It all started when Shuchir Suri and Punweet Singh had decided to meet over a couple of drinks. When they sat down to order, they both observed something on the menu that stood out to them and that was a complete lack of beverage options to choose from. “What we saw were the same big brands that we’ve seeing all our lives and these were all overly sugared and full of artificial ingredients. We felt the space lacked any innovation for many years and that’s how we came up with Jade Forest, a thoughtfully crafted beverage company that believes in creating drinks in the ‘better-for-you’ category and abide by what our consumers want in today’s age and not by what the traditional beverage players have been trying to sell all these years,” shared Singh who recently raised funding of 1 million USD in a round led by Mumbai Angels Network to expand to new geographies and also launch into the Ready-to-drink beverage segment. Excerpts from the interview:
We see that in the last 2-3 years there has been lots of innovation happening in the beverage space and people have become more conscious about ingredients and its source. Why so? What innovation you have done in this regard?
When the pandemic first struck in April 2019, 70% of our sales, which at the time were coming through our HORECA channels, disappeared overnight. At a business level, we took the initial two months of lockdown to completely restructure our business model. Due to the nature of the lockdown, people became a lot more aware of the ingredients that were listed on the back of product labels and the need for “better-for-you” drinks is something that helped propel Jade Forest’s sales.
Jade Forest plans to bring about a holistic change to how people consume beverages, and we plan to do this by introducing a range of options in the “better-for-you” beverage category. We are constantly reinventing and researching the current and future trends of the drinks industry. We’ve realised that people are looking out for healthier alternatives and this is not a trend, it’s a market shift and lifestyle change that people have adapted themselves to post the pandemic. People are conscious of the ingredient that goes into their drinks. They want healthier alternatives to the traditional soft drinks and juices available in the market. Innovation coupled with premium ingredients and a community driven approach are just some of the things we plan to capitalize on as a brand.
How has been the response so far?
The way we have seen the brand grow over the past two years and the acceptance shown by our consumers has truly been humbling. It is extremely tricky to create brand loyalty and stickiness in the beverage space and it all boils to down to a lot of smaller variables done correctly. While can now see some of the results of those efforts, we are constantly trying to capture the ever-evolving mind space and requirements of the Indian consumer and create products specifically tailored to their needs.
How different are your products and product offerings compared to the competition in the market?
We’ve been fortunate enough to be one of the early movers in the mixers category. Since then, we’ve seen an influx of other brands enter the space. Jade Forest has always been focused on a few key aspects that has and continues to differentiate itself from the competition. We emphasize immensely on taste and make sure whatever we launch receives the approval from our target audience prior to the launch. We believe, innovation in the drinks segment has not been fully tapped in India and that is where we expect our new product offerings to witness positive traction. Apart from that we will always offer products in the ‘better-for-you’ space with each category of drinks.
Are you also supplying restaurants? Please name some.
We are widely available across many of the most popular restaurants across the country, some of which include Bo Tai, Olive, Dear Donna, Leela Palace, Izumi, Sea, Pings.
You recently raised funds. Where can we see those investments being used?
We are constantly expanding out footprint and with the latest round of funding we plan to further expand into key geographical locations. With strong SOP’s in place and technology integrations, our goal is to ensure that Jade Forest is available PAN India and with shorter delivery times through last mile delivery partners.
In terms of portfolio expansion, we are set to launch a range of drinks in a category that’s currently untapped in India. Apart from that we have already narrowed down on future product launches in 2022 and you will see a lot of new product offerings from Jade Forest. We’re now available in all major metros in the country, taking our overall presence to over 23 cities in India.
What according to you would be the biggest trend that will happen in the near future that will disrupt the whole beverage market?
Beverage manufacturers are constantly looking out for the next disruptive beverage or trend. It’s important to keep in mind that taste is something that is extremely subjective to personal preferences. Even in a country such as India, taste preferences vary greatly from region to region. Globally, we are seeing huge importance and innovation in the better-for-you beverage segment and this is something that we see already making its way in to India. This is something we aim to be on the forefront of. What will be interesting to see though is how beverage companies create future categories keeping in mind the current global scenario with inflated raw material costs and constantly fluctuating govt tax laws.
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