How D2C Brand Gladful Is Reinventing Indian Breakfast With High Protein Foods

By Inc42 Media


Founded in 2021, Gladful protein-rich foods with no preservatives, along with high-protein cookies, soybean-based munchies, date nut bites, and roasted munchies

Since its launch, Gladful has attracted a healthy user base, selling to about 20K consumers per month and generating a revenue of INR 2.3 Cr in FY23

The startup operates in India’s protein-based product market, expected to reach $150.8 Bn by 2032, and also locks horns with players like MTR, ITC and iD Fresh Food in the ready-to-eat segment

The Indian diet may be rich in carbohydrates but when it comes to protein, we are hardly on par with our global peers. According to several medical journals available online, the country’s protein consumption is much lower than the 48 grams a day recommended by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). This deficit was also highlighted by the National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5) in 2022, which found out that about 80% of India don’t meet their daily protein requirements.

Now, the bedrock of India’s protein deficit stems from the food habits engrained in its culture and fabric, which also prides itself on being ranked as the top vegetarian country in the world, with a massive 38% to 40% of its total population avoiding meat as the main source of protein.

While this may not appear concerning, protein deficit can lead to muscle loss and weakness, decreased bone development and density, stunted growth, and anaemia, and we have barely scratched the surface.

Similar was the case for Parul Sharma, head of modern trade at FMCG major Mondelez, who thought her “family’s nutrition game” was strong. However, a routine paediatric checkup for her son in 2020 revealed the ugly truth of protein deficiency in her household.

To remedy her son from the deficiency, the doctor prescribed her to include protein-rich biscuits in the young one’s diet. What came next was resistance from her son in consuming the prescribed protein supplement. It is precisely from this point started Sharma’s quest to find a healthier protein alternative for her kid within her kitchen, a quest that Sharma believed that about 93% of Indian mothers were already treading on. 

Just like most Indians, Sharma, too, had a reluctance to turn to protein supplements, given the many instances of drug tampering in such products back then. Given the situation, it was only natural for her to turn to more natural protein sources.   

In her quest to find foods that are not only rich in protein but also taste, she roped in her brother, Manu Sharma, a chartered accountant by profession. 

“With a sharp focus on sprouted lentils, legumes and grains, we started building Gladful. Initially, we created a breakfast range that was not just delicious but also a protein powerhouse,” the founder said. 

Founded in 2021, Gladful’s motto has been to create everyday vegetarian foods that are rich in protein & fibre. Since its launch, Gladful has attracted a healthy user base, selling to about 20K consumers per month and generating a revenue of INR 2.3 Cr for the financial year 2022-23 (FY23). Sharma claims that a large chunk of their sales comes from recurring customers.

Gladful’s growth aligns with the emerging trends in India’s protein-based market. According to IMARC Group, India’s protein-based product market, including protein bars, powders, supplements, drinks, ice creams, cereals, and snacks, is expected to reach $150.8 Bn by 2032, growing at a CAGR of 15.8%.

How Jaipur-Based Gladful Solving The Indian Protein Paradox With Its Supercharged The Indian ‘Nashta’ Offerings

Despite the prospects, Gladful has faced significant challenges in convincing people to switch from their traditional diets to healthier options. 

Gladful Supercharges The Indian ‘Naashta’ 

Unlike others aiming to disrupt established industries, Gladful intended to supercharge the existing breakfast habits of Indians, without changing their preferences. Sharma told Inc42 that India’s breakfast culture revolves around dishes like upma, paratha, dosa, idli, and cheelas. 

She said that FMCG giants like Kellogg’s tried to introduce cereals but made little impact on India’s preference when it comes to dominating the grand Indian “naashta“.

“Ultimately, Indians will eat hot breakfast and these five favourite breakfast items will continue to be their first preference. So, what we are doing with Gladful is that we are telling Indians to eat what they are eating with a focus on protein. With the infusion of sprout-based protein, our dosa batter has around 4X more protein than any conventional batter. Similar is the case across our offering,” Sharma added. 

However, a critical limitation for Gladful to enter Indian kitchens has been its price point. According to Sharma, the brand may be premium to many but not so much in the metro cities.

“Compared to other products in the Indian market, our products are slightly expensive (about 20 to 30%, but I think our customers are ready to invest slightly more when it comes to healthier alternatives without compromising on taste. Our key USP of offering protein content with minimum palm oil, hydrogenated fats, trans fat or Maida has helped us make a name for ourselves in the breakfast market,” Sharma said.  

Currently, Gladful’s SKU count stands at 18 and includes options such as high-protein cookies, soybean-based munchies, date nut bites, and roasted munchies.

Yet, Sharma said, 70% of the company’s revenue comes from its breakfast category, with the remaining snacking categories bringing in the rest of the company’s sales.  

How Jaipur-Based Gladful Solving The Indian Protein Paradox With Its Supercharged The Indian ‘Nashta’ Offerings How Jaipur-Based Gladful Solving The Indian Protein Paradox With Its Supercharged The Indian ‘Nashta’ Offerings

Gladful’s Rise To Fame

Interestingly, Gladful got a high-octane boost in its business after it appeared on Shark Tank India’s season 2 earlier this year. 

The exposure from the show, where Aman Gupta, Namita Thapar, and Amit Jain collectively invested INR 50 Lakh, led to a substantial increase in monthly sales, rising from 10,000 to 18,000-20,000 transactions per month after their appearance on the much-coveted show.

Another critical marketing boost for the Jaipur-based startup came from the social media trend “Label Padhega India,” popularised by influencer Revant Himatsingka. 

What has also helped Gladful is Sharma’s extensive experience with Mondelez as the head of modern trade. She has also been instrumental in fine-tuning Galdful’s marketing strategy, which directly targets mothers looking for healthier alternatives for their kids.

The startup also leverages a sizable community of home chefs who review its products and make content for them as well as publish independent reviews. 

Road Ahead For Gladful

Despite all the push, Gladful remains a loss-making entity. In FY23, the company registered a revenue of INR 2.29 Cr but incurred a loss of INR 90.92 Lakh, with expenses totalling INR 3.51 Cr. Notably, a significant amount (INR 1.84 Cr) was spent on packaging and marketing.

Since its inception, the company has raised a total of INR 13 Cr from investors like Antler India, Huddle, Tholons Capital’s Ankita Vashishta, Bombay Shaving Company’s Shantanu Deshpande, and the Sharks. 

In January 2024, Gladful secured INR 6 Cr in seed funding from undisclosed investors to fuel its expansion plans and shed the loss-making tag.

“Moving forward, our primary focus will be to solidify our breakfast portfolio with new SKUs and expand to new ecommerce platforms beyond Amazon, Flipkart, Jiomart, BigBasket, Blinkit, and our website,” Sharma said.

Currently, it locks horns with players like MTR, ITC and iD Fresh Food, Sharma has set her eyes on offline expansion. She aims to pilot offline sales in Jaipur in the next 12 months.  

However, to sustain its offline play, the company, which is already burning a lot on marketing and packaging, may end up coughing up a fortune. But then, it will be interesting to see how Sharma’s offline ambitions pan out in the near future. 

Source: Inc42 Media