Toast to good health!

Alisha Shinde
Sunday, 17 February 2019

Chatting up Aakansha Patel who partnered with Ricky Marfatia to start Kefir Culture, which gives a whole new spin to probiotics products

Looking at people’s changing attitude towards probiotics and dairy products, two city-based entrepreneurs came up with the idea of Kefir Culture. Ricky Marfatia and Aakansha Patel go back a long way and have been close friends since school and this start-up, at its heart, is really about their shared love for food and how it brought the two together to create a drink known as the ‘Champagne of Dairy’ - Kefir Culture.
 
Marfatia, initially studying to be a lawyer, followed his ‘gut’ and launched a few restaurants. It was during his explorations that he stumbled upon Kefir and became instantly obsessed with it due to its multiple benefits and unique taste. A known proponent of Kefir among friends, he decided that it was time to introduce the drink to the rest of the world. 

With over eight years of advertising experience, Patel was an ideal fit for Kefir Culture. “With one foot in the food industry throughout my career, and my fondness for flavours, I could not keep away from this momentous opportunity,” she quips.

It all began about two years ago. “Ricky was an avid consumer of yogurt, and he decided to explore healthier alternatives to probiotic dairy. This is when he stumbled upon Kefir and spent the first year studying the product, sourcing grains and testing the product,” Patel says.

She entered the story to help take this to market. And after a journey of eight additional months of perfecting the product, experimenting with recipes, deploying consumer tests and developing flavours, ‘Kefir Culture’ was catapulted into market. 

The brand name stemmed from two roots, says Patel — culture in the process and culture of the people. Mentioning the process behind making Kefir, Patel says that is fairly simple and similar to making yogurt. “It starts with transferring active Kefir grains, which are grown in-house, into a jar of fresh, organic cow’s milk which is locally sourced. The jar is then covered and left to culture for about 24-48 hours, until the product thickens after which the active grains are removed and reused and what is left behind is the milk — Kefir —filled with probiotic goodness. 

Talking about the ideology behind Kefir Culture, Patel says that they want to provide the best and healthiest drink, which is not only the best of probiotic drink but also best for gut health. “It’s best for your overall health and immunity and we’re here to make you feel good,” she adds. 

Currently, eight variants of Kefir Culture are available in the market. “Natural Kefir is a tart, tangy drink with just the right amount of fizz. It is a creamy super probiotic smoothie that improves immunity, aids digestion and supports a healthy gut. The other flavours are Strawberry, Mango, Mixed Berry, Blueberry, Banana, Honey Vanilla and Maple Cinnamon,” she informs. Kefir Culture is priced between Rs 100 and 500.

Talking about the challenges, Patel says that the two key challenges that they face are primarily cold chain logistics and the unorganised retail sector in India. “Cold chain logistics in India is very limiting and while there have been a few logistics partners that have been tried and tested, the delicate nature of the product and short shelf life has forced us to look at moving our cold chain logistics in-house. The bigger challenge is traditional trade, which is the more dominant and popular mode of retailing. With little or no standardisation and hardly any use of technology or adherence to processes, this has become the bigger challenge to overcome since we deployed our product to market,” she adds.

There are plenty of health options in the market and the consumers are better informed than before. “There has been an increase in preventive measures starting from health and nutrition to daily well-being, especially amongst the younger generation due to this shift in awareness. People are looking for healthier alternatives to insert in their daily diet, which has resulted in strong demand and supply chain within the health retail industry,” she adds.

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