that there was a niche but definite demand for such food options that do not compromise on nutrition or taste.


I’ve always wanted to help people by motivating them to adopt a balanced lifestyle & healthy eating habit. Making a positive impact in someone’s life is something I find truly fulfilling & rewarding. This prompted me to look at the food industry through the lens of nutrition. I invested a couple of years to learn more about the latest trends in nutrition, followed the work of other nutritionists and studied in some detail, the benefits of Ayurveda & our traditional food systems. This gave me valuable insights on how millennials, can easily adopt healthier alternate lifestyles, with balanced diets that are in line with current dietary trends, but do not compromise on the taste & flavor benefits of traditional food systems


After a great deal of thought, I decided to quit my job to follow my passion and plunge myself 100% in starting a venture whose primary aim would be enhancement of overall health and wellbeing through healthy and nutritious food options. During this journey I also realized that the healthy food business was not really a thing in India; and that I would need to tweak my offering & make them available in traditional food formats to make them more acceptable to the Indian audience.


Ergo… The creation of Appetite Food in Aug 2020. As a company we’re clear about NOT using artificial flavorings, additives or preservatives. Our offerings are made of natural ingredients, infused with superfoods like Spirulina, Tulsi (Basil), Ashwagandha (Indian Ginseng), Moringa etc., and last but not the least are pocket friendly. Today, we are proud of the fact that not only do our products satisfy Indian standards of food and health, but are also gaining widespread acceptance in a marketplace that has not always been ideal for promotion of healthy food options.


Great Companies: What are the various Services provided by Appetite Food

Sonali Kocharekar : As a food technology company that understands and addresses issues related to nutrition and the impact of nutrition on an individuals overall health & well-being, we offer multiple products & services in this domain


Our B2C (Business-to-Consumer) or D2C (Direct-to-Consumer) portfolio has a multitude of diet-friendly and healthy any-time food and snack options that include our Vishwa range of Ayurveda inspired healthy laddu’s infused with superfoods like Spirulina (Choco Spirulina, Oats, Mung, Multigrain, Fenugreek or Methi & Ragi laddu’s), Diet friendly Savory Munchies (Oats, Puffed Grain, Diet, Ragi & Cornflakes), Baked snacks (Samosa & Gujiya), and Nutrition Bars (Protein, Immunity, Ragi, Vitamin C & Oats Bars). We would shortly be adding fiber-rich healthy cookies, whole grain puffs, dry-fruit brittle (chikki), and baked sev or bhujiya to this portfolio over the next couple of months.


Our B2B (Business-to-Business) offerings include Contract Manufacturing & Private Label Manufacturing Services centered around customized or curated versions of our B2C portfolio. These also include (if required) branding, packaging design, product photography and printing services. The manufacturing services are implemented under water-tight NDA’s to ensure confidentiality/ IP protection, and use the highest safety & quality standards.


As part of APPETITE FOOD’s endeavors to provide sustainable nutrition options that address concerns of depleted immunity due to malnourishment in underprivileged children, we participate in daily interventions, to reduce rates of malnutrition in target communities with a focus on infants & young children. We work with organizations like RAAH Foundation & Virat Kohli Foundation to provide them subsidized nutrition-loaded food options, that feed 100's of underprivileged children daily thru their programs in a sustainable & integrated approach. Over the next few quarters, we aim to scale up this initiative to cover at least 5,000 children with support from more NGO partners.



Great Companies: What makes Appetite Food different from hundreds of other Pack Food Manufacturing Firms ?

Sonali Kocharekar : Rapid global urbanization in India has resulted in traditional, largely plant base diets being replaced by processed food dominated diets that are high in sugars, artificial additives & preservatives, animal fats etc., and low in starches, dietary fiber, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. This nutrition transition in turn has resulted in the rapid rise of obesity, depleted immunity, increase in lifestyle diseases and early onset of chronic diseases/ conditions. APPETITE FOOD basically understands and addresses these issues, with an approach that differs from the other Pack Food Manufacturing companies.


Consumers are more inclined toward convenient and healthy foods, thereby saving their time and money at the same time. This growing consumer inclination towards gluten-free, vegan, and organic food products with plant-sourced ingredients has led to the emergence of newer product variants with prolonged shelf-life and easy storage benefits. In parallel, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a surge in demand for superfoods. Consumers are actively looking for superfood to boost their immunity & overall wellness quotient.


While there is a lot of talk and attention in the media these days about the so-called “superfoods” we’ve done our research, and know that all of the claims made are NOT TRUE. But Ayurveda has actually had "superfoods" since the beginning. According to Wikipedia, "Superfood is a marketing term for food with supposed health benefits. The term is commonly used by experts, dietitians and nutrition scientists, many of whom dispute that particular foods have all the health benefits claimed by their advocates. So what makes Appetite Food’s options "super” or “different”?

The food should promote Sattva - Sattva is clarity, stillness, peace, contentment, love, compassion and kindness. This can be cultivated with a multitude of practices, but especially with what you eat. Drawing on the Ayurvedic principle of "like increases like," we can enrich our mind & body by eating predominantly Sattvic food. Unprocessed, seasonal, whole foods are more Sattvic but there are specific foods that are "super" Sattvic!

The food should directly nourish Ojas - Ojas is a subtle golden liquid said to have "the color of ghee, the taste of honey and the smell of toasted rice." It is found in greatest concentration in the heart and adrenal glands. Ojas is our source of strength and the power in our immune system, protecting us from disease. It supports us mentally and is the source of our creativity and mental resilience, so it's important that we consume foods that increase Ojas in us.


When it comes to embracing the benefits of Ayurveda, watching what you eat is possibly the best way to start. “Ahar (meaning dietary habits in Ayurveda) says that food eaten should have at least one of six tastes: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent and astringent. The right foods promote sattva (purity), detox the body, and rejuvenate it as well, leading to an overall increase in immunity, physical and mental strength, and digestion. To accomplish all of the above, avoid the popular & temporary crash diets, and instead consume ayurvedic superfoods (ginger, ginseng, gooseberry, turmeric, ghee, basil, spirulina, moringa) and nutritious whole grains (ragi, jowar,bajra), lentils & nuts/seeds (almond, chia, sunflower, flax) that are an integral part of Appetite Food’s healthy food products, and are also suitable/familiar to the Indian palate.


In summary, we’re able to pack in more nutritive value in our products without compromising on taste & flavor. And we don’t use any ingredients that are artificial or contain preservatives. Ingredients like Spirulina, Ginseng, Moringa etc., are difficult to infuse in food products since they lose their nutritive value because of the way Indian food is cooked. Also, ingredients like Spirulina even if properly added without affecting the nutritive value, still significantly alter the taste profile because of their intense flavors. We’re one of the 1st brands that have been able to infuse these super-ingredients into our product while still maintaining their nutrition benefits, and not affecting the flavors and taste offered by traditional food systems.



Great Companies: What are the struggles and challenges you face?

Sonali Kocharekar : One of the challenges we faced at Appetite Food was infusing these superfoods into our traditional food products without adversely impacting the overall taste quotient of the end product. Some of the superfoods like Ashwagandha (Indian Ginseng) & Spirulina have a distinct taste and flavor, that might not be easily acceptable, palatable or popular with consumers. It took a great deal of research and understanding of food palates, to successfully mask these different flavors & mitigate the perceived uniqueness of the superfood flavors into Appetite Food’s nutrition dense & healthy version of traditional food offerings like laddu’s, namkeens, nutrition bars, and other products, while maintaining or enhancing the taste quotient of these products. This to my mind has been one of our major successes, and the factor that will drive the popularity & acceptability of our products.


Also; while visibility and awareness in terms of shelf pace in on-ground shelves of supermarkets and retail counters remain a huge challenge for new entrants like Appetite Food, due to the ultra-competitive practices and humungous promotion budgets of large brands who more often than not get away with disproportionately amplifying the nutrition benefits of their products where none exist, we also see a growing awareness in consumers who are becoming more conscious of what they are consuming, and how its impacting their overall health & wellbeing.


Great Companies: How do you plan to grow in the future? What does 5 years down the line look like for Appetite Food?

Sonali Kocharekar : While our current revenues from the B2B business are larger than the B2C or D2C business, we see this changing as we go forward & continue to propagate and build the Appetite Food BRAND. But Brand building is not an easy exercise & it takes a huge amount of time & capital to build or create a brand that consumers can identify with and TRUST. To grow our Brand & our business, we will continue to stay true to our purpose (differentiate), invest in emotional branding (create loyal communities), ensure consistency (for brand recall), maintain versatility (product innovation), and deliver Value (to our customers).

We eventually see ourselves reaching a position where:

  • We’ve created a BRAND which consumers shall trust when it comes to nutrition, quality & great taste.

  • Our consumers acknowledge the importance of consuming healthy food & actively try to transform their food choices to healthier options that can improve their overall well-being.


Great Companies: If you had one piece of advice to someone just starting out, what would it be?

Sonali Kocharekar : I remember reading somewhere that while almost all entrepreneurs have risk taking abilities, that lead them to bite off a little more than they can chew, the successful ones quickly learn how to chew it. I’ve however been very inspired by Oprah Winfrey’s quote Every time you state what you want or believe, you’re the first to hear it. It’s a message to both you and others about what you think is possible. Don’t put a ceiling on yourself” and would like to give this same advice to anyone starting out on their entrepreneurial journey.



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