There are several categories that remain untapped in India’s nascent healthy snacking sector, according to Shalin Khanna, co-founder and CMO of ProV Foods.
“One category that is underserved and has lots of space for innovation is ‘bars and bites’, such as nutrition bars. Post-COVID, increased health consciousness is a global phenomenon. In India, curated meals and diets such as paleo, ketogenic, and Mediterranean have picked up a lot of steam.
“At the same time, consumers are looking for functional foods that are convenient to eat. Moreover, taste preferences among Indian consumers differ greatly across the country, so it is important to localise flavours to cater for people in each state. On-the-go snacking and flavour innovations are areas worth tapping into,” Khanna told FoodNavigator-Asia.
Recognising the rising demand for snacks with functional benefits, ProV Foods has launched a few product ranges, including the ProV Lite “Activated Nuts” series.
Through its proprietary drying method, the firm has given the traditional practice of soaking nuts overnight, known to reduce phytic acid and enhance nutrient absorption, a modern and convenient twist.
There are four products in the ProV Lite range, namely almonds, walnuts, pecans and pumpkin seeds, which have been pre-soaked and are ready to eat.
“The activation process preserves the flavour and nutrition of the nuts, while creating a texture that is crunchier and easily digestible. The focus of our R&D is on bringing back and rejuvenating traditional foods that Indian consumers have moved away from due to the effort required to make them at home.
“Our approach provides a hassle-free snacking experience for modern consumers who do not have the time to soak nuts overnight. They can enjoy our products anywhere and at any time. While we’ve received good feedback, the products come at a slightly higher price point. To raise mass appeal, we are working on reducing production cost.”
Another new product range is the ProV Fusion trail mix series.
These include the Omega Boost Trail Mix, a combination of sunflower, watermelon, pumpkin, flax, chia and sesame seeds with high omega content; and the 5 in 1 Energy Trail Mix, a blend of dried dates, almonds, cashews and black raisins that is said to be popular among local consumers.
“You can sprinkle [the mix] on top of a salad or eat it as a snack. Among Indian consumers, there is a group that likes fresh produce for daily consumption, and there is a new group that wants dried fruits and nuts for snacking. That is what ProV Fusion looks to fulfil — a healthy on-the-go snack that fits a nutrient profile that consumers are seeking.
“We revamped the packaging to highlight the functional aspects of the product. In fact, we are continuously getting recommendations from customers to try certain trail mixes. This shows that they are very excited about this product.”
Khanna added that the firm is looking at expanding its product formats and flavour offerings, as it observes a growing demand for snacks that are flavoursome and nutritious.
“We are already working on four to six categories, such as coated nuts. Without giving away too much, we hope to get a couple of new products to market in the next three months.”
Engines of growth
Besides rigorous product development, ProV Foods’ parent company, Proventus Agrocom Group, was listed on the National Stock Exchange of India Limited in 2023, raising around USD7m of funding.
“In the previous financial year, we did about INR212cr (USD25m) in sales. We are on course to achieve our target of INR300cr (USD36m) for this financial year ending in March.
“The fund is primarily utilised as working capital to grow the ProV brand. A large portion of it is being used to increase inventory load and turnover so that we can reach our target of INR500cr (USD60m) in sales within the next two years,” Khanna shared.
Although its factory has shifted to a new unit with greater production capacity of approximately 125,000 packets a day, the firm aims to move into its own premise by 2026.
In terms of business expansion, ProV Foods’ sight is still set on its domestic market, particularly the southern states.
“In the modern trade sector, supermarket chain DMart has become an important sales channel, enabling us to expand across the country. Currently, we have presence in 800 to 1,000 stores. For general trade, our stockists or distributors have also increased pan India.
“We have a large headroom for growth in India itself, and a lot of consumer needs still to serve. I do not see us actively pursuing a global sales network for at least the next two years. That said, if there is demand for our localised products, we are likely to start off with Middle Eastern cities like Dubai.”
This year, the company plans to strengthen its general trade sales channel by “putting more feet on the ground” to work directly with retailers across the states.
It is also looking to enter the gifting sector by creating a bigger portfolio of gifting products or combination products.
“The gifting arena is a major goal for us to push sales growth to the next level. In India, dried fruits, nuts and seeds make up a large part of gifting, especially during the wedding season or festivals such as Diwali,” said Khanna.