Love Oreo cookies? So do the Founders of That Food Company, a start-up that manufactures Oreo Cookie Butter, apart from many other innovative flavoured butters and mutton pickle variants.
The company has two founders (currently) - Chef Nehal Karkera and Gia Karkera.
Nehal Karkera is a professional chef with 12 years of work experience in the industry. He started his career with the Taj group of hotels and over the years has worked with a chain of Italian restaurants in Mumbai, Walt Disney Cruise line Orlando and also trained under a Michelin star restaurant in Atlanta. Currently, he is the Head Chef at Gobble (Pocket Aces Pictures Pvt. Ltd.) developing food based content / recipes for various social media websites.
Gia Karkera has over eight years of experience in design and branding and has provided design and branding solutions to some of India’s largest brands like Cadbury, Reliance Jio, Godrej, VIP Luggage, etc. She also has nearly four years of experience in web and UI/UX design, and generating effective social media content.
We decided to find out more about their labour of love:
How did you come together to found this start-up?
Though we have dated for 12 years and just got married, That Food Company has always been something we’ve talked about and dreamed of.
We started TFC back in 2016 with a vision to create "something" in the food space. So we started doing events at different pop-ups like Comic Con India and The Eat India festival just to name a few. Initially we wanted to be a cloud kitchen; hence we only did live themed food at these events.
Our journey into the FMCG space was born at an event at Taj Vivanta (Crescent Moon Events) for which we developed some bottled products for sale as the event didn't permit cooking of any live food. It was here that we saw some great response to the products we sold.
We also got quite a few orders after the event. That was the moment we decided to pivot towards the FMCG sector. We saw that we could achieve much more from being a FMCG company than being just a cloud kitchen in Mumbai.
Why the name 'That Food Company?
We wanted a name that was easy to remember and associate with - a name that is as #quirky as our products are.
Since we knew we definitely wanted to do something in the food space, but hadn’t figured out what would work for us, the name had to be generic so that pivoting would still be a smooth ride. While we are an FMCG company, we still plan to be in various sectors of the food industry.
Do you devise the recipes for the products yourself? What's the testing process like?
The recipes were all devised by Chef Nehal Karkera himself. The idea was to create products in different categories which were not available in the market but could appeal to millennials.
Our range of products consist of cookie butters, bacon butter, mutton pickles and flavoured butters. These are products that you don't see on shelves at retail shops. We developed our products based on trends and eating habits for all types of people and will continue doing so in the future.
We plan to launch a new product every quarter which will be quirky, yummy and eye-catching.
Our labels were designed by Gia to help our fun products stand out from the clutter without looking too busy. We are a small company and we wanted to be known for the products we make and the rest will follow.
Do you manufacture small batches?
Yes, we make very small batches - about a 100 products per week. We also make batches based on the demand. Since the Mutton Pickle series are our best sellers, we manufacture a larger quantity of them.
Do you see yourself retailing on a mass scale some day?
As far as retail chains go, we do plan on getting on board with some, but what restricts us are the costs. Off line retail is a very expensive affair, their entry fees are too high for small brands like ours. Paying a premium for shelf space etc. is something that is unaffordable for now, hence we plan to stay in the online marketplaces till we manage to raise funds.
What are some creative ways in which people can use your butters, dips and pickles?
The Cookie Butters go great with pan cakes, waffles, ice cream and French toast. We also have a few people who just love eating the entire jar at one go!
The flavoured butters make every breakfast better, they go great with toasts, you can jazz up your sandwiches with them and they are great to sauté veggies in as they add an additional dimension to your food. We also had a customer who makes puff pastry using our butters.
The Mutton pickels are for the hardcore non vegetarians. They go great with everyday Indian food and it is pairs well with parathas too. The Mutton pickle series has flavours associated with different states of India (Hyderabadi / Kerala / Mangalore).
Some customers have often complained that it's too less and they finished it in one seating because they can’t stop themselves! They go well with a range of Indian foods like biryanis, parathas, khulchas and basic Dal rice.
What's the feedback you've received on the products?
Our feedback has been very positive so far. Our customers have loved our products and continue ordering regularly. We have had our share of bad reviews as minimal as they have been but that's how we learn - we make sure we don't make the same mistakes twice.
What keeps you motivated to manufacture more such products?
Our inspiration comes from food. Food has no boundaries and it make people happy. We will keep creating products that will make our customers curious first and when they taste it, will bring a smile on their faces .