Ceres Foods, a brand that initially began its journey with cloud kitchens operating around 45 of them between 2015 to 2019, observed the biggest and most critical pain points to be maintaining consistency of food across locations and the end product being served to the customer was dependent on the person cooking it.
“We wanted to bring in consistency, and reduce the dependency on the skill, inventory cost, and wastage in our cloud kitchens. In the process, we created over 150 products such as culinary sauces, marinades, and frozen products spanning multiple cuisines which made the food consistent across locations, controlled costs, and increased productivity,” stated Jagmandeep Singh, Cofounder and CBO, Ceres Foods Pvt. Ltd.
Moreover, between 2020 and 2022, Ceres Foods helped Giga Foods in Sri Lanka to set up the largest chain of cloud kitchens in Colombo using products created by Ceres.
Post the success of the products in the commercial environment, the brand decided to extend the same products into home cooking. In August 2022, Ceres forayed into D2C with its range of products including 4 Indian Ready to Cook curries and 9 Asian Sauces with an aim to make cooking at home a fun, easy, and convenient experience.
The key objective of Ceres Foods is to empower every food lover to create high-quality restaurant-style food using 3 to 4 steps within the comfort of the home kitchen.
“We want to be a curated platform for multiple cuisine-specific brands covering the entire requirement of the customers’ pantry,” said Singh.
The founder noticed, with the growing number of nuclear families and with people moving away from home, the knowledge transfer from one generation to another is not happening seamlessly. Moreover, with reduced work-life balance and lack of time focus naturally goes towards ordering in.
“With the considerable experience that we have in running cloud kitchens, we created this wide range of condiments, liquid masalas, and sauces to enhance the consistency of cuisine offered across geographies to reduce dependency on expert chefs. Given the success of the products in the commercial environment, we decided to extend the same products into home cooking,” added Jagmandeep.
Ceres Foods thus aims to make cooking at home a fun, easy, and convenient experience, while ensuring all natural ingredients are used without any preservatives while following the authentic dish recipe and preserving the heritage recipes.
Ceres Foods is looking to make inroads into India’s ever-expanding home kitchens segment. The changing lifestyles and demanding work lives of both partners have given rise to the need for innovative solutions that offer the best of both worlds – the satisfaction of eating home-cooked food, without the hassles of a complex, time-consuming cooking process.
The 'India Ready-To-Cook Market Outlook, 2021,' suggests that the total market for ready-to-cook has grown at a CAGR of 15-20 percent during the past five years.
Ceres Foods with its unique capabilities is endeavoring to lead this industry poised for exponential growth. With products, production, and the D2C distribution streamlined Ceres Foods is working towards maximizing reach by being present wherever the consumer is. The company is looking to deploy an omnichannel distribution strategy - a mix of both online and offline platforms.
Aiming to expand its product range. The founders are confident about the potential of its offering. With its current operations completely self-funded, however, to fully exploit this opportunity, the company is looking to raise capital.
Moreover, Ceres Foods has a development kitchen in Mumbai and partner production facilities spread across India, with a total contracted capacity of 40 MT per day. These facilities adhere to the highest safety and hygiene standards and are fully compliant with ISO, HACCP, FDA, and Halal regulations and guidelines.
Ceres products are currently available under two brands, Ceres Foods (Indian Liquid Masalas) and Moi Soi (a range of Oriental Sauces). These products minimize dependency on skills. As of today, the brand has about 20 variants on offer and is looking to further augment this offering by introducing more variants of traditional Indian Curries and Ready Asian Curries, which are unavailable in the market.
“Our Indian Liquid Masala portfolio (Ceres Foods) comprising of 7 variants is uniquely focused on curating celebrated non-vegetarian dishes from across India. These dishes require a high level of skill and specialized ingredients. With our products one can cook up specialized dishes like Laal Maas, Mustard Fish and Champaran within 30 mins,” commented Jagmandeep Singh.
The brand’s oriental range (Moi Soi) of 14 delectable sauces and noodles, offers the customer a taste of China and South East Asia. His belief is that the Indian consumer palate has evolved and wants to experience real Chinese food rather than only Desi Chinese such as Schezwan or Manchurian. Ceres thus aims to become the one-stop shop for any oriental food needs for the customer.
Moreover, the brand intends to expand into newer categories including Marinades, Condiments, and Spices apart from adding more variants to the existing portfolio.
With most existing brands’ product portfolios having 70 to 80 percent overlapping products, Ceres Foods aims to stand out and make its mark in two ways:
Similarly, within the Indian curries, the brand offers products that enable the execution of dishes that are not easy to make especially focusing on the non-veg curries which the large players rarely do beyond butter chicken, the brand’s Laal Maas will compete well or better than any Laal Maas available.
“We aim to consolidate all our products under one brand which we aim to take global. That’ll be the first brand out of India, in the segment, which will be meant for the global and Indian consumers both,” said Singh.
“The core theme of the brand is to make your cooking experience a pleasure and be a one-stop shop for all your value-added cooking products from sauces, condiments, spices, frozen, drinks and even value-added cooking utensils and equipment,” he further added.
Technology and Innovation
Believing the Indian consumer has evolved significantly, the brand is designing for the customer and not trying to push a product. “We are currently developing an entire range of Liquid Masalas which will enable a customer to make some of the most celebrated Indian dishes at Home without using any other condiments. We are also ensuring that we keep our products natural and true to the original recipes. We will diversify our portfolio slowly and offer other innovative product solutions such as Heat & Eat which will make the consumers' life simpler,” added Singh.
Ceres further manufactures its products in world-class factories with global standards and is targeting a large export market having a total available capacity of approximately 40 MT per Day across various product categories.
Moreover, the brand is constantly innovating its products using technology, working with new-age tech to ensure its products have a long shelf life without any chemicals. Moreover, it is working on products using Freeze Drying which retains the inherent quality of ingredients and also the texture of the end product.
“Innovative packaging technology is somewhere we are investing a lot of time and effort. We believe the right packaging which also is sustainable will be an absolute requirement in the future and not optional. We will start launching some of our innovative products in the first quarter of FY24,” added Singh.
Growth and Marketing
Ceres Foods has been witnessing a 20 percent month-on-month growth with new unique products and the addition of new sales channels adding fuel to the current growth.
The bootstrapped brand has also recently closed a Pre-Series A round with select HNIs, the funds will primarily be deployed towards the sales and marketing endeavors to add fuel to the growth of the brand.
Ceres Foods is further following a four-pronged market expansion strategy. One Product range, second online availability, third Offline geographical availability (in India and Overseas), and fourth Communication and customer engagement.
Currently available in 28 cities across India and also in Dubai, Singapore, Nigeria, and South Africa, the brand will be available in the US market by the end of December 2022.
In the next 5 years, Ceres Foods intends to be where the consumer is and offer what the consumer wants.
“We, recently doubled our portfolio of products to 21, and by January 2023 we aim to have a total of 40 unique products in our portfolio we also plan to increase our online presence in India and the US market,” said Singh.
Moreover, the brand is planning to ramp up sales to 50,000 units a month from the current run rate of 15,000 units per month and by FY 2025 it wants to achieve a revenue run rate of above Rs 200 crore with an increased focus on offering new cuisines and categories beyond the Indian and Oriental offering.
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