‘Stamp of credibility’: India’s first certified clean label brand highlights importance of traceability to boost consumer trust
According to True Elements CEO and Co-Founder Puru Gupta, the firm is one of the first clean label breakfast and snacks (collectively known as ‘nashta’ in India) brands in the country, and also recently became the first Indian food brand to be certified as both clean label and 100% whole grain.
“True Elements is a proud recipient of the Clean Label Project certificate, the first food brand in India to achieve this,” Gupta told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“This certification involved our products being tested for more than 130 harmful environmental and industrial contaminants present in food [which was no small endeavour] as we are currently present across 13 categories, across 65 products and have some 200+ SKUs that fit into the 8am-11am-5pm time buckets.
“Since the pandemic hit India, consumers are even more sensitive about what they consume and are more aware of the impact it will have on themselves and the environment [so] are now keener and more open to substituting their fried snacks with healthier alternatives.
“Being certified as a clean label brand by an international body [is a] stamp of credibility for us, and we are proud that our commitment of quality promised is validated by scientific testing.”
Between 2020 to 2025, the clean label food market in India is expected to grow by about 7.5%, which Gupta told us is the highest growth rate amongst all countries in the APAC region, driven by the market now inclining towards health-oriented & sustainable products.
The brand currently caters to over one million consumers and is particularly well-known for its 100% wholegrain certified breakfast cereals range, which means the grains are unprocessed and retain all nutritional content.
To maintain the credibility of its clean label branding in a market such as India where the adulteration of various foods is rampant, True Elements ha also opted to introduce a traceability element in its products to boost its consumers’ trust.
“[We noticed a major challenge] setting up a focused clean label brand when it came to tackling the trust-void that exists between consumers and brands - consumers were cynical, driven by false promises made by [other] brands and for us, this meant working much harder to be able to get the trust of our consumers,” said Gupta.
“We developed our traceability tool keeping in mind the lack of trust that consumers were having towards packaged foods – the tool traces the journey of each ingredient used in our products right from sourcing [and allows] consumers to track the minutest details related to their product in an easy and transparent manner.
“The tool has [won] awards and global recognition, in addition to being a major trust builder - Amongst others, some reports that consumers have seen enormous value in include those on raw materials, internal quality checks, packing and ingredient sourcing. [They see great value in getting] access to every little detail, in a transparent manner and with just a few clicks.”
The firm’s traceability tool is available on its website, where consumers can trace their products by entering the product name and batch code to see the entire journey of the product down to the ingredient level.
“Our entire brand is based on trust, to provide food that does not lie to the consumer, including not skipping any information on the label and by providing evidence for all the claims we make. We also refrain from using jargons or making false promises on our packaging or communications,” said Gupta.
True Elements also sells gluten-free whole oat groats; multigrain flakes that boast higher fibre content than regular corn flakes in addition to being sugar free; customisable muesli where consumers can choose their own base, toppings and sweeteners; as well as four flavours of plant-based baked granola.
Despite already having over 200 SKUs in its portfolio, the firm is still planning to innovate and add many more healthier products in the coming months.
“To build newer products, we work customer-backwards and innovate based on current trends,” said Gupta.
““We innovate around key ingredients like millets, oats, seeds, flakes, etc. which are 100% natural & wholegrain, [and] have developed a robust mechanism to track and record customer reviews on Amazon & other marketplaces to build insights & product development/improvement roadmaps.
“Nashta items are popular in India, and we have made some popular local regional favourites healthy, e.g. Masala Oats Kanda Poha, Oats Upma, Multigrain Dalia, Oats Pongal and more. This is in addition to western nashta such as pancakes made from oats and jowar (sorghum) flour.
“We [already] have several market-first product offerings, especially within the Oats cteggory, and recently entered the dessert market with a Vegan Dessert Mix. Over the next five months, we will be rolling out 30 more products.”
True Elements is a more digital-first brand with some 75% of its revenue coming from e-commerce channels including Amazon, Flipkart, BigBasket and more, but is also present in large local retailers including Spencers, Apollo and Wellness Forever as well as key mom-and-pop stores and over 10,000+ regular general trade outlets across India.
“We are currently also available in international markets like USA, Dubai, Nepal, Mauritius, Singapore and Maldives, and plan to deepen our presence in the SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) cluster of countries in the next few quarters,” said Gupta.
SAARC comprises of eight member states: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.