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Jyoti Bharadwaj’s TeaFit: Revolutionizing Beverage Choices with Health and Sustainability at Its Core

TeaFit

Jyoti Bharadwaj’s journey with TeaFit exemplifies a blend of passion, innovation, and relentless commitment to health and sustainability. Beginning with a vision to transform the beverage industry, Jyoti and her team embarked on an ambitious journey to craft a range of unsweetened bottled teas that not only appeal to the health-conscious consumer but also taste great and are environmentally friendly.

The process, spanning nearly 18 months and involving over 130 iterations, stands testament to their dedication to quality and consistency. Jyoti’s collaboration with dedicated tea farmers, who, despite their modest scale, guaranteed a steady supply of real ingredients, underscores a commitment to sustainability and ethical practices.

With the launch of TeaFit in March 2021, Jyoti’s endeavor removed over 30,000 kgs of sugar from the Indian diet, marking a significant step towards healthier consumption patterns. Yet, for Jyoti, the journey doesn’t end here. She continues to drive TeaFit with the aim of broadening the product range, making it more affordable, and enhancing distribution to make TeaFit as common as a bottle of cola, reflecting a future where healthier choices are accessible and preferred.

TeaFit
Picture Credit:TeaFit

Jyoti Bharadwaj’s story is more than just about creating a product; it’s about pioneering a shift in consumer habits, advocating for sustainability, and building a brand that stands for health and quality without compromise.

 When did you started your journey as an entrepreneur?

Jyoti  started doing a lot of the background work way back in 2019 on recipe development, formulations, production manufacturing, since she is  not from the beverage industry and she have  never done any kind of business as a first -generation entrepreneur. So before jumping in, she did a lot of the background work, finding the right people, all that she started in 2019, but we officially commercially started the business in the month of March in the year 2021.

What are the implications of the current beverage market trends on public health, especially concerning diabetes and obesity, and what role can public policy play in shaping healthier consumption patterns?

Jyoti said  as far as the trend is concerned in the last 30 years there has been a glut of sugary beverages whether it is a cola or a fruit based beverage which is mostly just sugar water and colour and energy drinks.

There were far less assortments available 30 years ago than they are today. Not just in terms of sugary and dangerous levels of sugar beverages flooding the market. Also as our country is progressing a lot more people have entered the middle class and just the affordability of things has gone up.

There’s an increased consumption of these processed beverages with our urbanization, changing lifestyle, convenience, further she added that  there has been a significant increase in consumption. And with such dangerous levels of sugar, artificial flavors, preservatives, these lack the essential nutrients to contribute to better health, so in effect these lead to diabetes and obesity and just overall poor levels health and nutrition, especially among children and adolescents since like you will see the 20 rupee red color energy drinks being sold predominantly to teenagers and this is not just irresponsible, it’s just wrong on so many levels, these have very poor nutrition value, very high on chemicals, on sugar and just poor overall.

She  feel like a lot can be achieved through proactive public policy and equal  can be achieved through just consumer awareness. So, there could be a sugar tax, there are a lot of countries like the UK, Singapore, where there is sugar tax on beverages.

But in India, we do have sugar tax but it mostly around cola. A lot of the fruit based beverages kind of get away with it. So there should be like a blanket sugar tax or high sugary beverages there. Should be front of pack labeling as far as I am concerned

TeaFit
Picture Credit:TeaFit

.

She is a big advocate of that. That to a  lot the critical information which allows for good decision making is hidden in really tiny fonts at the back of the pack. Those should be brought to front of pack and maybe if you go a step further there could even be a cigarette kind of packaging which really highlights the dangers of product right up front so customers know whether they are making a good decisions or not.

And she would like to highlight a country Singapore in this regard they have something called nutrient grade labeling and they grade beverages and other products, if there’s zero sugar in that, then it gets a grade A and mostly all the beverages that you see on our shelves in India, they would all get a great D.

So if some kind of regulation or just simple grading mechanism like this is brought about, a lot of the products on the shelves right now will not make the cut. Then, education and awareness is definitely a key, you know, public education campaigns can raise awareness about health risks associated with excessive consumption of sugary beverages and just benefits of adopting healthier drinking habits.

There could be sugar boards in schools so that kids are aware of what they’re consuming and what it is doing to their bodies. And yeah,she  feel like if we do some of these, right, we are well on our way.

The Mainstream

Jyoti don’t think it’s very much an integral part of our culture, even today to the extent that it’s so mainstream that you don’t do a double take and look at it and say, oh that’s from Ayurveda.

Jyoti added that  we have different cooling beverages like khas in the summertime or amla and in wintertime you have warmer things like ginger club. So all of this, the idea of it is from Ayurveda and to create the right flavor profiles one can experiment with, different flavor profiles that incorporate our spices and botanicals like turmeric and ginger can add warmth and earthiness, cardamom saffron can lend floral and aromatic notes.

So if you want to create a product you kind of have to figure out A what kind of actives do you want, like are you promoting it as a functional beverage then you can develop beverages that target specific health concerns.

For example, like stress relief, relaxation could be very well taken care of by herbs like ashwagandha, tulsi, even brahmin, shang pushpi and like beverages that are aimed at digestion and gut health can include ingredients like fennel, cumin and coriander.

So she give an example of Tea fit, she said in Tea fit our the energy drink which is a lemon black tea it is infused with brahmin, shang pushpi, amla and all the you know other herbs that help even ashwagandha that help you in stress relief and relaxation and like our green tea lean which is called that is brewed with nigella, coke, fennel all of that and it’s a great digestive.

So formulations are there, one can work with it to create the right functional beverage with the right flavor profiles, if you want to keep it sweet then there are you know better sweeteners available than just plain white industrial grade.

Sugar, tea fit does not make sugary beverages, so on that, like we have, our mission is to kind of clean up the Indian beverage aisle and to not have sugar in our products. But if we were to do a sweetened version of our product, Jyoti is  sure she will be able to find alternatives that are far superior than just plain oil sugar or some kind of chemical sweetener.

One should realize that the recipes like this have existed in our living, in our lifestyle for thousands of years, we just need to kind of speak to our grandparents and dig into a few textbooks and at least get the basic workings of a prototype of a beverage that will appeal and that will have the right Ayurvedic benefits also.

What are the challenges and opportunities in the global marketplace for beverages that prioritize health, authenticity, and minimal processing, especially when originating from countries with rich botanical and traditional heritages like India?

 So would say first is standardization of the product because the entire beverage bottling industry was not meant for real ingredients. It was meant to work with sugar, water, color, flavor. She added

because it was not meant to work with natural ingredients, real ingredients, ingredients that have bulk, that have volume, that can choke filters. So most critical thing is standardization and the back end of it.

And by standardization, she  also mean that once you start using real ingredients, the final output cannot always be ascertained with 100% accuracy. For example, if you’re making a fruit -based beverage, that is X amount of fruit concentrate, Y amount of water, Z amount of sugar, you express Y plus Z will always lead to consistent flavor.

Were they left in the water for too long? So the amount of variation that can be minimized, but it cannot be done away with. So standardization is always a challenge in natural beverages or products that are made from real ingredients.

And also back end machinery,she  feel bottling plants are really not designed. So a lot of customization has to be done. A lot of things have to be done outside the main bottling line. And consistency, because you are unable to standardize the input and the process so much.

Consistent output is challenging. And, but the good part is that the customers are very much open and accepting of a variance in the product as long as they know that the right ingredients have gone in it. They are quite forgiving, like five to 10% difference in the output and the customers are quite forgiving today.

But when you are doing this with real teas, when the tea was plucked, what batch is it from? How much did you brew it for? How much were the herbs? How long were they brewed for? At what temperature were they brewed?

TeaFit
Picture Credit:TeaFit

Jyoti  feel either when starting out especially if you’re not from the industry which herb comes under food which comes under drug which comes under a questionable category she  feel that knowledge is not very easily kind of available and so regulatory compliance is a challenge yeah so that can be complex then supply chain will always be complex for you because if you have like ten different herbs.

Where are you sourcing them what your what time of the year are you sourcing them from which region is your supplier big or small if he’s a big supplier hard to know whether the product the raw material will be organic in nature or not if it’s a small supplier like an independent farmer then it’s always a little risky whether he will or she will consistently meet the needs of the demand So, supply chain management like sourcing high quality, sustainably produced ingredients at scale while maintaining the authenticity traceability all of that can be a little challenging.

Further she added that  at Teafit, we have worked for the last few years to establish and solve some of these problems. For example, we source our teas, like one of our teas from Arunachal Pradesh from a small organic farm.

And in the first year, she  didn’t work with him for this very reason that she wasn’t sure if we scale, will he be able to scale with us. But she  found a way to make it work where we enabled him to kind of consistently produce the amount of teas that we need to brew through the year.

So yeah, supply chain management is something that at Tfit, we were eventually able to figure out, but it was definitely a roadblock starting out. Then also a little bit of consumer education and perception that they think, whether it’s if it’s healthy, will it taste okay, or you know, if it’s expensive, then does it deserve the price tag?

A lot of that will also happen. There’s always some threat of competition. So yeah, all of this is there.

Consumer Awareness

She  feel like there is a post -COVID for good or bad. There’s a rising interest in health and wellness. In general, people are a lot more conscious of what they’re putting in their bodies.

They’re reading labels a lot more. They’re also a lot more open to consuming natural beverages. In fact, she  would go so far as to say they’re actively seeking out products that are minimally processed, made from real ingredients.

And that’s where a brand like T -Fit kind of comes in. It really aligns with the need of this post -COVID consumer who’s a lot more aware, who’s a lot more interested in health and wellness, who’s a lot more interested in ingredients, their traceability, their authenticity.

And yeah, so that’s one big piece. Other than that, there is a lot that can be done in terms of creating awareness. And brands are doing that, whether it is highlighting health benefits or just educating consumers about read your labels carefully and read your labels actively before you buy something, promoting individual ingredients from their formulations, provide honest, transparent nutritional information.

Jyoti felt  like a lot of this is being appreciated by consumers of today.

TeaFit

She  feel for TeaFit, it’s kind of like an iceberg, right? Before your first bottle moves out, a lot of the work needs to be done before the first few products are rolled off the conveyor belt, which is a lot on the R &D front, product development front, stating your problem statement clearly, like what is the kind of product you want to make, what is the problem it is trying to solve, what should be in it, what should not be in it.

And once you have the basic khaka, that basic framework ready, then you should do a lot of research and development on, for example, in Teafit’s case, we had to work on not just functionality. So let’s say for cognitive health, okay, you know, Brahmi Shampushpi is great for stress relief, Ashwagandha is great.

Video Credit: TeaFit

But in what form should it be put, should it be liquid extract, should it be a powdered extract, there are so many variations of an element and you need to find out what works better like at what temperature, what pressure, should it be extracted, you know, how, what’s the quantum it should be put, should it be heat stable, unstable.

So a lot of R &D kind of needs to be done. So research and development, like we are a product focused company at Tfit and so we always believe that if the product works and if the product has been worked upon instead of let’s say just packaging and marketing, we fundamentally believe if it’s a solid product and if it finds shelf space, then it will sell.

So in our case, we spend a lot of time at Tfit on research and development on sourcing of ingredients. She feel like the same typality you can get from the local trader versus you can also get from a small farm in Arunachal Pradesh.

And while it may still lay eyes, you know, seem similar, but the final output is, you know, Zamin Asman kind of difference. So quality ingredients, sourcing, setting up the supply chain and kind of meeting the transparency part of it, functional formulations and good flavor profiles, she  feel like some of these should serve.

The story behind

We do some amount of like storytelling and creating our brand narrative about what she did, why we do, what is the kind of impact she is  looking to make, what is the kind of impact she have made so far, like Jyoti said that  they are  proudly said that they have removed more than 55 ,000 kgs of sugar from Indian beverages because their  customers chose tea fit over another sugary beverage and that’s a number that she monitor quite closely.

So she would say that for them that the  brand narrative and kind of storytelling is really important and also they are very transparent on their  processes and on their  ingredients.

They share a lot on social about where there  ingredients come from, how the product is made, so in that sense they  are quite transparent with their customers, like things are not happening behind a closed door, things are all happening in conjunction with their customers and they  do try to put out educational content, They also do try to put out educational content in a funny manner or in a witty manner so it’s easier to digest.

She also personally go and speak at a lot of forums on what they do, why they do, why is it needed now, like how bad the situation is in terms of just the rates of diabetes, the diabetes capital of the world, what responsible businesses should do, like we  can’t just wash our hands off saying profit is the only thing that matters, then what happens to society then and so she also speak  actively speak on forums wherever like given a chance and speak about our mission, why we are the right people to do it, what is in it for us for in the long term and yeah and the usual offline retail point of sale materials, packaging design we try to speak a lot through our packaging designs, we speak about our collaborations and things like that so yeah.

Growth and integrity with growth

She  feel like that’s a question that plagues a lot of brands that are in the purpose space like they are  a purpose -led brand and for them the purpose always comes first.

Can Tifit increase its sales by 10 times by just putting sugar in its beverages? She absolutely think so, like tomorrow if we wanted to do a mango -based juice with the kind of distribution that we have today, our sales would be through the roof, but we choose not to do that.

Like, does that have a downside? That definitely has a downside. We probably will not be able to scale as quickly as if we were doing traditional fruit -based beverages or a cola, but we are not just in it for that, right?

Like, there’s a larger purpose why we exist and at no point in our journey do we want to sacrifice that in the pursuit of like anything else, whether that is growth, whether that is money, whether that is just accessibility of the brand.

So the only thing that she feel like we should focus on is making it accessible for as many people at an affordable price point. That’s a work in progress for us right now. The rest, she  feel, you know, the customers will hopefully take care of us.

And yeah, we don’t think about, there are so many easy, low -hanging temptations. Once you have spent and survived two, three years in business, you know, you see how other brands are able to profiteer from it and, but that’s a moral choice that you have made and she don’t know about others, but we are quite committed to it.

And yeah, we don’t see that as like an ethical dilemma or yeah.

 

 

 

 

News Shot 24
Author: News Shot 24

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