In 2022, the term plant is no longer relegated to fashion. It’s more of a way of life. Whether born vegetarians due to customs and traditions, or by choice to save the planet, people seek vegetable alternatives to every imaginable element derived from animals. The product that has seen the most iterations in recent years is milk, with a number of tasty and healthy plant-based milk alternatives available on the market. Oat milk from a brand called AltCoheadquartered in Bengaluru, is the newest entrant to make waves in the segment.
“AltCo was launched in the third quarter of 2020 to meet the demands of the emerging Indian market. The plant sector is growing tremendously due to globalization, urbanization and the growing culture of conscious consumption among consumers, especially millennials. Research shows that consumer preferences in the herbal industry are set to increase as health and environmental awareness continues to grow. Therefore, Alt Co was born to meet market demands for quality plant-based alternatives, especially to milk,” shares Sumair Sachdevone of the co-founders and COO of Alt Co in a conversation with YS Weekender.
A healthy alternative
The brand was launched through the collective vision of Alt Co’s core team comprising Basan Patil, Rithwik Ramesh, Rohit Kalro, Sasha Jairam and Sumair. All come from a variety of educational backgrounds, including international relations, finance, marketing, fashion and lifestyle, bringing fresh perspectives on board. Sumair believes their varied educational and professional backgrounds, coupled with their individual skills, proved to be a perfect combination to launch Alt Co.
“Our vision was clear and simple: to create a local brand that is better for the people who consume our product and for the planet. The health and environmental benefits of herbal products far exceed those of their traditional counterparts. It is amazing that we can already see a change in consumer habits. Oat milk, which is our first product, is extremely nutritious and uses much less water than animal products,” says Sumair.
The team came up with the idea when they saw a clear gap in the market – a lack of high-end, accessible herbal products in India. After seeing the success of global industry leaders such as Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat, Califia Farms and others, they felt it was time to launch this initiative in the Indian market as well.
The team is now working to create a diverse portfolio with reasonably priced products aimed at the mass market by venturing into the B2B and D2C space.
While other plant-based alternatives such as soy and almond milk have been around for quite some time, oat milk is a relatively new product in the Indian market. This is why Alt Co chose to start with this vegetable variant. He explains, “We focused intensively on creating a product that satisfies the consumer palette through multiple trials. Our raw materials and unique formulation technique have helped us create an accessible product in India that was traditionally only available in the West.
Currently we only make oat milk in the original flavor, AltCo will soon launch flavored versions. These will include chocolate flavored oat milk and other ready-to-drink oat drinks. There are also plans to make other plant-based alternatives, including almond and soy milk.
“Our products differ from those of other market players in two respects. First, we invested heavily in research and development to create a science-backed product that also tastes great. Second, our equipment is best in class and the first of its kind in the country. Using the expertise of our external consultants, we sought to create oat milk based on global standards,” Sumair shares.
The formulation of the products is carried out by their internal team. They also rely on the expertise of external consultants around the world. Sumair proudly states that its chosen consultants are among the best in the world and with their knowledge and experience, they have been able to implement extensive research and development to deliver quality products.
Alt Co products are sold online and offline in physical stores. They are available online on 15 different platforms, including Alt Co’s website, Amazon, Flipkart, Blink it, Vegan Dukaan and others. They can also be found in physical stores located across India including Nature’s Basket, Le Marche, Simpli Namdharis, Modern Bazaar and others.
Sumair shares, “So far, brand awareness has grown through multiple channels such as social media, cross-collaborations with brands such as Paul & Mike, cafes and organized events. Fortunately, word of mouth has proven to be a very powerful tool, for which we are grateful. The plant community, health and lifestyle enthusiasts, and coffee community have really amplified the reach of our product because of its taste and quality. »
Alt Co’s oat milk has won hearts for its texture and taste, and Sumair thinks it also pairs well with coffee. As a result, cafes such as Thirdwave Coffee Roasters, Blue Tokai, KC Roasters, Cafe Bi Di Bella and others have adopted it easily, he claims.
Challenges and growth
Speaking of the challenges faced so far, Sumair says, “As the Indian herbal industry is still in its infancy, it has been difficult to capture a large market that was hesitant to try the product. Interestingly though, only an initial push is needed to get people to try it – similar to an acquisition cost. After that, we see an extremely high success rate of people changing. We have been trying to push for more brand awareness and are optimistic that more and more consumers will shed their prejudice against the lack of taste in herbal products through trials.
The company is fully seeded so far, but Sumair claims to have grown exponentially with the market accepting and adopting them. They are also in the process of expanding their team.
He points out that in just six months after the launch of the brand, their product has gained visibility on all major online platforms and retail stores across India. The biggest motivation is the exposure they have received in Tier II cities alongside Indian metros. Alt Co’s brand design and packaging have received international recognition from the World Brand Design Society.
Sumair signs: “We are looking at pan-India expansion with a broad and diverse portfolio of all things plant-based. We want our products to be readily available everywhere and eventually want to reduce the price difference between regular products and plant-based alternatives.