Vegolution India's brand Hello Tempayy introduced 'tempeh' to Indian kitchens. CEO Siddharth Ramasubramanian shares, "The biggest opportunity we saw was to bridge the huge protein gap for the vegetarians and mostly vegetarian"
A year ago, when the whole world was looking to eating healthy food and increasing immunity, there was a brand that made its entry into the Indian market ‘Hello Tempayy’. Made from fermentation of soy beans, tempeh is similar to the popular Indian cottage cheese or paneer in the way it looks. The most nutritional and naturally fermented soya product is the traditional food in Indonesia, which is gaining in popularity across the world. Indian start-up Vegolution realised that it is ideal to fill the nutrition gap in India in a tasty way by flavouring it to suit Indian palate, thus offering a protein rich vegetarian option.
“For me personally, we started this journey from closer to three years ago. I had been working in several roles in f&b industry opening hotels, restaurants and casinos in the US, Dubai, Australia, when I wanted to get back to building something from ground up. I wanted it to be mission oriented and interesting. And, I realised it has to be FMCG sector. I also came to the conclusion after much research that India offers the biggest opportunity if you wanted to be on mission to drive food and nutrition agenda. That is primarily the genesis –of ‘Hello Tempayy’,” reveals Siddharth Ramasubramanian, founder, CEO, Vegolution India.
“The biggest opportunity we saw was to bridge the huge protein gap, for the vegetarians and mostly vegetarians. And, this we wanted to do by delivering tasty food that can easily find a place in Indian kitchens, and not through some supplement or protein shakes,” he adds.
“Indian consumer is different unlike the west. Indians like food, which is a celebration, mood elevator, moment upliftment and soul satisfying. They are never going to drink idli, if we said its better. Even the new generation that is trying different products, eventually comes back to the soul food we enjoy. With this insight we needed to develop a product. And that needed to be vegetarian that tasted vegetarian and can be used across moments – for snacks, lunch dinner, and which could be easily cooked,” Siddharth continues.
“I discovered the miracle product ‘Tempeh’ when I was on one of the many tastings, and this one was casual one when I was in Netherlands. I had tasted this very tasty paneer like thing, but with a crunch, and I was amazed. I almost prayed for it to be nutritious, and healthy. I discovered the 1000-year-old preservative free and chemical free, naturally fermented soya. It is just the beans, water and fermentation culture the turns into a block. It has the highest amount of protein, is versatile as it absorbs flavours very well, no-fat, low carb and is a great new addition that is richer and fun, and is affordable.”
Tempeh has more protein than any other vegetarian or vegan product that’s naturally made.
It is low in fat and carbs and rich in fibre
If a product like tempeh has to be adapted into Indian kitchen it has to go well with the tadkas, marinates or Indian gravies that we eat with rice, or even tacos and cheese sandwiches. “Tempeh fits in,” says Siddharth. Based on its attributes and its ability to soak in the flavours, Vegolution team decided they will not just launch tempeh in its plain version.
‘Hello Tempayy’ was launched not just in its plain version, but also in flavours using clean label marinates that the consumers identify with – like – Simply Sriracha, Spiced Tawa Masala, Peppery Szechuan Chilli, Spicy Peri Peri and most recently in its Roasted Chettinad version. “We managed propriety seasoning for Indian level of taste. One can add spice to if they want. This is for vegetarians to get used to the taste. We also made sure the product sits next to paneer. And, if you are looking for something vegetarian beyond paneer you will find it and will be more open to try it. We are trying relentlessly on messaging and we have this crazy obsession with recipes from our consumers. We challenge them and they do experiments and make protein balls and upma to a dessert using ‘Hello Tempayy’. There was this young girl who made phirni with it.” Siddharth explains the brand strategy to educate the consumer.
“Tempayy can be a dessert or savoury. In a steady way we have to see it fits on the Indian plate.”
He elaborates on how the company goes about expansion and driving the brand into various Indian cities considering it is fairly new to the Indian palate. “What started in Bangalore has steadily grown into Chennai and Hyderabad, and recently to Mumbai. From online sales, the brand is now visible in around 200 stores. “We have understood what people are looking for. When we enter a city, we dig in, learn about the market, learn how to cook local flavours and when we are sure, we expand to the next city. That approach has helped us. We have grown by 10X in the first year, and we see a good repeat business. We do not want to be a novelty, but get into Indian kitchens as a staple; like Nestle’s Maggi was in the 1980s. Early signs are positive. We are also looking at introduce ‘Ready to Eat’ products like frozen snacks and we would like to teach people to cook Tempeh, he explains.
The immediate goal is however to increase the scale of production without affecting the quality, states Siddharth. “We are amazed with the consumers’ willingness to learn and discover.”