Podcast 3:Evo Foods’ Co-Founder Kartik Dixit speaks with Andrew D. Ive from Big Idea Ventures about starting a plant-based milk company

In “The Big Idea Podcast: Food” series, each week our Founder Andrew D. Ive will speak with some of the most innovative minds in the food space about the exciting projects they are a part of. 

To listen to the second episode featuring Evo Foods‘ Co-Founder Kartik, click on the links below!

 

The podcast can be viewed at the links below:

 

Please view the transcript of the interview below.

Andrew D Ive 00:00 

Hi, this is Andrew from the big idea food podcast. Today we’re going to be talking to Kartik. He’s the co founder of the vo foods in India. They’ve developed a product, which is a plant based egg product. Let’s have a conversation with him. love to get your thoughts and feedback. Reach out to us via big idea ventures.com or any of the platforms where you’ll find us across social media. Thanks very much. Kartik, how are you? 

Kartik 00:33 

I’m good. I’m good. How about you? 

Andrew D Ive 00:36 

Very well, welcome to the big idea. Food podcast. Really glad to have you. So you’re what you’re a co founder, one more co founder in a plant based food company? Why don’t you tell us a little bit about you. And a little bit about your food company? 

Kartik 00:57 

For sure, for sure. So I think I’ll give you a bit of a background about me. My background is 

not really into the food industry or into, you know, any kind of, you know, previous work. But I directly jump into entrepreneurship after my graduation, in 2017, and co founded India’s first cultivated meat company called clear meat. And then afterwards, I started Evo foods, which is basically a really short biography 

Andrew D Ive 01:31 

has a terribly short biography. So, so you graduated from your graduated from undergrad in what? 217 2017? Right. 

Kartik 01:39 

Right. 

Andrew D Ive 01:40 

So three years, three years, four years out of college at this point, right, right. Two startups under your belt, one that you left after a year or two in cell based meat. And now Evo foods, why don’t why don’t you tell us a little bit about Evo, 

Kartik 01:54 

for sure. So, Evo started out of the need to provide clean plant based protein to India. And consequently the world. The way we thought about it is that India is so much has so much crop biodiversity, for example, Indian, India has approximately 62,000 varieties of legumes right now. Why not use it in a sustainable way, why not create amazing plant based options for people here, and usually, you know, expand that to up to other countries. So that was the core thought behind Evo Foods we started back in 2019. Me and my co founder sada, we are really passionate supporters of sustainability, nutrition, she started in the US, so she knew all about what was going on at that time, you know, beyond meat impossible would what they were doing in the US. So she was pretty much, you know, accustomed to the fact that plant based revolution is going to happen one way or the other. And in India, that was an opportune moment at that time. Because, you know, GSI was also starting his work. One, one got hired in 2017, I guess at the same time, I also started working in the sector. So a lot of great things were happening. And we thought that one thing which was missing is the ag sector. Because egg is such a versatile food and it’s such a non religious food in India, because religion is a big part of our country, we have to absolutely make sure that whatever we are producing is up to the standards of different variety of religions. So if you see the dynamics of vegetarianism in India, if you want to convert to non vegetarianism, you’re not likely to start off with a 

chicken or mutton, you’re most likely to start off with an egg and there are three dots. So green dot red dot and this yellow dot right or sorry, orange dot right now, which which relates to recipes, which contains eggs. So, in such a different 

Andrew D Ive 03:58 

way before we pass over that why don’t you explain what you mean by 

green.yellow.orange.in India 

Kartik 04:05 

for sure. So, green dot usually means that the product contains dairy as well as plant based ingredients. orange dot means that you know, it contains egg and red dot means that it contains meat, any kind of meat, chicken, mutton etc. And this is a unique system proposed by fssai so that you know, people from different walks of religion can identify foods based on their religious and their preferences. For example, if a vegetarian sees a green dot, then he will purchase that he will purchase that. 

Andrew D Ive 04:40 

So this is a labeling system within Yeah, that that kind of Okay, got it. 

Kartik 04:48 

Right. So we thought that, you know, since people already have, you know, very less egg is seen as a very less offensive food. So that’s why we thought that we can start With an egg alternative, which is not only made from the, you know, legumes, which they already know, which they already eat on a regular basis in their daily diet, and just make it like these are your legumes in a different form in the form of an egg in the form of a liquid egg. And that’s what we ought to do. And that’s what started our whole product development. We got some scientists on board product developers on board. And it started the whole journey got into big idea ventures, New York City accelerator. Lucky for us, that turned out to be and then raised investment from Ryan, Dr. Sanders freedom, wedge invest, and other angel investors. One thing which we did in the last few months was that we carried out a sort of a launch event, which got sold out within an hour of disclosure, which we are really, which was really surprising for us as well, because we didn’t know that, you know, obviously, India was ready for plant based protein now that they’ve gotten such big responses, we know that Evo foods is gonna, is going to succeed in Tier One cities in India, because of the great response we have gotten. 

Andrew D Ive 06:11 

So let’s talk a little bit about the product itself. You’re using lagoons, and you’re making what you called liquid, liquid egg. What’s the, you know, what? What’s the use? Why liquid egg? Why not some kind of solid form? You know, how did you come to a conclusion about what you needed to bring to market first? 

Kartik 06:32 

Right, right. So that journey from deciding the form factor to deciding the ingredients was very, very intricate. We, you know, we asked people what they thought of it, what they thought of the idea. And they said that even if we even if we can get like a normal egg, for example, in a shell made out of plants, which is incredibly difficult, that would be really great. Then the second choice was if they can get a liquid, which can behave exactly like an egg, and the third choice was powder. Because Indians are accustomed to using powders in the baking recipes. There are alternatives available based on that. But there was no liquid version which was present in the market. And most importantly, it makes their lives easier. They don’t have to break an egg every time they need to make a scramble or an omelet. Plus, most importantly, people are really scared about antibiotics in the whole supply chain in India, antibiotics are heavily used as a substitute for sanitation in the poultry supply chain. So people are concerned about that, there was a clear need for plant based liquid Agra, which we identified. And and that’s how we ended up on that form factor on the liquid form factor. So just to show you, this is our product. Not sure if you can see that. When it comes in a bottle. It is equivalent to 12 eggs, as you can see from the pack itself, there’s a measuring line, out of which you can measure how many eggs you are using right now. Which is quite novel, which we found out that could be a really, you know, in a way it can help consumers track how many eggs were eaten. 

Andrew D Ive 08:15 

So that’s 1212 a dozen eggs in a bottle equivalent. What about price? People more? Is it more expensive to buy a dozen eggs? Or is it more expensive to buy? Evo and how, you know, how do they compare? 

Kartik 08:33 

For sure. So, rising is one of the what I would say is a deterrent while purchasing plant based foods globally, right. Even if you see the US market, plant based meat alternatives are a little bit or or I would say you know, at least 1x or 2x higher than normal, normal meat supply price was a main data and we didn’t want it to be a really expensive 

alternative to an A, but a little bit, you know, I would say under the premium category. So what we did was we developed it to a local supply chain. We use a local supply chain for all our ingredients, including all proteins including our hydrocolloids and everything. And 

we made sure that the price is somewhere close to premium and category in India. So if you see some brands or in the Indian subcontinent, or less kegs, for example, they are priced at around 250 rupees, which turns out to be approximately $4 a dozen. We are also in that price range. So, what the model you just saw a while into a dozen will cost approximately four to 4.5 dollars at conscious choice, because we didn’t want people to think that you know this is out of our reach. We wanted to make it aspirational, but achievable. 

Andrew D Ive 09:56 

And does that give you the kind of margins you need to incentive buys the supply chain so that they’re actually happy to put it on the shelf and so on? 

Kartik 10:04 

Absolutely. Because our supply chain is based out of India, we can afford to make it at a really affordable price. And we have really healthy margins with which we can carry out a business and make it sustainable in the long term. 

Andrew D Ive 10:19 

Got it? And what are the channels that you’re looking to sell the product into initially? 

Kartik 10:24 

Right. So when we considered the whole sector in India, we thought that going directly into, you know, direct to consumer, or retail might create something which we call as, what is the term I’m looking for? It’s, it’s, it’s, it’s like, you know, when when you see a novel product on Amazon, for example, you know, and there’s an expectation which man, that’s how I got it. So there’s an expectation mismatch for all of the products in the novel food category. So if you say list these kinds of products on Amazon, you see a seeker on on the product reviews that are five star reviews. Equally, there are three zero star or one star reviews on Amazon. And that’s what we found really interesting, we thought that going direct to consumers or going listing on different kinds of e commerce platform might not be a great strategy, because people don’t really know what a plant base tag is. And that’s why we made sure that it really makes it clear on the packaging itself, we have made sure that people understand and what it is through packaging. And then when the channels 

are considered, my co founders background lies in the hospitality industry, she is also a part of NRA national restaurant association of India. And through that, he knows a lot of restaurant years. And we have already partnered with more than 55 plus restaurants kind of inspired by impossible food strategy. So make sure that people get to try the product first, they get to enjoy it, they get, you know, the trust is transferred from one needs to defend to the other. And then you know, roll it out slowly into direct to consumer or other channels, when people are aware that such a thing exists. 

Andrew D Ive 12:16 

Got it. So, how’s that going? 

Kartik 12:21 

It’s going really good, we’ve been we’ve been getting a lot of positive responses when tasting is concerned with the restaurants. So far, we have managed to get approximately three to five top restaurants in Mumbai under our brand, what we want to do is co brand with restaurants as well, because co branding will really create that kind of awareness about the brand evo, what it stands for. That’s why we are really, you know, looking forward to co brand and with restaurants. You know, if you’ve seen impossible foods flag on a particular burger, that’s how you’ll see it in India, in Mumbai in different kinds of restaurants. And so people will get to know that this they are consuming an evo burger or evo sandwich or something like that. And most importantly, what we found out is it doesn’t necessarily need to say plant based egg, it can just be evo, for example, you know, impossible burger beyond burger, something like that we want to create evo sandwich or you know, evo burger or Evo good G or evo, omelette, evo fritatta. So, you don’t make that product stand out by itself not dependent on the term plant based thing. 

Andrew D Ive 13:37 

So, you’re looking at restaurants to kind of get the brand out there which is you know, from what I can tell the impossible strategy right where they they got thought leaders involved they got people you know, chefs and so on putting it on their menu and then you know, the the great and the good testing it in the best restaurants. What about getting it to the kind of common person the regular person the the normal grocery convenience, you know, distribution channels, is that part of the strategy? And if so, when do you see that coming along? 

Kartik 14:12 

Not this year for sure, because one thing we are really sure of is the whole Indian ecosystem. So I don’t think India is a market for plant based proteins for a billion people right now, it can take anywhere between five to 10 years for people to get awareness about plant based foods in general. So, but the consumers most of the consumers 50 to 60 million people living in Tier One cities in India, Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore Chennai, these are the kinds of consumers we are looking for those who are aware about plant based alternatives those who have eaten or drank some kind of plant based milk. You know, eaten for example, a meat meat alternative or eat soy chop, which is like a popular dish in India. So, so yeah, chop is something which is made out of soy And all purpose floor, which resembles meat a lot. So it’s a really popular dish in India. If they know about sweatshops, then that’s like a starting point for them to understand what these alternatives are right now and what they can do with the taste functionality and nutrition. So, so yeah, chop eating people in Tier One cities in India, these are the consumers we are looking for. And our goal is to be present in at least 1000 restaurants across three cities in India, Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore by next year. After that, we’ll be sorry, go ahead. Yeah, it will be available to, you know, consumers to purchase, why retail and Amazon. Got it. 

Andrew D Ive 15:43 

So over the next 12 to 18 months, the strategy is the food service. So restaurants in particular, get that to you say 1000 or 1500? Something along those lines, correct? 

Kartik 15:59 

Oh, then yeah, tell stone to 1500 restaurants, it can be anywhere in that number. Got it. And the 

Andrew D Ive 16:05 

expectation is that those restaurants will use that Evo brand as part of their menu, it won’t just be an ingredient that they put in without mentioning. 

Kartik 16:15 

Yes, for sure. co branding is a great, you know, a great way for us to put our brand out. And most importantly, it can introduce the brand to chefs as well. For example, chefs can get to know that, you know, this is all possible. And they can tell other chefs about it. So it’s kind of creating an practice as well. Even in Mumbai, we are seeing whenever we trial with chefs, you usually get inquiries from other chefs, probably from other restaurant chains. So that’s what it is, you know, creating like a network effect. 

Andrew D Ive 16:50 

So when the restaurants so forgive me, I’m just sort of thinking through the strategy for a second, from, from a restaurant perspective, who’s going to be selling those selling your product into them is that you’re going to do that internally, you have your own team that’s going to be dedicated to introducing the product to chefs and so on. Or you finding a third party that has those kind of relationships as a way of going to market. I’m just sort of, you know, as you’re a young company, how are you kind of covering that sort of 1000s restaurant? sales process? 

Kartik 17:31 

Right, right. So we’ll start off with anchor brands, what we call as anchor brands, and these are the restaurants where usually influencers dine in and it creates an impact because people usually in India follow a lot of Western values when living in Tier One cities. And they see, you know, influencers such as cricketers, you know, bollywood celebrities, they usually go to these kinds of places and try out different recipes. So our target is to partner with these kinds of brands, first in Tier One cities, so that the word spreads, what that will do is that will encourage more and more chefs from different tiers of restaurants to try out evo was the word spreads. And once the word spreads, we will start to reach scale or bring the price down and then target more tier two or tier three restaurants. In these you know tier one cities in India, we usually like to focus initially on restaurants which are really exclusive which are really known for the taste of the foods I’m known for their whole literary experience so that people can get to know about it right that something like a plant based diet can be used in sushi something it can be used in an omelette breakfast food. And one thing we are trying to do is we want to make it a wholesome holy a food not just for breakfast, as egg is usually seen. So yeah, this is our strategy for the next one year and definitely launch into retail. 

Andrew D Ive 19:07 

Okay, awesome. So Okay, got it. interesting approach. How many restaurants have have decided to take it so far? 

Kartik 19:19 

We have partnered so far with 55 plus restaurants from 20 plus brands. You’re looking at rolling it out in April, fully into these restaurants. As a part of our strategy. It will start off with tier one restaurants in Mumbai where usually celebrities go and influencers go will conduct a lot of tasting tastings are usually a part of our strategy. Because once people 

get to taste the product, they’ll check that you know, it tastes exactly like an egg. It also has the nutrition it also has the you know necessary vitamins and minerals in their daily diet. They can ask the chef about it. What we have done we have created different documents for chefs to use in the form of recipes as well as in the form of communication. So how do you, you know, make sure that it doesn’t get translated to something called as a vegan food or a non vegan food or, you know, it just, we are really trying to stay away from the whole categorization into a particular type of vegan food. So that’s why we have made it really clear in the communication booklet we have created that you can explain to it, you know, using in this way that it’s made out of plants, made out of legumes, it’s 100%, plant base, it contains all of your essential amino acids. And it is delicious. That’s it. That’s the whole messaging we are trying to create with restaurants. 

Andrew D Ive 20:46 

Got it? Okay, so 12 months, restaurants, 18 months restaurants, ideally hit something around the 1000 restaurant, from a numbers perspective, then move into other channels like grocery or, or what’s what’s next, what comes after that. 

Kartik 21:07 

Right now or Andrew, to be honest, we you don’t see us spending a lot of money on the Indian market, even after a year of operations. Tier One cities is what we are looking for, as our target market. And then we would like to launch into other markets such as us, because in the US, plant based tech is the fastest growing category amongst all plant based foods as you are already aware enough, right. So in the US consumers already know about this stuff, they are already aware of other alternatives, which are incredibly high priced. In this way, we can create a value add for the US market that not only it is incredibly tasty, it is also delicious, it is also nutritionally superior, but also it is affordable. So even if we sell for example 2x of the price of what we are selling in India, we would still be cheaper than the most, I would say the most hyped plant based egg alternative out there in the US. So that’s that’s the advantage we might have for the US market entry. And sometime next year, we would definitely want to be in the US market. Okay, so 

Andrew D Ive 22:16 

you don’t see yourself converting that buzz in India into an opportunity for everyone to get access, you still see it being very much a restaurant based product. 

Kartik 22:31 

Right. And, and the reason why we are looking at it is because of the price. Right now in India, if you see the price of normal eggs, it is approximately in the range of four to six rupees per egg, and we at Evo have managed to get the price down to up to 20 to 25 rupees per egg, by next year, we can definitely bring that down in the range of 15 to 20 rupees per egg, but that will still be higher. And we’ll need external resources external investment so that we can convince restaurants in tier two cities or you know, convince consumers in general to buy our product at a at a really high price, according to them. And the consumers usually when they are based in Tier One cities, they already have that purchasing power to buy evo in the form of either a dish or through channels such as Amazon or retail. But that’s the limiting factor here price is a limiting factor in the Indian market, if we can bring the price down to let’s say, a 10 rupees apiece, then we can definitely expand in India, but that will internally amongst the bow, it will take a long time, for example, three to four years it will definitely take for us to reach that price. 

Andrew D Ive 23:45 

And is that a is that a production challenge? Is that a scale challenge or both? I mean, is it very much about if the volume was at such a point, you would be able to be down close to the cost of an egg or even even, you know, even if you multiplied your volume by 1000 times it wouldn’t necessarily bring the price down to that point. 

Kartik 24:09 

Now if you’ve multiplied by 1000 times, then definitely we can reach the price scale. That’s what we are considering right if we are able to reach that kind of scale in Tier One cities in India, then we can bring the price further down by simply negotiating you know, better prices with with the suppliers. But the way we are seeing it will take you know ingredient reduction as well as efficient production research. So that, you know we can make Evo the most nutritious and affordable protein source on the entire planet by 2025. That’s the ambitious goal we have. But of course that will take some time on our end. 

Andrew D Ive 24:47 

Do you see yourselves I mean, you talk about the you know the best, most nutritious source of plant based protein on the planet. Still specifically in egg or do you see Evo at some point, broadening Outside of egg once it’s, you know, covered off India started to for example or got successfully into the United States. Do you see yourselves remaining an egg for the for the duration? Or are there other ideas on there? You know, obviously don’t tell us what those ideas necessarily are. But are there other ideas that you’re considering? 

Kartik 25:20 

Not as of now, because there’s, egg’s such a versatile food it can be made into omelet scrambles, retarders, it can be used in baking, geling agent foaming agent. So there are a lot of functionalities to cover first with an egg for example, the egg we have right now the liquid egg it right now is you know, not shelf stable ambient shelf stable, it’s under refrigerated conditions. So we would like for it to be shelf stable. That’s another goal on the existing product front, we want to create different versions of an egg, for example, and egg Patty are ready to cook omelette. These kinds of different variations. For example, egg biryani to egg biryani is going to definitely become a hit in India. Kind of products we want to create, we want to be focused on the whole egg platform for the next five years at least make Evo the most nutritious and sustainable plant based egg in the whole world and then move beyond egg early and look into other categories, but not for the next five years. I will say. 

Andrew D Ive 26:22 

Got it. And tell us a little bit about your co founder as well. You mentioned a little bit tiny, tiny bit about your story. But how did you and shop come together and what’s her her background and why she doing this? 

Kartik 26:37 

For sure. It’s an interesting story we met back in 2018 at a food conference in Mumbai. So at that time, I was working on cultivated meat front. And she said to me that Karthik I want to introduce cultivated meat at my restaurant. And I said to her that, no, that’s not going to happen within the next three to four years. And she was a bit disappointed, but we always kept in touch. And you know, her background lies in the hospitality. She studied hospitality and management at Boston University in the US. Then she came back to India worked at different restaurants, different hotel chains, and then co co founder and started her own restaurant, which is called as candy and green in Mumbai. And from the early on, she was a big proponent because candy and green is a vegan and vegetarian restaurant, right? It is India’s first Farm to Fork direct, you know, she grows her own vegetables on the rooftop and uses the same vegetables in the recipes. So it’s a novel concept for which she got applauded by Forbes under 30, under 30, in 2018. A big proponent of sustainability in food. And that’s what that’s what led to, you know, US connecting on a deeper level. Because we both care about sustainability and food we both care about climate change, and how our food systems impact climate change. And how India can be a global leader in providing plant based alternatives because of Global Diversity. And that’s what we co founded. That’s a little bit about. 

Andrew D Ive 28:09 

Fantastic. And do you think there’s some sort of mission element to to what she’s doing as well? I mean, obviously, she’s very stimulated by food. She’s been in the hospitality industry and restaurant industry for some time. But is there a mission component to this? Or that’s not? That’s not really part of it? 

Kartik 28:29 

No, no, absolutely. The way she saw it is that using her approach of you know, impacting people through a restaurant, versus impacting people who a big company, which creates tons and tons of food, in the form of plant based egg or plant based meat, plant based dairy is much more effective at producing, producing a change at a larger scale. And that’s why at that time, she was also looking to start something in the plant based page when I left my previous startup, and that’s how we got together. So there was definitely a mission element to it, that, you know, to create a change at a larger scale. It’s not preferred that, you know, you start a restaurant in mumbly, because that’s a very limited approach, right, to create that kind of a team. And that’s what she’s trying to do. Okay, 

Andrew D Ive 29:22 

so tell us a little bit about how you got the company started. Obviously, you guys came together as a team. Where did you go? You went through some form of product prototyping. I know that you guys, I’m not sure where you were in the cycle when you guys applied to big idea ventures, and we’re looking to you know, join the accelerator, get investment and so on. Why don’t you take us a little bit through some of those steps. 

Kartik 29:48 

Right, right. Right. So at that time in August, we got a plant biochemist on board. You know, we’ve worked through different formulations. I already had a few ideas about the ingredients we can use to make plant based egg. For example, chickpeas, which are, which is what we are using right now to create the formulation, we tried a different combination of chickpeas peas. The goal was to make it as nutritionally comparable to an egg as possible without hampering the functionality at all. So we created some prototypes, introduced it in shudders restaurant, ended some trials with consumers in February, and then definitely brought an answer from Big Idea ventures about the selection into New York City accelerator. And at that time, also COVID hit and our timelines got pushed by, otherwise, we were ready to do priors, we were ready to improve the product. But then obviously, it got pushed back, as it did with a lot of startups, I guess, 

and really created a disruption basically, in the whole development process of evo. We resumed back in 20 2020, in October, and then we started resuming all of our processes. You know, we had a lot of challenges, some of our equipment broke down, we had to get access to different equipments at that time, there were a lot of low COVID restriction, so we couldn’t get any, to produce some form of, you know, plant based tech to give tasting to people. But now that we are back on track, we think that, you know, we are ready to go into the market, ready to get feedback from people as much as possible, and then improve the product further to launch more broadly into tier one cities in India. 

Andrew D Ive 31:36 

Now, I was gonna ask how the fundraising process when because that’s often something that, you know, new teams, new companies find challenging, but I don’t know whether it’s you or shuddha, or both of you, but you guys have been able to create a lot of excitement 

around evo A lot of people have been engaging, supporting, you know, G, as you mentioned, Varun from GFI was, has been a strong evangelist and so on. Obviously, we became an evangelist when we invested. So you know, you guys have really got a strong tailwind. You know, so from your point of view, has the fundraising been challenging? Or is it actually been relatively easy given the excitement? 

Kartik 32:19 

So initially, it was challenging, Andrew, because when we started back in August 2019, we tried to raise some funds through Indian VCs, Indian accelerators, and none of them responded to us. Like you guys did, because they didn’t know about the whole plant based space in general, right. Okay. So they didn’t know about the plant based space. When we pitched the idea to them, they said that, why would someone would like to switch to a plant based diet or a plant based meat or plant based dairy, so they were not aware about the space, as I would say, and the excitement about the sector was not there. I think in 2020, after the pandemic, and the word spread, beyond meets IPO, as well, in 2019, they got really excited about the sector. It’s really interesting that how one company’s success can fuel the whole sector. But that’s what we found out after that. We got and we also got an interview request from Y Combinator, which was really exciting. It was an interesting process to go through, we realized that, you know, we should really work on our product well, and at that, I think it was just two months into the journey, we got an offer from them for an interview. We also got an offer from TechStars, and other accelerators. But we decided to, you know, definitely focus on BIV BIV, because BIV’s focuses alternative protein itself. And that’s why you know, BIV, BIV also gave us a lot of traction in the fundraising space. It definitely gave us a platform to to introduce the concept of clean protein to India. And I would say that, it’s it was initially challenging, but 

then it got easier as we went to the BIV program, and got you guys on board. 

Andrew D Ive 34:11 

That’s great to hear. So talking of the challenges for a moment, what do you think, Well, what do you anticipate could be some of the challenges that you may encounter, bringing your product successfully into India? 

Kartik 34:27 

Right supply chain is one of the biggest constraints here because cold chain is not on par with global standards. And that’s why we are actively trying to make the product ambient shelf stable. But the way we are seeing it one advantage of our, you know, whole strategy 

of going into food services that we can piggyback on the existing cold supply chain, which restaurants already have, right. every restaurant has refrigerators, they care about their own supply, and they make sure that the supply stays good. So we can piggyback on the existing model and We can create that whole path through full service first. But then again, if we want to launch into, let’s say, you know, something like Amazon, something like retail, then that will take additional investment on creating that supply chain, if we are going through it from a refrigerated point of view, if we make it shelf stable, then the constraints will definitely go away. But in the initial one year, we definitely expect some unique challenges on the supply chain front. Other than that, hiring great talent, because India is definitely one of the most talented countries in the world, but finding that relevant talent to make sure that we stay into the innovation game, and not lose out on momentum on that front, right. Because ultimately, what you saw in beyond meat was that they started from chicken, and then ultimately went to Robbie and and you know, sausages and all of that. We want to be on the exact same trajectory when product innovation is concerned. So finding talented people is going to be another challenge, we are actively trying to hire great people on board, probably those who worked in alternative protein companies into the US. And someone if someone is seeing this, and hearing me out, do reach out. If in case you find Evo who’s interesting, because we are always ready to create a unique profile for you as a person, if we see that there’s a fit. If we see that you’re passionate about the sector, then we are definitely the right kind of Geico for you. 

Andrew D Ive 36:32 

So talking about recruiting the right people, obviously COVID has allowed us to, you know, work across geographic boundaries in a way that wasn’t imagined two, three years ago, using zoom and Skype and Hangouts, Microsoft Teams, all the other things that people 

are leveraging to people, great people who want to apply to Evo foods need to relocate to Mumbai, or are there certain roles, certain people that can be kept, you know, can work with you, outside of India? 

Kartik 37:10 

Andrew, if you can give us some more funding, then we can definitely be able to create a lab in us. So we won’t have any issue. But yeah, on r&d front, you will have to ship to Mumbai, if not on the r&d front, if more on the front end, you know, marketing, performance marketing, digital marketing, and these kind of roles, more on the front end part of it, then you need necessarily be in Mumbai, actually, we prefer an in person, kind of group, because that has accelerated our whole process. What what we couldn’t achieve during the whole pandemic time, we achieved that within the first three months of, you know, 2021. And that’s because we got our own lab space, we’ve got, you know, our own office space as well, which is combined at a really great price. So in India, you can do and definitely do that. But ultimately, you know, walking out of a group in person, understanding your team members will definitely be a boost. But yeah, this is not a necessity for people to, you know, just apply to evo foods. 

Andrew D Ive 38:15 

So those top restaurants you mentioned before the 1000 to 1500 that you guys are going to be targeting. Are they purchasing their ingredients on a day to day basis in local markets? And they’re sending people out to go buy this ingredients fresh? Or do they have companies that are providing them with their ingredients, and so on? And maybe we can even be more specific if that are those companies getting shipments of chilled dairy and eggs already brought to their, you know, their shipping Bay on a day to day basis. So in other words, if you can get your product into those, those centralized distributors who are providing those restaurants with their dairy, maybe that’s a way of actually scaling that that growth more quickly than needing to go and tackle 1500 restaurants day to day. 

Kartik 39:10 

Absolutely. That would be an ideal approach. But I would say that each restaurant we have encountered has a different kind of a buying process. They have different suppliers, for vegetables for tofu for for example, meat. And one thing which was consistent during the whole process is that there is no structure. For example, in the US, you have food service companies who cater to a lot of restaurants. That structure right now is missing in India, even in Tier One cities. And until that structure is in place, we can’t really depend on that. So what we’ll have to do is we’ll have to create our own supply chain of supplying 

through to these restaurants first. And obviously we’ll have to partner with restaurants who have chains and centralized kitchens. That everything from our And can taken care of when it reaches their own kitchen or own facility. So that’s, that’s a big part of strategy, we’ll we’ll go after that, after we have created an impact in the first restaurants. For example, let’s say, Starbucks, right? Starbucks has a central kitchen. And then, you know, it can be really easier for us, if we can ship the product to them, they can make the product out of their central kitchen and ship it to 200 to 250 outlets they have in the country. So these kind of models we are looking for. But for the Indian restaurants, it’s really hard to find that single supplier who supplies to all of them, and create an impact to that. 

Andrew D Ive 40:40 

Okay, and so you, so I didn’t just make sure I’m hearing the right thing. Starbucks, for example, have a central district central manufacturing system, or facility that they then use to get that product made and sent out to all of the different Starbucks throughout a region, or even the country, perhaps, there are certain restaurants that may use a similar approach, I would guess, particularly if they’re a chain, and they’ve got multiple outlets. But there’s there’s not a kind of distributor that distributes dairy products to 50% of the tier one restaurants in Mumbai, for example, they are they are all finding their own way of getting their own ingredients. 

Kartik 41:24 

There are platforms, for example, there’s, there’s a company called a snowman, which is used by a lot of companies for their own supply chain, they can piggyback at platform, there are new startups such as there’s this interesting startup called is where I grew, you know, they are yet to start up their cold chain supply process, but what they do is they take the lead, take your product, they supply they they store it in their own warehouse, and they ship it to different kinds of consumers. So these are the platforms which are coming up. You know, we are also talking to some distributors who have chains, similar to the daily supply chain. But yeah, it will take some time for us to figure out exactly the dynamics of your distribution in India, because it’s, it’s really fragmented, it’s really difficult for us to find that single player. 

Andrew D Ive 42:16 

So it makes sense potentially to go city by city, right Mumbai first, because that’s where you guys are based. What would be the next city after Mumbai, 

Kartik 42:26 

we are deciding between Delhi and Bangalore, because Delhi is usually where people experiment a lot less like, this is a very different thing we found out about you know, while researching for the market, because in Mumbai, you got people who are really picky with the restaurants once they was this, for example, hackathon, right hackathon is a great example of how this strategy works. So usually, when people try to eat Asian food, they usually go to hockessin. And they stick to it, they don’t try other places, if they want to try Asian food, they will stick with her cousin. And in Delhi, it’s the 

Andrew D Ive 43:03 

Asian chain in India. 

Kartik 43:06 

Yes. So basically, they saw a lot of great Asian food. But But what you see is a lot of influences go there. And when Delhi is concerned, you see people spending on different types of experiences, every time they go out. They don’t necessarily stick to one particular restaurant. And that’s why the volume of these restaurants are also high in Delhi. in Bangalore, usually the traffic is a bit of a hectic problem for people to go out to have a meal. So what they do is they try out restaurants, according to their area, according to their geographic area, and try not to go beyond their geographic area per se. So these are the kinds of interesting things we are experiencing about the Indian markets of tier one tier a tier one cities. And that’s really important for us to figure out at an early stage rather than go into the market and then figure it out. 

Andrew D Ive 43:58 

That sounds really interesting. 

Kartik 44:01 

Yeah. Interesting. 

Andrew D Ive 44:04 

I kind of like the idea of going to the city where people are sort of running around trying everything and getting really getting really, you know, interested in new things. That sounds like a great place for Evo to be after Mumbai. But, you know, I guess if you’ve got a 

city where people don’t move much out of their local area, and they’re just focusing on eating a lot in a constrained geography that’s going to be kind of interesting as well, providing you’ve got outlets in those key geographies. 

Kartik 44:35 

Yeah, for sure. I mean, you know, in Mumbai, usually people are really excited about their own restaurants. The cheese they are really fan of that’s why we are starting off with Mumbai you know, so that they can go to that place and then they can get an offer. Like you know, we have Evo on board. But when in Delhi I think we’ll have to change your strategy a bit you know, it will be more like you know, we are present in these restaurants over On to all social media channels. It will be like an expensive when we go to Delhi. 

Andrew D Ive 45:07 

Okay, so we’re now in 2021. Let’s fast forward to 2025, four years from now, give me some predictions where Evo will be 

Kartik 45:20 

Evo will be present in at least five countries, that’s for sure. Because we are tackling the problem, according to the price. And most importantly, next year, we’ll be ready for the US market because we are already on price parity with multiple categories. In the US, we are cheaper than almost every plant based like there is in the us right now. Not I would say cheaper but more affordable, because cheaper is such a bad word, it can create a bad influence. So I would prefer affordable. And most importantly, then it makes sense for us. So I usually get this question a lot, why are you not moving to Southeast Asia, because we found out that the prices there are definitely lower than what they are in the US. So us first, and then in the next five years, across all continents, that’s what we want to achieve. 

Andrew D Ive 46:14 

I think your prices have got to be similar to the US maybe even a little bit more expensive, I would imagine. So anyway. 

Kartik 46:21 

Usually, usually in the US, you got anywhere between 1.5 dollars per dozen, approximately $7 per dozen, like for an organic egg. And we did that research. For the US market. We are price comparable with some liquid eggs in the US which are sold sold off the shelves, for 

example, Whole Foods. And we are also price comparable with some premium categories. And organic eggs are a little bit higher than evo. 

Andrew D Ive 46:51 

So the interesting thing is, I’ve probably lived in five different cities in in the US. And because I’m in to the foods industry, I spend a lot of time in grocery stores in lots of different places. If I go to a new place, the first thing I do after I get to a city as go and check out the grocery stores. Most of the 12 dozen eggs have kind of the least expensive the sort of regular non organic, nothing special 12, you know, 12 eggs, I think is typically around the 379 399 for dollar range. Then when you get into the organic, and then if you look at organic plus humane. So a brand law in the US, for example would be vital vi t al those those eggs are typically you’ll get them from between 550 and $7 per dozen, depending on which outlet you’re buying them from. So, you know, six, seven bucks for 12. Organic and humane eggs is probably a good price. So I’m not sure where your dollar 50 for 12 eggs is coming from. But you know, if you put in dollars, 

Kartik 48:09 

I’m sorry. 1.5 dollars 2.7. That’s the range we found out. But obviously there might be some issues, you know, because we research a lot on web. But yeah, these are the kinds of prices we saw on the web, at least. On the most storefront I think you’re right, it can range anywhere between three to $7. That is the range. And we are at, you know, for four to five, even if we sell at you know $6 per dozen, that that also means that we are price comparable with organic eggs in the US, we wouldn’t 

Andrew D Ive 48:42 

be tough to get your product to be organic in terms of the ingredients that you’re you’re using 

Kartik 48:50 

one second? Yeah, of course, I mean, organic, we can definitely make it because there’s no lack of ingredients from the supply chain perspective. But we’ll need to check whether there’s a demand for it. For example, organic plant based AG, in case consumers demand, it wouldn’t be hard to create basically, it’s just a funnel. 

Andrew D Ive 49:15 

But the funny thing is you’ve already got the market from an egg perspective, looking at the egg market as organic and non organic when you go in and look for egg related products you’re looking for, you know your or eggs rather, you’re looking for either organic or non organic, right. So I mean, if you’ve got consumers already thinking about eggs in those terms, giving them the choice between an EVO assuming that at some point, you’re going to give consumers a choice. Good sounds like restaurants are obviously the next 12 months. But once you broaden outside of restaurants and you bring it to the American consumer, giving them a you know an organic, sorry, a non organic version at whatever your current price point is. For the expectation of your price point would be to the US, and then putting a buck on top, or $1.50 on top. And having an organic version would probably be a really distinct differential between you. And as you say, the most well publicized liquid egg company in the us right now, I don’t think they i don’t think i’ve seen anyone with a liquid egg that has an organic version. I almost want to cut, I almost want to cut this out of the interview. So people don’t do this, it’s kind of annoying that we’re gonna give them a heads up, right? 

Kartik 50:34 

I’m sure. So I mean, when you send it in this way, it makes sense because, you know, it matches their perceptions of normal eggs. And that will be really interesting for us to create, I think we can definitely look into it when you know, entering the US market launching two versions of it simultaneously, 

Andrew D Ive 50:51 

especially if it gives you an extra dollar 50 margin when I would guess the cost of sourcing raw ingredients that organic versus non organic is not going to be $1.50 per bottle. 

Kartik 51:05 

Absolutely. And one thing which you will really find interesting is that if you go on some platforms in India, such as big basket, the organic versions, for example, I consume organic legumes regularly. So when you see the price difference between organic and non organic, it’s not much it probably three to four rupees, which is not that high for a person, you know, who’s who’s who’s preferring more healthier foods. So I would say it will be not challenging for us to create, I’m assuming from the initial impression. But yeah, we’ll definitely look into it. And definitely, this is really interesting. 

Andrew D Ive 51:43 

Wow, look at that. Another another great reason why we talked today. 

Kartik 51:50 

product ideas, strategy, ideas, everything. 

Andrew D Ive 51:54 

So you’ve already said that getting great people is going to be a challenge or going to be a bottleneck because obviously it’s always a bottleneck dreading getting amazing people to join the team. What are some of the ways that people listening can potentially help you obviously, if they’re in if they’re in Mumbai, or, or Bangalore or Delhi and they’re local, they can go along to a restaurant and ask for you guys, either, you know, either to have to stop 

or to have those restaurants stop you, or they can just specifically asked for you on the menu. That’s one way people can help you. But what kind of help Are you looking for from people listening to this? 

Kartik 52:32 

Absolutely. The thing which you said matters a lot because when you know consumers go to their restaurants favorite restaurants on a regular basis, if they demand Evo to the restaurant, and if we if we get into the inbound inquiry through that, that’s that’s more of a pool than a push from our side. So I would say that you know, if you are able to create that pool for us for evo, just by demanding better egg alternatives, better alternatives in general in your favorite restaurant, and giving us our contact Hello accurate Evo foods dot iron at double o at Red Evo foods dot iron, that will be really great. We are really grateful for it. Other than that, 

Andrew D Ive 53:14 

if let’s let’s just let’s just slow that down for a second. The email address if someone wants to find out about having your product in a restaurant or recommending you to restaurant is Hello, h e l l o at Evo, BB o foods with an S at the end? dot i m correct. Right. Right. Okay, just wanted to you spoke really fast. I just want to make sure anyone listening doesn’t swerve their car over to like, you know, get into an accident because they want to try and write this stuff down. 

Kartik 53:46 

Boy, sure. So hello at the depot foods.io. And definitely you can ask us where the restaurant, there will be a store locator or a restaurant locator feature on the website, which we are working on right now. Where you can find out what’s the nearest restaurant to use serving evo. Another thing which you can do is refer us to relevant people across different sections such as r&d, or marketing or branding, or performance marketing. So these kinds of roles we are looking to hire over a period of next year are most most intensively on r&d because we feel that you know, that’s that’s where our mode or all future modes will come out of. So definitely refer us to some great people you know, that will help us create this whole plant based revolution in India. 

Andrew D Ive 54:34 

Okay, so that’s that’s people referring you. What else? What else can people do? 

Kartik 54:43 

You know, ask ask about evo. Ask about evo a lot about, you know, to your favorite restaurants or your favorite chains. For example, if you demand to subway every time you go there that, hey, we need a plant based dag. If they reach out to us, then that’s fine. Otherwise we are already trying You know, contact them, usually, you know, you can cut it cut that part out, we’re looking to, you know, reach out to somewhere as well. But yeah, definitely ask about your about Evo or plant based ag in general to your favorite restaurants. Yeah, I will enough from your and we won’t ask much. 

Andrew D Ive 55:17 

And the product is available in Mumbai now, or is there a particular month when it’s going to out? You said you’re already in 55 stores, right? 

Kartik 55:26 

No, me of onboarded 55 restaurants, we are rolling it out in April. So we did a little launch event in Mumbai, just to understand how people react to the concept of land based tech. And we found out that if you position it as a healthier alternative, if you position it, as you know, something like a yummy and fluffy egg, but made from plants, then the response is 

much, much higher than when you position it as a vegan egg. And that’s what we you know, understood during that whole launch event. And then people started reaching out from different cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, and asking that, you know, where can I find it? Where can I get it. So this, this is also creating like an exclusive effect for us as well. 

Because anything, which is exclusive, people would like to go on it. And we intend to do it slowly, right? Make it really exclusive, make it really, you know, aspirational for people to get, and then slowly launch into a broader market. 

Andrew D Ive 56:25 

And if I’m subway in India, I should reach out to you now, right, I shouldn’t wait until the products available in April, 

Kartik 56:35 

definitely, you can definitely reach out to us. Because what we have done is we have created different iterations of an egg from a food service standpoint, which will prove out to be really time saving for food service companies or food QSR providers in general for them to save time in the recipes and not who can make every time there’s a recipe 

Andrew D Ive 56:57 

called a so Evo foods dot i n. So Eb o f, ODS di and I’m looking at your website right now, I can see your smiling character, your smiling mascot on your bottle, the bottle looks amazing, I can see why people are really excited about this product. If I’m a restaurant in India, or an owner of a restaurant or a chef, I can reach out to Hello at Evo foods to Iam for samples so that they can try the product and consider whether it’s something they should add to their menu. And you would expect or hope that they would use your brand on the menu as a way of showing people that they’re using the best liquid egg in India today. Right? 

Kartik 57:46 

Right. Absolutely. 

Andrew D Ive 57:48 

Awesome. So I mean, I’ve pretty much covered everything I was going to discuss with you today. If people need to reach out to you they can find john Evo foods dot i n I’m guessing you have various social media platforms and things LinkedIn, Instagram, where do people find you on those on those places? 

Kartik 58:09 

You can definitely message us on Instagram, Facebook, reach out to me personally via LinkedIn. I’m usually very active on LinkedIn as a platform. Reach out to us via Twitter as well. We are very active we are posting a lot of content. You know a lot of egg puns, excellent egg puns on different social media platforms. Yeah, I know. I know. 

Andrew D Ive 58:32 

Good. Dad jokes. 

Kartik 58:35 

Yeah, yeah, that. But yeah, they are excellent experts. We are producing a lot of great content using our mascot, Sonny which is relatable. Because he is not judging you for your food choices. If you even if you are a vegetarian, non vegetarian, lacto vegetarian, he is not the kind of person who’s judging you. Just try evo. Just try a plant based egg and see if it works for you, and then buy for you. So that’s what we want to achieve through our social media. So give 

Andrew D Ive 59:06 

me three places in Mumbai April is April 1, April 15. April 30. April 15. Yeah, yeah. So give me three restaurants. If I’m in Mumbai on April 15, where I can go and At this rate, there’ll be people lining up so where can I get Give me three places I can go April 15 to try Evo Foods liquid egg. 

Kartik 59:30 

Sure. I would definitely suggest you know for the sake of shraddha to candy and green the first place second. Yeah, second would be flamboyant. Which is a great restaurant place. And the third would be Earth cafe. Which is in Bandra. So in these three restaurants will definitely find evo as a part of their menu. And you know, you can go there you can taste different varieties of recipes they have created with it and you can enjoy yourself. Now complete Go 

Andrew D Ive 1:00:00 

to Evofoods.in and sign up to sign up for a mailing list so that they can actually get an email of where they can go taste the product on April 15. 

Kartik 1:00:09 

Absolutely, what we are also going to do is we are going to conduct more and more events in different restaurants in Mumbai, through which you can sign yourself up, it will be an exclusive list you will be selected on the basis of priority and then you will be invited to that event. After after we reach out to you directly or after you sign up. whenever it’s available, whenever the sports are available. There is going to have excitement along the lines of launch events. So definitely sign up on evo foods.io and in our mailing list so that we can reach out to you whenever we are ready for a tasting. And if 

Andrew D Ive 1:00:47 

you’re I don’t know a Bollywood star or Indian celebrity they should reach out to you Kartik Dixit di x it on LinkedIn or via your website and say, Hey, you know, I love what you’re doing. I really want to be involved. Is that is that a good way? 

Kartik 1:01:04 

Why Sure, boy. Sure. In fact, Andrew, this is just for you. 

Andrew D Ive 1:01:08 

And as the other and the other 15 people listening to the podcast? 

Kartik 1:01:13 

About 15 people, is it live? 

Andrew D Ive 1:01:15 

Now it’s not live, but I can guarantee that I’ve got enough family members that when it does go live, we’ll have 15 people listening to it, maybe 16? I don’t know. Let’s go crazy. No, I think you’re these three restaurants are a great starting point. But anyways, if you are a Bollywood star, if you are, you know an influencer, you can definitely reach out to me personally on LinkedIn, and you should actually post my email address as well. Well, we’ll post this within iTunes and various other places will also post the video on YouTube. And so there’ll be various ways underneath the video and the podcast where people can get your contact details. And it sounds like you’re going to tell me a top secret piece of information about a celebrity getting involved. So I’m going to stop recording. Oh, hello, something just popped up forbes.com science Well, that’s really long. I can’t even read that. 

Kartik 1:02:12 

You can operate according and then read it maybe. 

Andrew D Ive 1:02:16 

Maybe I’ll put it under the podcast or under the video if it’s something you want people to, to go to. Alright, Kartik, really good to chat with you. I’m going to pause and stop the video and stop the recording. So you can tell me all about this top secret thing. And if anyone wants to find out about it, they should go register at your website on the mailing list in one way or another. You will give them your tell them the top secret thing when it’s when you’re able to publish. 

Kartik 1:02:44 

Yeah, definitely. 

Andrew D Ive 1:02:47 

Thanks. Thanks for your time today, Kartik. I’m going to stop the recorder in a few moments. 

Kartik 1:02:52 

Thank you so much. 

Andrew D Ive 1:02:54 

Thanks for listening to the Big Idea Food Podcast. I really appreciate you. Please do subscribe, then you’ll get notifications of the next podcast. If you have any questions or comments, please do reach out. We can also be found by a big ideaventures.com and through Instagram, LinkedIn, all of those wonderful places. So enjoyed the conversation today. I hope you did too. I look forward to hearing from you. Bye 

 

© Big Idea Ventures LLC 2021

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