You Have Only One Life. Don’t De-Taste it by Eating Raw, Bland, Unreal Foods
Nikhil Gandhi, the founder of the clean label healthy food and supplement’s brand, Banamin, is a vegan in transition and an advocate of creating healthier society through food. The company he has founded – Banamin Healthcare believes in research and innovation, and produces a variety of low GI, Gluten free and nutrient dense plant-based snacks, pre-mixes and even supplements. The company specialises in using Bananas, beans, veggies and other fruits instead of wheat to create food products.
The website says Banamin products are developed by ‘Super Achievers in Corporate World for Today’s Super busy & Stressful Lifestyle’. And here’s the story - The Gujarati that Nikhil is, he loves his home cooked food, and by virtue of being from Maharashtra, he loves his food spicy too. A chemical engineer by profession, he worked for Indian Oil for a few years from his home town, and life was sorted. He enjoyed eating home-cooked vegetarian food. And then he joined Shell company, and work took him to Malaysia., where food became a major problem. “I had to travel a lot. This was in the year 2008. The concept of vegetarian food was difficult to explain in most places at South East Asia during that period. Wherever I went, vegetarian food meant any dish with veggies. I tried to survive on ‘Ready to Cook’ food, fruits and shakes. From nutrition point of view, it was difficult and not sustainable enough. Some of my colleagues shifted to India, or became non-vegetarians,” Nikhil shares his experiences, which led to the idea of creating nutritious food - snacks, pre-mixes and supplements that are tasty and plant-based.
Between 2011 and 2013 Nikhil conducted many experiments in his kitchen and did a whole lot of research. “I liked the luxury and lifestyle that came with a career in corporate world. But I jumped into my venture thinking if it doesn’t work, I can always get back to corporate.”
“For the pilot plant studies during 2016, we used raw materials from various corners of India, Malaysia and from other parts of of south east asia. We had also used the raw material during various seasons to test the impact on nutrition. We only use natural food product sourced directly from farmers to develop our healthy ingredients. Since 2016, over the next 3.5 years period, we have developed 200 plus recipes and 30 plus products.”
Nikhil was not in a hurry. He wanted to develop 100% Gluten Free, Plant Based, chemical free products with longer shelf life, with no added flavours; basically, 100% clean label products packed with nutrition, and products that are 100% Indian made. “We are gluten free, milk free and healthy.”
“My background helped too. My family members are either doctors or pharmacists. My sister is a Biochemistry Major. All this helped me to envision the project right from designing the plant, to streamlining the manufacturing process from raw material to the final stage. We created a unique prototype. The major problem when we started in 2016 was procurement of raw materials, which wasn’t as easy as how it is today,” he explains. Nikhil began by selling his products outside India.
Banana as the Base Ingredient
Nikhil feels banana is one of the most undermined super foods that is easily available in India. “Given a choice between what’s easily available and what is exotic, I will surely lean towards the former. While I was doing research, I did not want to use grains to replace wheat. Instead, I found we could use banana to create familiar recipes.” With our pilot plant studies and subsequent R&D, we have developed inhouse technology to produce pharmaceutical grade highly nutritious banana powder which is also having >15 months Shelf Life without using any preservatives.
“Our products are Plant Based, developed from fruits, vegetables & legumes. No preservatives, stabilizers, additives, flavors, colors, sweeteners or any other chemicals are used during any stage of the manufacturing. All our products are Gluten Free, Low in Glycemic Index, Rich in Nutrients, Preservatives Free, Chemicals Free and suitable for everyone in family, especially Vegans, Vegetarians, Celiacs, Diabetic persons, Obese people, Athletes, Fitness Enthusiast, Growing Kids and Women.”
Banamin sells in Malaysia, Singapore and in India through their online stores since late 2019. Banamin has also done sampling in Australia and Canada, however due to covid19 pandemic, the plans for launching products have been delayed. But Banamin serves individual customers from Australia and Canada.
The company is bootstrapped in order to have the freedom to experiment. “We are happy with the current progress with our shoestring budget. Once we are ready to scale to next level, we will definitely look for investment,” shares Nikhil.
We have created product portfolio considering the export market. In a way, Covid forced us to look at India as a potential market. We see Indian market is more into Ready to Eat food. So we have to adopt to the Indian customers’ preferences.
When we began marketing for India, we rebranded our Vegan Omelette as Utappam, and Pancakes mix as Parathas. We have Falafel. We also introduced Vada. We do have baking mixes for cookies / crackers that we haven’t launched in India yet – Nikhil reveals.
Further, operating from Tier 2 city has its own set of problems including the key issue of logistics, both in terms of ease of having and from cost perspective. As Indian customers are extremely price conscious, shipping charges also plays a vital role in product demand !!
Post pandemic as every entrepreneur in wellness and food industry will agree, health awareness amongst food lovers has been increased. It is really a good boost for Healthpreneurs. About Vegan Product sales perspective, Indian people will continue to be cautious, especially because vegan products have always been projected for Premium segment,considered as super expensive and Indian vegan brands are keeping this notion alive with highly priced offerings.
Nikhil Gandhi continues to work around the problem areas, in creating new varieties, in reducing the costs and increasing shelf life to name a few. He adds, “As a company Banamin is committed to the statement - We are Food Lovers who are solving the biggest problem most people facing. i.e. Eating Healthy, Nutritious and Balanced Foods without sacrificing taste and without eating chemicals.