When Anindita and Suhasini Sampath were living in the US, they would often gaze at the supermarket shelves and marvel at the vast range of healthy snack choices available. So a few years later, when they decided to become entrepreneurs, building a healthy snack brand seemed like the obvious choice.
It’s been eight years since Yoga Bar, a ‘guilt-free’ snacking brand that comes under the umbrella of Sproutlife Foods, made its entrance into the market. Anindita and Suhasini have been successful in bringing forth the tastier side of health and making the brand a Rs 200 crore enterprise.
“I was always interested in starting a business that has a deep impact on people. Food is a fundamental element of our lives, and thus it felt like the perfect fit. Being able to change a country’s eating habits and being pioneers in creating awareness about clean labels is the mission we are on,” Suhasini, co-founder and chief executive officer of Yoga Bar, tells The Better India.
Sproutlife Foods, their parent company, is a Bangalore-based manufacturer of high-quality branded foods for the rapidly growing health foods segment. The FMCG group was founded in 2015.
Smashing preconceived notions
Suhasini says that Yoga Bar snacks don’t use artiﬁcial colours and flavours, preservatives, high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oil, chemicals, and any ingredient that has an unpronounceable name.
Beyond health factors, Yoga Bar’s popularity comes from its taste. “There is a preconceived notion that health and taste won’t go hand-in-hand. We smashed that first, which brought us regular consumers,” shares Anindita, co-founder and chief operating officer of the brand.
Both sisters say they are ‘health freaks’ and would regularly attend yoga classes together in New York. At the same time, they were ‘busy foodies’ who could rarely find time to cook healthy food and eat clean. “Late evenings at work meant fried snacks, noodles, or sugar-loaded foods. We love food, but we deﬁnitely wanted more out of our snacks and that’s how the idea struck,” says Anindita, who worked as a manager at Ernst & Young in New York prior to starting this business.
She recalls that while eating a protein bar on one occasion, she casually remarked, “If I was the one who made this product, it would be called Yoga Bar.” A few years from then, it became a reality.
The duo believes that fitness is mostly about what you eat. “It’s not about losing weight or anything. Clean eating is very important for everyone and 80 per cent of fitness is based on what you eat. Workout and everything makes the rest,” opines Anindita.
She also adds that Indians can never stay away from snacking and the only way to avoid its adverse effects is to find healthy yet tasty alternatives.
Praveen Bhatt, a nutritionist and head of new product development/ research and development of Yoga Bar, says, “The real challenge in developing all natural snacks is not the shelf life, but the taste. However, that is not a reason to slide away from our core goal of providing nutrition. The team of nutritionists do intense brainstorming to come out with products that the market lacks. Premium raw materials collected from farmers go under two levels of sorting and grading. They are processed with zero use of synthetic flavours or preservatives.”
The COO says that the company has shown 100 per cent growth year on year and that it has served over 100 million customers to date. “The peculiarity of all our products is that they are designed by nutritionists and not marketers,” she adds. Starting with just four products, the brand now sells protein bars, breakfast bars, muesli, oats, antioxidant mix, ayurvedic juices, trail mix and peanut butter.
“Yoga Bar’s growth has been exponential over the last few years. The main sense of satisfaction came through when we saw that our entering the market had forced bigger FMCG brands to take a hard look at the products they were making. After years in this business, we have learned and lived by this — each customer deserves the best,” explains Suhasini, who is an MBA graduate from London Business School.
“We try to make sure that we always give back to the community. One per cent of our profits from the essentials range is put towards the education of farmers’ children,” she adds.
Apart from making the products available on all major online shopping platforms and popular stores, Yoga Bar also focused on expanding to Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. Partnering with gyms and supermarkets was one way of doing it. When the pandemic hit, they concentrated more on online platforms than retail shops, which kept the sales from decreasing. Experimenting and launching new products also contributed to the success. No marketing campaign beyond sampling and word of mouth was implemented during the initial years, the founders say.
“There has been a time when the company was tagged, at least by a few, as a hobby brand of two women. Such things didn’t bother us at all. The brand is not just our income source but also a platform that has made us learn more about nutrition. We are glad to share that knowledge with our customers via our products,” says the COO.
Anindita was added in the list of Businessworld’s ‘40 Under 40’ in 2019, for her successful entrepreneurial journey over the years.
The duo expects to make Yoga Bar among the top three food brands of the country in the coming years. “In the next 3-4 years, we aim to become a Rs 1,000 crore brand,” adds Anindita.
(Edited by Divya Sethu)
Photo credits: Khushi Jain