Developing new product ideas and patenting product design in the FMCG sector dominated by big players is no mean task. In January 2018, iD Fresh Foods, a homegrown food company based in Bengaluru, released a video about Vada, a crispy deep-fried doughnut-shaped food made of lentils that are made by soaking and grinding urad dal (skinned black gram) or chana dal (Bengal gram) to the batter and deep-fried. This is a popular South Indian dish that has a hole in the middle. Making a hole in the middle requires some expertise, and the new generation of homemakers find it very hard to make a Vada with a hole. Also, the batter should have the right viscosity and consistency. It took three years for iD Fresh Foods to develop a patented design of a spout attached to the pouch that can be squeezed to make a perfect hole in the middle. By focusing on product packaging, iD Fresh Foods made the process of making traditional Vadas delightful and easy. Each pack can make around six to eight Vadas. They filed the patent for the design in 140 countries under the Patent Cooperation Treaty. The video went viral even before the product was launched and garnered millions of views in very quickly. The revenue projection for fiscal year 2019-20 was Rs. 350-400 crores, of which Rs. 100 crores was expected from Vada sales. The viral video had a catchy tag line – “Soon everybody can Vada!”
iD Fresh Foods observed customer food habits, identified challenges, and developed a new patented packaging design to help make a traditional food product. This simple idea was novel and created value by helping the customer make a popular traditional food item with minimal effort. iD continues to innovate and launched another interesting product in 2020 that has unique packaging and design.
iD Fresh estimated that the size of the tender coconut market in India was around Rs. 4,000 crores and growing at an annual rate of 10%. Much of this market was unorganised and coconuts were sold by roadside vendors. iD Fresh noticed that sales picked up in the summer season and many health-conscious Indians preferred natural tender coconut water to aerated drinks. It was fresh, healthy, and provided the white tender pulp that people relished after having the coconut water. However, roadside vendors had to peel off the tough coir using a sickle and this endangered personal physical safety of the vendors. Each coconut with the coir weighed around 2-3 Kgs. This added to the transportation cost and created problems associated with disposal of the coconut minus the water.
Although it appeared to be an attractive market, there were multiple issues. iD Fresh is founded on one of its core principles of offering preservative-free products. Questions that troubled them were – How does one retain the natural freshness and flavour without using preservatives? How will the coconut water be packaged and sold? iD Fresh decided to sell the coconut after removing the tough coir thus reducing the weight to 400-500 grams. The hard shell of the coconut was provided with a circular slit on the top that could be opened by a hard press on the slit. In Feb 2020, iD Fresh launched the “Smart Sip Tender Coconut” and “iD Grated Coconut” that was packed in the coconut shell itself. This natural packaging retained the freshness, aroma, and taste of a fresh coconut. Each coconut carried information about the water content, pulp, and sweetness at 95 percent accuracy. As part of their sustainability initiatives, iD plans to buy back the empty coconut shell to enhance vendor margins. The coconut is mounted on a cardboard and sold at Rs. 60 per piece.
This is another instance of iD Fresh discovering huge value for end consumers and roadside vendors through innovative packaging and design.
There are interesting ventures that are constantly pushing the boundaries in innovation – NextFirst is a company that is doing it in the robotics and automation space, and Taraltec has invented a device that makes safe drinking water accessible to millions of people in villages and towns of India.