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INTERVIEW

Strong demand prevails for natural juices with no additives, preservatives
Monday, 22 July, 2019, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Second Nature is India’s first-ever cold extract juices backed by FreshTrop Fruits. With over 25 years of experience in supplying fresh and nutritious fruits to India and Europe, Freshtrop has ventured into the creation of cold extracted fruit juices and nut milk through Second Nature, a brand that has emerged as a forerunner in cold extracted fruit and veggie blends segment.

Now Second Nature emphasises on its products being Second-To-Tree or the best alternative to plucking fruits right of their branches and consuming them as fresh as can be. The range covers  solo as well as juice combinations, such as Jamun Pomegranate, Mango Almond Juice, Almond and Cocoa mixed with Dates Juice, Apple and Amla Juice and Guava Agave with Chilli Juice, with an aim to boost consumer preference on the basis of both nutrition and taste.

“We do see a strong demand for all-natural juices with no additives  like  sugar, colour, heat or preservatives,” Dipti Motiani, founder and chief product officer, Second Nature, told Nandita Vijay, in an e-mail.

Excerpts:
What is the acceptance of Second Nature cold extracted fruit juices and nut milks in India?
It has been a learning curve. Like any new brand, we have also faced our fair share of teething troubles. Mumbai market, witnessed an overwhelming feedback and acceptance in the first year, with customers really appreciating our product quality and taste.

India does not have a an established cold chain yet, which is critical for a product like ours. Since the last few months of our launch, we have grown strongly and we are sure this is only going to improve as we understand the market better and enter new geographies, such as Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Gurugram.

How did you arrive at the cold extracted fruit juices and nuts milk concept?
Freshtrop has been a leading and consistent supplier of fresh grapes from India to leading supermarkets in Europe for over 25 years. We have also been supplying fruit pulp and concentrates to juice manufacturers globally for over 10 years now.

Focus on quality and a systematic and thorough approach to food safety and traceability have been the directing forces for our operations. Bringing these values to the domestic market has been on our mind for a long time.

What is the competition for the company in this space?
The Indian juice market is dominated by pasteurised juices and tetra packs. These are heated to ensure a longer shelf life. However, this process plays havoc with the nutritional aspects of the juice.

We are trying to build awareness among customers about the benefits of non-heated juices and processes like HPP (high-pressure processing), which extend the shelf life of a juice while maintaining the nutrition and freshness of the fruits.

There are other companies in this segment as well, but we are sure that with our understanding of fruits and sourcing skills acquired over the last few decades, we can carve our niche.

Which are the markets that have indicated promising growth prospects?
We have been operating in Mumbai and Pune. We are now working on expanding into Hyderabad, Gurugram and Bengaluru. The  initial response, especially in Hyderabad, has been positive.

As we set up operations across the other metros, we are confident of replicating this in the other cities as well.

Could you detail on the manufacturing plant infrastructure and equipment and what is the kind of investment that has gone in?
Our manufacturing unit is located in Nashik, on a company-owned 11-acre facility. The unit, equipment and infrastructure are second to none, globally.

We prescribe to and are certified by some of the world’s toughest food safety and hygiene standards.

Apart from manufacturing, we have also set up a complete cold chain, from farm up until the fruit is bottled. It has taken an investment in the region of Rs 25 to 30 crore to set up  this infrastructure.

What is the kind of research that is going into your products and where is the R&D centre for the company? Is the company looking at global market entry?
We have a well-equipped R&D centre on our factory premises in Nashik. We also work with globally-acclaimed consultants in the arena.

R&D is the core of our operations, and we are continuously exploring new technology and advancements in the segment

We are already exporting fresh fruits and bulk pulps and juices globally. We are also exploring opportunities for business for our new-age products into already established markets.

What are the likely future efforts of the company?
Our efforts are directed towards encouraging and supporting good agricultural practices in India and building a culture of food safety and hygiene.

We are working to produce products, not just restricted to juices, but also in allied categories, which have the natural taste and nutrition.

We also want to make these products available to as many consumers as possible in an affordable format.

To make this a sustainable operation, we would like to make this venture a profitable business.

How would you describe the current scene for fruit juices in India and globally?
Globally, consumers are increasingly conscious of what they consume. If it is healthy, and nutritious.

At the same time, they are aware of importance of exercise and worried about an unhealthy lifestyle too. They are mindful about the products they are consuming, whether they have too many artificial ingredients and what is the contribution of the ingredients towards their daily nutritional requirements.

There has been a noticeable increase in the understanding of nutritional vocabulary and customers are no longer just blindly accepting everything that is said to them.

We are seeing consumers across the spectrum demanding a better, more nourishing and completely natural product.

They are willing to ask tough questions to the manufacturers and are actively looking for better alternatives.

What are the some of the trends that you sight?
There is a strong demand for all natural juices and foods with no additives  like  sugar, colour, heat or preservatives.

There is increased focus on the labels from the consumer to understand what they are consuming.

Dietary trends such as vegan, keto and others are picking up strongly and making their way into mainstream cuisines.

What have been issues that have thwarted growth of this sector?
Every business has its challenges. For juices, we in India lack an established cold chain infrastructure and the understanding, both at the consumer and retailer levels, of how much it impacts the quality of fresh produce.

This lack of infrastructure undoes a lot of the good work put in at the farm level as  grapes from Nasik are sent to both Mumbai and London.

In Mumbai, they hit the shelves within 24-48 hours, while the process takes 4-6 weeks for London. However, the grapes in London are fresh even after those six weeks, as compared to the ones in Mumbai sold after a day or two.

It is a critical part of the entire food and beverage puzzle that needs to be resolved in our country.

How easy to attract the right qualified workforce to this sector?
India has several excellent food technology institutions. We work closely with them to get the best talent there is available in the market.

We also have a detailed and rigorous training regime to ensure that the practical challenges of maintaining food safety are addressed.

How receptive are PEs (private equity firms) and VCs (venture capitalists) to fund this sector?
Currently, both the private equity and venture capitalists  are  receptive to fund. This is a sector that is seeing considerable among consumers, and there is definite opportunity in the market for firms providing a good product.
 
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