Jeet Hirpara, the owner and founder of Home Roots. The Home Roots brand was always founded by home with an urge to have access to food cooked at home. He has spent over 6 years away for home and wanting to have the food cooked at home is something everyone would love to have access to. This urge of accessing the Indian flavour gave birth to frozen foods with natural flavour and no added preservatives, no artificial food colouring, or chemicals to store food for longer period. Mr. Hirpara speaks about the growing needs of the ready-to-cook foods and how his aim of keeping the food safety and health has served many non-residents.
1. What was the idea behind launching home roots?
Home Roots is an ode to the Indians away from Home but craving the same home taste wherever they are. I was away abroad for 6 years and the biggest thing I missed other than family and friends was the food cooked at home. The food abroad is very localized and does not contain the flavor and taste of local herbs, vegetables and spices in India.
So, we wanted to create products which were truly authentic in taste and flavour while being all natural. Our aim was also to not have any preservatives, additives, or artificial colors. Food which can be prepared in an easy and convenient form so it can be cooked in minutes rather than take hours to prepare. Food is something that unites us all. India has diversified foods, and each place has its own specialty whereas, we wanted to create those recipes in frozen form.
2. What are the different methods or techniques you use for keeping frozen foods safe?
We follow the most stringent global hygiene and food safety norms. We are a BRC A grade certified and USFDA approved facility, which are the highest and most recognized food safety standard in the World. We use the latest freezing technology – IQF (Individually Quick Frozen), which freezes the products within minutes rather than hours. Quick freezing leads to smaller ice crystals during freezing and keeps the texture intact for fresh consumption, even when thawed. The major QSR’s like McDonalds, Burger King, Subway, Dominoes etc. use the same technology to preserve the taste of the food that comes to its store from central locations.
3. How has your brand fought through this global pandemic?
This pandemic has affected everyone to some extent. Due to being in the food industry, we were very quick to start our operations, taking necessary permissions from local authorities, and maintaining Covid-19 prevention controls. Due to covid-19 there has been a surge in demand for processed foods as consumers prefer to stock on products with higher shelf life and decrease the frequency of shopping trips. Due to shortage of product availability of established brands in the market, we took the opportunity in the pandemic to enter newer markets such as Australia, New Zealand and USA.
4. What changes do you see in the frozen foods industry now?
We see a spike in demand of Frozen foods due to the pandemic, in the retail segment. Due to Covid-19, consumers are preferring to consume food at home rather than go to restaurants. This has given a rise in demand of both Frozen Vegetables and Frozen Ready to Eat category. We believe the frozen industry will keep on growing backed by increase in working couples, more nuclear families, demand of convenient healthy foods and loss of cooking knowledge in newer generations.
5. You have variety of products in the frozen food’s category? Are you planning to introduce more products in the market?
We have over 75 items in our portfolio under the “Home Roots” brand. Our range includes Frozen Vegetables (Drumsticks, Green Peas, Toovar Lilva), Vegetable Blends (Undhiyu Mix, Sambhar Mix), Fruits (Chikoo, Amla, Mango), Pulps (Mango, Jamun), North Indian Snacks (Samosa, Kachori), Gujatri Snacks (Patra, Dhokla), South Indian Snacks (Idli, Sambhar, Vada), Indian Breads (Paratha, Naan), Gravies (Dal Makhani, Paneer Tikka Masala) and Indian Desserts (Kaju Katli, Motichoor Laddu). We cater to the complete palate from Starter to Desserts and anything in between.
Our R&D team is always working on developing new and existing products which will give our customers the real taste of India while having the convenience of the food being ready in minutes. We try to introduce atleast 3 products every quarter with our latest offering being a range of Frozen Indian Condiments. We saw a gap in the market for Indian Condiments which were clean label, 100% natural, free from preservatives or artificial colours and introduced Frozen Pani Puri Concentrate, Khatti Meethi Chutney and Mint Coriander Chutney.
6. What do you think about the different Indian cuisines that are yet to be introduced in the frozen foods category?
Ready to Eat frozen foods in India is limited to very few categories and cuisines with Potatoes and Meat- based products having majority of the share. While frozen foods abroad in countries with high Indian population has plethora of options from North Indian Snacks of Kachori and Samosa, to Eastern flavors such as Momos, to Gujatri Dhokla and Maharashtrian Vada Pav, to Southern Delights of Idli, Sambhar and more. I believe slowly the demand for these Indian Foods will start increasing in India as well.
7. Do you believe that frozen foods have long way to go in terms of technology and variety of foods?
There is always a scope of improvement in technology and introduction of new variety of products. Most of the manufacturing plants established before 2010 was made using old technology. Most of the newer plants have adopted the latest technologies leading to an increase in output and better-quality product. As it is a very new industry in India, there is a shortfall of skilled manpower which hinders the progress of the industry overall. Some segments like Frozen Desserts and Frozen Bakery products is still unexplored markets in India.
8. Gradually the Indian population has started to switch to frozen foods. Do you see any difference in the consumer behaviour from what it was when frozen foods were newly introduced in the Indian markets?
Frozen Food in India was either related to French Fries or Meat-based products. Things have changed now, with Amul and ITC making heavy investments and trying to promote frozen food sector. If more and more education is imparted to the consumers on frozen foods, then there will be a huge demand in the retail industry. With lack of time and knowledge to cook traditional dishes and multiple entertainment options – consumers are looking for healthy and convenient foods. Improved cold supply chains and more availability of products across retail segment will increase the purchasing options of these products and eventually lead to regular customers buying behaviour.