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INTERVIEW

“Cos just take FSSAI licence but don’t think of implementing int’l stds
Monday, 15 June, 2020, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Rohit Mohan Pugalia and Purvi Rohit Pugalia started Munchilicious Granola (a Soch Foods LLP Product) with the thought of providing healthy snacking options. The parent company, Soch Foods LLP, incorporated in May 2016 is today leading the way in helping today’s generation adopt a healthier way of life through its perfect healthy ‘Munchilicious Granola’ brand.

Talking about ready-to-eat and hot cereals, which have witnessed a huge growth in terms of awareness of healthy eating especially among millennials, Rohit Pugalia, founder and CEO, Munchilicious Granola, in an interview with Shardul Nautiyal explains the growing trend of the granola market, benefits of the product and how important regulatory policies are when it comes to manufacturing of food products. Excerpts:
How is the granola market faring in India? In your opinion what is the size of the market? What are the visible trends that you sight in this space of healthy food options?
The granola market in India is growing rapidly, this is seen as we can see a trend for healthy food and healthy snacks evolving. The breakfast cereals and granola segment has seen an increase in the number of players in the market. Many players are ramping up distribution, product ranges and SKUs to grab the huge opportunity that lies ahead. The market size of breakfast cereals, which is an aggregation of ready-to-eat and hot cereals, stood at Rs. 25.8 billion in 2018 in terms of retail sales value. It is expected to grow only at a CAGR of 5.6 per cent till 2023. Today, we are witnessing a huge growth in the awareness of healthy eating especially among the millennials. Products are evolving to suit the customer’s palate keeping healthy eating patterns in mind.

Some of the trends being witnessed over a period of time in the healthy food sector are plant-based eating, a flexitarian eating style that allows to add more produce and other plant nutrients to once daily habitat and increased consumption of oats is been seen due to the increased factor of health fitness. Millennials are seen switching to a healthy eating pattern. There are healthy alternatives being devised for every guilty pleasure that were once forbidden. A number of healthy food options are available in the market to suit consumer preferences - protein bars, guilt-free protein brownies, Greek yogurts, overnight oats, guilt-free cookies, dehydrated fruit nibbles, dehydrated vegetable crisps and whole vegetables, naturally pressed juices, deconstructed granolas, fox nut, multi millet mix, trail mix, almond milk, gluten-free flours/pasta etc. 

How different is your product from other granola brands? 
The key differentiator is the taste and all variants are designed keeping in mind the taste preference of Indian consumers and as per time. Our product has been made and designed for its consumers keeping in mind the three important and essential pillars which are: health, quality and taste. Some of the major USPs of the products: 
Munchilicious Granola has a range of products that falls under breakfast cereal and snacks with 40 to 90 per cent nuts, seeds and fruits
The products have no added sugar and oil
All the products are gluten-free
It also has a vegan variant 
The products are specially curated keeping in mind the Indian consumers and their taste palate 
It is available in 5 different flavours (original, dried fruits, dark chocolate, grain-free and desi twist) 
All products are lab tested and certified by TUV SUD 
We have implemented ISO 22000 – Food Safety Management System in our production and packaging facility and currently are in midst of implementing FSSC 22000

What are your expansion plans for international markets? What would be your marketing strategy?
As a marketing strategy, the product plans to target the Indians living abroad who have adapted granola as a part of their diet but miss out on the taste element. We are tasty, yet healthy. As for overseas markets, Singapore, Africa and Gulf countries are the primary targets where we would want to reach out to potential consumers. Thereon, we plan to expand in Europe and the United States. Additionally, we at Munchilicious are also working out ways to reduce the production cost and increasing the manufacturing capacity. As a channel strategy our focus is to create awareness through online mediums and multiple e-commerce players and at the same time build a strong offline distribution network so that the products are available far and wide. 

In India, which are the various retail shops / supermarkets where the products are available?
Started from a kitchen as a passion of Purvi Pugalia, the product, in a short span of time, has made its way in more than 300 outlets pan-India which includes modern retail platforms like Nature’s Basket, Spencer’s, Aditya Birla Retail Ltd. It also has a huge online presence on Amazon, Flipkart, Big Basket and also in other 200 A+ stores across India including Mumbai, Pune, Kolkata, Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi and Jabalpur. 

What are the various regulatory policies followed under the food sector?
We implemented ISO 22000 standards even before the launch of our first product - Munchilicious Granola - in the market. It has not yet been two years since our launch but we are already in the process of implementing FSSC 22000 standards which is more stringent than the ISO standards. It includes ISO plus some more parameters. To explain the degree of stringency the analogy would be - if FSSAI is considered as higher secondary examinations then ISO standards are graduation and FSSC standards are post-graduation. Our first audit has already been conducted and the final audit which was expected to take place in April might have to now shift to June because of the current unfortunate circumstances of Covid-19. If successful, we would be just the seventh company in India in the breakfast cereal segment to successfully implement it after the giants like Kellogg’s, Nestle, etc. and the only startup to do so. Beyond this there are policies to be followed like health licence of state government, for example by BMC in Mumbai. Policies under factory licence, pollution control board are also must for any food manufacturing company.

What are the regulatory challenges and solutions?
Nowadays FSSAI is playing a very active role in implementing regulations in India, with regard to food. There is a lot of education that is needed. We do not take these regulations as a necessity for maintaining food safety and hygiene but as a hindrance in doing business. However, that should form an integral part of any food business. Technically, even a roadside vegetable vendor needs to follow these regulations and get registered under the Act. Even big businesses implement these practices because they have been enforced to do so and not because they should be doing it as a practice as that is the food which humans are going to consume. The FSSAI regulations would be the most basic food safety standards with comparison to other international standards but still the same is not implemented across the board. 

When any new startup gets into food business they just take FSSAI licence but they do not even think of implementing international standards which are of utmost importance. In case of small businesses, FSSAI licence is issued in good faith and not after a proper audit, although authorities might visit the premises anytime for an audit but till the time they visit there is no guarantee that the standards might actually be put in place. Whereas the international certifications are only issued post a proper audit is conducted at two stages and then annual audit takes place every year.When a company is registered on MCA portal along with the facility of applying PAN, TAN, GST they should also be able to apply for factory licence, FSSAI, MSME registration, start-up India registration, etc.

Even the consumers in India are not well aware of these guidelines and their rights. FSSAI must be doing education campaigns like what AMFI does for mutual funds industry. Considering the vast scale of geography and population of India it is difficult for the watch dogs to keep an eye on everything and hence it is really important to educate the general public, so that they become more vigilant. 
 
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