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INTERVIEW

“Snack no longer just another bowl of chips or crackers”
Monday, 01 March, 2021, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Timios, part of FirmRoots Pvt. Ltd, is a packaged snack brand for children. Founded in 2016, the Bengaluru-based food start-up is funded by MTR Foods, Mysuru-based Rangsons and Paipal Ventures. In the last one year, the brand has served over 2.5 lakh customers and it currently receives more than 400 orders every day. Stating that snacks are an essential part of a child’s every day diet, Aswani Chaitanya, CEO and co-founder, Timios, said that such mini meals play a crucial role in their overall health in an email interaction with Nandita Vijay. Excerpts:

How did you arrive at this name’ Timios’ and how has it fared so far financially?

Timios in Greek means ‘Honesty. The idea behind it was to create products that are natural and designed with age-appropriate nutritional requirements, to ensure we resonate honesty in everything we do. Building a brand for kids involves having a moral responsibility to do everything right and hence, we believe in being transparent right from the ingredients used all the way to marketing the product in the ethical way.
We can honestly say that our products are made with natural ingredients along with age-appropriate nutrition that’s best suited for naturally boosting immunity and good health. With lockdown, the increased demand in the segment amplified the brand. To cater to this increasing demand, we introduced D2C (direct to consumer) channels to explore newer categories of customers, strengthen communication, and easily connect with existing regulars.

Which are the fastest growing products?
Across all the categories, our finger food Melts has been the most promising product since its introduction in 2018. Melts is puffed finger food for babies from nine months and above. The product is made with natural ingredients and whole grains. It is completely non-fried, easy to chew and safe for babies. Packed with age-appropriate nutrition that fulfils the nutritional needs, to cater to the increasing demand in this product, we launched two new flavours during lockdown Banana & Strawberry and Blueberry. In addition to this, the company has also introduced a value pack that comprises existing flavours of Apple & Cinnamon, Carrot & Cumin and the newly introduced flavours.

What is the age group you are targeting among the kids and how receptive are the young consumers for your range?
Our products are age-appropriate covering
age ranges starting from 6 months to 12 years who are babies, toddlers and schoolers. Going by the increased trend towards healthy food products, consumers' choice for packaged food has drastically changed with increased focus on the ingredients used. As all the products are made with natural ingredients, that is age- appropriate and contains no added flavours, colours or preservatives have let us be in the spotlight. We also focus a lot on hygiene preparation.

What is the kind of research that has gone into your products and are there clinical trials conducted for the same?
We have in-house food technologists, nutritionists who work 24/7 to ensure the finest of the ingredients are used to design the best product that’s healthy and nutritious for children. W also work with external sources to ensure the products are thoroughly tested for nutritional facts, to ensure the nutrition is as per the requirement for a certain age group. We do not conduct clinical trials for any of our products.

When are you likely to launch the weaning food and other snacks for toddlers and schoolers?
We are in the process of launching our new category of “made to order” porridge range.

During Covid-19 with Work from Home for parents and online classes for kids, how has the demand been for your range?
The response has been quite positive over the last few months. Millennial parents are careful with their food choices for their children. In fact, the awareness is not just limited to healthy eating, there is a leaning towards adopting a healthy lifestyle overall. From eating right to working out regularly, young families are inclined towards holistic health. A lot of millennial parents are extremely conscious about what their children consume in the name of snacks. With kids now staying at home, most parents are concerned about the junk snacks that children consume in between meals. Currently, most of the packaged snacks available for children are typically meant for grownups. They are highly processed, contain high levels of salt and sugar. We have noticed that D2C is a more appealing option for millennials. With extended lockdowns and increased traffic in online marketplaces, D2C is becoming more popular because it’s faster and easier to place an order with a brand. The WhatsApp store makes it all the more convenient. A smooth and seamless experience will surely help D2C to catch up quickly.

What is the kind of funding received from MTR Foods, Rangsons and Paipal.
We have raised seed funding from MTR, Rangsons Technologies and Paipal Ventures. The funds were used towards product development, strengthening the existing distribution network and enhancing the backend operations.

Where is your R&D and manufacturing plant? What are your expansion plans?
Both the R&D and manufacturing plant are based out of Hyderabad. We are looking to increase the range of products across all age groups with a variety of options to choose from.

How would you describe the current scene for healthy snacks brand for children and what is the competition in this space?
Snacks are an essential part of a child’s every day diet. The mini meals that they eat play a crucial role in their overall health. Over the last few years, kids snacking landscape has seen a number of changes. A snack is no longer just another bowl of chips or crackers, parents are now more attentive about what their kids consume in the name of snacks.
Children today have access to packaged food more than ever. A quick stop at the supermarket can result in a number of snack packs that are mostly unhealthy. Currently, there are limited or hardly any options available in the category of healthy age-appropriate packaged food for children. Parents often find it difficult to buy trustworthy, wholesome, healthy and guilt-free snacks that are suitable for children. This was the genesis for the company.

What are the visible trends that you see?
Some of the trends that we have noticed are Direct Access which is selling directly to consumers is becoming increasingly popular among retailers, brands and consumers. For a customer, ordering products on a D2C channel like WhatsApp is easy, flexible and quick. On the other hand, for brands it’s a great way to build stronger relationships with their target audience and to engage with newer categories of customers. In addition to this, due to the current situation and extended stays at home, a lot of parents are happy to order directly from brands rather than waiting to place an order through other online marketplaces that are already inundated with increased traffic. The turnaround time in a direct order is much faster and the whole process offers a seamless experience.

Another trend is weaning food. A lot of new parents are on the lookout for healthy wholesome weaning food options for their infants. With double income households, it’s difficult for parents to make wholesome grain mixes at home. Since most of them don’t have the luxury of time to make it from scratch, they prefer to buy cereals and grain mixes from trustworthy and clean labels. There is a substantial interest in products like ragi mixes, whole wheat porridge, nut powders etc.

What are the challenges and issues encountered for companies like yours to grow?
One of the key challenges was to create a change in mindset. There is a misconception that all packaged products are unhealthy. This is definitely not true. A packaged food with natural ingredients, in age-appropriate quantities and nutrition can be a good healthy snack for children. Creating a change in mindset was a significant challenge. From the time we founded the company, we have consciously worked towards addressing this by creating the right kind of messaging and educating our customers and parents to understand the nutrition labels in products before buying them.
 
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