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INTERVIEW

“We are present in over 33 cities across 50,000 outlets”
Monday, 24 June, 2019, 08 : 00 AM [IST]

The two-year-old Storia Foods & Beverages is present in over 33 cities in India across 50,000 retail outlets. Its  range includes shakes, 100% natural packaged coconut water, beverage whitener and street style juices. The brand is experiencing rapid growth with the Indian beverages  industry witnessing exceptional growth and continuing to expand at a fast pace. The phenomenal growth in the beverage space can be attributed to a high percentage of working and young population with rising disposable incomes. Also, the demand for healthy food has increased with millennials progressively getting mindful of being healthy. Vishal Shah, founder & managing director, Storia Foods & Beverages, highlights all this and more to Nandita Vijay in an email interview. Excerpts:

How is the company faring?
Ours is a disruptive food and beverage brand with a robust R&D driven product portfolio. It develops products with health benefits, offering unique flavours and richer taste. We have envisioned to drive innovation across major food and beverage categories with products that will help to build a nutritionally stronger nation.

Launched in April 2017, Storia’s turning point was when we sold a million bottles of our shakes, in our first month alone. That was the moment when we felt we are here for a long haul. Since then, we received tremendous support from our consumers to take the products across the country and give us shelf space in the highly competitive beverage market.

We also built a strong professional leadership team with extensive experience at large MNCs and domestic brands. Now we are present in over 33 cities in India across 50,000 retail outlets. In 2018, we bagged the ‘Promising Brands 2018’ award in the food and beverage category by the forum.

Which are your fastest growing products?
Storia Shake range and 100% Natural Storia Coconut Water are the fastest growing product categories. The company has recently launched spice juices under Street Style Drink range and sure that the same will turnout as flagship products from the company in future.

What is the company's key differentiating factor against players like Paper Boat?

Our product portfolio is designed to revive the art of a healthier lifestyle and creating memorable stories at affordable price points. Our product portfolio comprises of shakes, coconut water, street style drinks and beverage whitener.

Our shakes are available in nine flavours which include mango, banana and strawberry being the highest fruit content shakes in India. There is also India’s first Elaichi Chai shake. They are a healthier beverage option, with natural fruits, reduced sugar as compared to most beverage offerings currently in the market and are trans-fat free making it a healthier alternative to flavoured milk.

We also have coconut water and beverage whitener in our product portfolio to nurture healthy lifestyle in India. The coconut water contains only 19 calories and 0% fat per serving of 100ml with high electrolytes, potassium and calcium. It is prepared by extracting fresh tender coconut water from the richest belts of the country and packed to make it convenient and available all year round. The beverage whitener is a healthier substitute for milk, with proteins and calcium and no trans fat. It is also the best alternative remedy for controlling BP & cholesterol.  

The products are packaged in aseptic brick packs and aseptic PET bottles, at much lower temperatures to minimise nutritional losses and retain the flavours and fragrances from its natural ingredients. They are also shelf-stable for over six months, with no need for  refrigeration. All our products are free of preservatives and additives making them 100% natural.

In addition, we have reinforced our product portfolio with the recently launched street style drinks in eight flavours. Some the healthy combinations are tomato pepper, green mango masala, pani puri, which contain fruits and the zing of spices.

Where are the products manufactured?
Shake, Street Style Drinks, White Magic and Coconut Water in aseptic PET bottles are manufactured in ultra modern automated plant located at Pandhurna in Madhya Pradesh.

Share details on production plant and its technology along with packaging concepts?

Our manufacturing standards comply with Food Safety System Certification (FSSC) 22000 and Hazard Analysis Critical Control Points (HACCP) principles to ensure safety and high quality products for consumers. Besides we are Star K-Kosher certified, and Halal certified from MUI (The Indonesian Council of Ulama-Halal). Our company adheres to stringent hygienic standards & strict quality control procedures implemented and audited regularly, at various stages of processing to ensure best quality product for consumers.

Tell us about your research efforts.
The manufacturing plant has an in-house laboratory facility which is equipped with highly sophisticated instruments to check the quality of product at every stage of processing. We follow a validated and approved testing method given by national and international standard bodies to release the product for distribution.

How easy is to get the right manpower to work at your locations?
There is no right or wrong here. It is about instilling a belief in the brand’s vision and trusting their skills to drive things forward. We have always focussed on consumers and products. The key was to be able to develop a product and build a brand for our consumers. This needed R&D and functional teams along with a strong network. This gave us a chance to interact with leaders with immense experience, that were a part of leading brands in the country today, building robust systems.

How is your presence in India viewed?
We are at a nascent stage in the market and learning each day with our pilot launches to get an essence of the retail industry in India. With the diversity Indian shelves offer, we have two distinct teams’ setup. One is traditional trade and the other for alternate channels that includes modern trade, institutions and HoReCa. We have a reasonable presence in west and north and have set our sail towards south with launches in  Hyderabad and Bengaluru. 

What about international forays?
We feel India itself has vast opportunities. With the government’s objective to help the food sector and protect the farmers’ interests, we want to do our bit to build an ecosystem at the base. This means we would also be focussing on some global markets where levies would still make it affordable and accessible. We currently export our Shakes to Myanmar.
In the near future, we are looking at the UAE and China.

How would you describe the current scene for beverages in India?
The Indian beverages industry has witnessed an exceptional growth and continues to expand at a fast pace. This can be attributed to a high percentage of working and young population with rising disposable incomes. Also, the demand for healthy food has been increased with millennials progressively getting mindful of the geniuses appended to being healthy. Every segment in the industry is innovating with advanced technology or breaking the barrier of traditional notion connected with a particular food/beverage such as tea or local flavoured juices. For the investors, this trend might help to accelerate to make it a  lucrative sector to invest. Indian food processing business has seen tonnes of investment from international markets in recent years.

What are the emerging trends in the beverage market?
There are three major emerging trends evolving around sustainability, wellness and convenience. There is a massive attitudinal shift on how today’s consumers approach food. From the nutritional value it offers, to how transparent a brand is and about what’s in their food to the source of ingredients. Besides, consumers are keen to know every detail. Moreover, 41% of global consumers prefer environmentally friendly packaging while 43% prefer honest advertising on the packs.

Like nutrition, sustainability will become an expectation that companies will have to offer their consumers. These will not only include access to recycling, but also incentivising consumers to recycle packaging and offering upcycled goods will be on the rise as well.

Expectations on convenience food and drinks will continue to rise in this ‘on-demand’ age. With the hectic pace of modern life and higher disposable incomes, consumers are willing to pay more to save themselves time.

What are the challenges that companies like yours face?
The battle for shelf space is always going to be a huge monster for all FMCG companies. Though modern trade and e-commerce have made the entry barrier a lot more relaxed, 77% of the market place is still traditional trade today and brands like ours that which are mass driven will have to strive to get a share of that shelf space. Here innovation is key and being on the forefront of the attitudinal shift of the consumers becomes very important.
 
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