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By TPCI | December 11, 2019

During his studies in the US, Jeet Hirpara, Managing Partner, Wholesome Foods, caught on the idea of branding frozen foods in India. With no time to cook fresh food and missing home cooked food, Jeet had to rely heavily on frozen Indian foods, which saved his time and energy and provided him with authentic Indian taste in a foreign land. Soon after his return to India, Jeet set up his own frozen food brand ORIGIN under Wholesome Foods in 2018.

Talking to IndusFood, Jeet Hirpara, Managing Partner, Wholesome Foods, shares his journey of incepting a brand, which is an ode to every food enthusiast who admires and adores Indian culinary delicacies across the world. Discussing the frozen food industry and the potential embodied in the sector, the 30-year old young entrepreneur gives an account of the innumerable dishes prepared with countless blends in India and his passion to take them to all parts of the globe. Following are a few excerpts from the interview:

IndusFood: Wholesome Foods is known for the authentic taste it provides and enjoys a world-wide acceptance today. When and how were you inspired to ideate & set up the ORIGIN brand?
Jeet Hirpara: Actually, the whole idea came from my studies abroad. I was in the US for 4 years, my undergraduate studies were in food biotechnology. When I was in the USA and later UK, I used to eat a lot of frozen food because of my studies as I did not have time to cook fresh food every day. So, we used to get frozen Indian vegetables like karela (bitter guard), Toovar Lilva, okra, parathas, naan, Samosa and Curries like Dal Makhani.

When I came back to India, I realized that even in India, people are getting busy with their lifestyles. With nuclear families increasing and both husband and the wife working, the demand for healthy processed foods was increasing. Also, once I got back to India, I realized a huge gap in the demand and supply in the market. Although stuff like frozen green peas and sweet corn were readily available, other products, which we widely used to get abroad, like frozen pasta, frozen pizzas, frozen parathas, were completely missing in India. Thus, we decided to have a complete range of products both for the export and domestic market as well.

IndusFood: What has been the initial progress for the brand?
JH: As we started the journey, initially we were producing products that are commonly sold in the market, but as couple of months passed by, we wanted to introduce something different. We ideated and came up with multiple unique products. We were amongst the first to serve Frozen Pav with Frozen Bhaji thus completing the Bombay Pav Bhaji in a single pack. Other unique products like footlong Naan, Pizza Paratha and traditionally cooked Ringna no Olo (Baigan Bhartha cooked in traditional Gujarati style) were latter added to the portfolio. Thus, we keep on innovating products to stay relevant in the market.

We also tried to go along with the new diet trends. We have introduced soya-based products, which are high in protein. We have range of Soya based Parathas, Nuggets and Tikkis. Also, we are an organic certified factory, so in the coming months we are planning to launch organic vegetables and organic samosas, parathas and a range of other organic curries like Dal Makhani.

IndusFood: How has the brand fared on the international front?
JH: Currently we are exporting our products to US, UK, Australia and Middle East. This year, we are looking to expand our business to Canada, Singapore and other Gulf countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar along with New Zealand and Russia. Right now, we are doing 80% export and 20% domestic market.

IndusFood: What has been the role of R&D in your growth & success? Is there any recent product innovation or R&D you wish to share with IndusFood? Are there any product launches scheduled in the near future?
JH: R&D is very critical for the future success of any organization because if you don’t innovate then eventually you will just be another brand and start to lose market share. Our R&D team always has a couple of unique products in the pipeline every quarter using the latest trending ingredients and food trends. Currently, we are doing some R&D with Ragi, which was an ancient millet and is coming back as super food.

IndusFood: The world is taking a huge plunge into the ready-to-eat, organic and health food segment. How is Wholesome Foods gearing up for the same?
JH: The demand for these foods are increasing day by day. People are now more open to try different cuisines as compared to five years ago. With big supermarkets like Walmart, Traders Joes, Cotsco, Metro selling Indian products in their stores, the demand of Indian Food is going to only increase. We are thus gearing up to supply to these clients by improving our quality standards and going for International Recognized Quality Standard certifications such as BRC, Sedex and Halal.

IndusFood: Can you mention any changes in the consumer behavior pattern in India and globally? What are the any new trends underway in the world of taste?
JH: Consumers are becoming more conscious than every before regarding food. They are making buying decisions after researching ingredients, sourcing of the ingredients, health benefit claims and this is changing manufacturers approach to new product development. It’s an Instagram age so products that look visually appealing have an added advantage in sales.

Food trends are very dynamic and are very regional in nature. But current common global trends include Veganism, Meat Substitutes (Mock Meat), Gluten Free and Organic Food products.

IndusFood: How do you see food and agro processing industry growth in the current economic scenario? Will it help boost exports from India?
JH: Yeah, I believe India is going to become a hub for agro-processing industry in the foreseeable future. Agriculture land is decreasing throughout the world and usually people don’t want to get themselves involved in farming in the developed countries. People are going to look forward to India and Africa as hubs for farming. Thus there is a huge growth opportunity that is still to be explored in India. But with the opportunities, there are multiple challenges we need to solve to cater to this future increase in demand. We have to decrease the use of pesticides and chemicals during the farming and have a solution for the issue of small landholding to reach our export potential.    

IndusFood: Can you please name product that needs shelf space and marketing attention in the snacking or allied sector?
JH: I think all our ancient grains need attention, if we talk about that in India. Green revolution happened and everyone moved towards rice and wheat. There are different types of grains we never focused on which is now trending in the international markets.

Five years ago, if you go abroad, you only could have had curry with paratha or rice but now the Indian cuisines abroad is expanding. Now you can see dedicated restaurants of cuisines from all over India abroad.

IndusFood: Have you participated in IndusFood earlier? Please share your experience. Is there any product of yours that has to be launched in IndusFood’s upcoming fixture in 2020? What is your take on IndusFood launching IndusFoodTech and IndusFoodChem as brand extension? Will it help the industry?
JH: I think IndusFood is a wonderful platform for all Indian exhibitors and a great move by the Indian Government and TPCI. It’s an unique concept because usually the biggest problem exporters face is finding the right importer. IndusFood helps to bring the right importers and the buyers of Indian products at one single location. It just opens lot of opportunities for Indian exporters and we are very lucky to have our first client who we met through IndusFood.