Soulfull: Giving a Modern Twist to Ancient Indian Grain
With quinoa gaining the popularity of super grain across the world, Prashant Parameswaran, Founder and Managing Director of Kottaram Agro Foods, delved into the super grain and started working with Millet to create nutritious products that are not only liked by elders but kids as well.
Please tell us about your journey from an engineer to the founder of ‘Soulfull’.
I come from a family deeply rooted in agriculture. My quest for technology led me to do engineering. As early as my student days, I was fascinated by the process of manufacturing and went on to complete my masters in entrepreneurship from Babson College, USA.
My deep interest in supply chain management prompted me to work with leading data-driven supply chain technology in the US. My work with gourmet stores helped me understand global food technology as well as the shift in consumer preferences towards healthier sustainable options. An in-depth study on quinoa which was a humble South American grain and its acceptance in global gourmet markets for its nutritive value instilled a desire in me to work with millets in India. Soulfull was born out of the dream of reinventing the humble millets like Ragi into products that appealed to the modern global consumer in terms of convenience, taste and nutritional requirements.
Why do you think that there is a need for such foods?
When it comes to food choices, the modern Indian consumer looks into various aspects like convenience, taste, availability and nutrition. Our aim at Soulfull was to check all these boxes.
The food industry, especially the processed and more importantly the packaged food industry is growing fast. One of the chief drivers of this accelerated growth is the surge in self-service grocery stores which allow brands to not just sell their products but also give them ample access to educate the target consumer.
What are the global trends in the industry? How do you see the market evolving in India?
Health food is here to stay. Globally, consumers are more aware of the food they consume; their family’s nutritional requirements and actively seek to solve their nutritional needs with products that resonate with their values.
With increased consumer awareness as well as increased organized retail penetration, the processed natural health food market is growing at a faster pace. Indian consumers are increasingly shifting food and food products into a ‘high involvement’ purchase, scrutinizing packaging information, as well as understanding localized nutritional needs and searching for products that will solve them all.
What is your target audience? What are the products range available? How did you select the flavor choices?
When Soulfull started developing products a few years ago, the target consumers were the global upwardly mobile urban Indian. Today, we have a wider reach and our target consumer is every single Indian.
Our products range include: Ragi Flakes (crisp flakes made fromRagi and a perfect choice for diabetics and nutrition enthusiasts), Ragi Fills (crunchy pockets of Ragi filled with exciting flavors like chocolate, vanilla, strawberry or mango that is a huge hit with children), Multigrain Loopies, Millet Muesli (muesli with the added nutrition of millets), Desi Millet Muesli (awarded for innovation and bringing Desi flavors to traditional muesli ), Oat Millet Meal (single serve ready to cook savory product for consumers preferring a hot breakfast) and our latest launch- the all-natural high protein- Smoothix (just shake it with milk and consume on the go).
Our flavor choice starts with consumer research, moves to product development and concludes with consumer research before a test rolls out.
What are the locations ‘Soulfull’ stores are located at? Are you planning to move to other cities as well?
Soulfull is available across India. Modern trade (large organized retail chains) forms a bulk of our business, allowing us an access to shopping baskets everywhere. This is followed by standalone outlets in large metros served by distributors and institutional sales which are serviced from our head office or regional offices.
Currently, the stores are located in Bangalore, NCR, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Kerala and hope to reach many more states and cities in the near future. Our goal is to reach 20000 outlets by the end of this financial year.
What is your pricing strategy? Which product is the most popular among the customers?
Our pricing strategy is a penetration pricing, ensuring we get to the maximum number of consumers without compromising on the pillars of our philosophy. Our products range from INR10 for a SKU (single serve packs) to INR 250.
Our most popular products are- Ragi Bites, Desi Muesli and Smoothix.
What is the highest selling product?
The Ragi Bites is the highest selling product both in terms of value and volume.
Please tell us about the omnichannel strategy of the brand.
Our products are available in every channel online, offline, specialty stores, kirana stores, modern trade etc.
What are the opportunities you see for the packaged food industry? Please discuss the challenges as well.
The opportunities include- increasing shelf life, store presence (distribution penetration), basket value per consumer and cross-selling within the same family. While challenges are consumer awareness, sustained product availability, access to relevant consumer data, and optimizing production to maximize consumer profitability with zero wastage.
How do you fare against the growing competition?
We believe that the market itself is capable of increasing in size. Our consumer base is loyal and we see above average repeat business from our consumers. As one of the earliest innovators in this space, the industry looks at us as a brand that builds the path.
What are your strategies for the promotion of ‘Soulfull’ products?
Our products are our biggest heroes and sampling has been the most effective promotional strategy. The strategy includes retail outlet sampling as well as sponsorship of events like marathons, apart from traditional promotional strategies like media buying- online and offline.
What is the percentage of consumption and sale of ‘Soulfull’ products in various regions of India? What regions do you get the most orders from?
Currently, Bangalore is our biggest market, closely followed by Delhi (NCR) and Mumbai. However, we are witnessing an increased consumption in other states as well.