India, one of the most under-nourished countries in the world, housing millions of wasting children, ironically, is also getting fatter by the day. According to a study by United States National Library of Medicine, the prevalence of overweight people will more than double among Indian adults aged 20-69 years between 2010 and 2040, while the prevalence of obesity will triple. Shashank Mehta, founder of The Whole Truth, says that the problem lies in the microscopic font used to list ingredients in packaged foods. The font helps hide from, rather than inform, customers.
“We have all bought products thinking they are healthy and later realising they are not,” he says. When he was 19 years old and weighed 110 kilograms, all steps taken by him to shred down went in vain. Replacing parathas with cornflakes and coke with packaged fruit juices was not doing the trick. “Brands are not 100 per cent truthful. So, I decided to launch a brand that would have information about ingredients absolutely front and centre,” he says.
Mehta quit his job at Hindustan Unilever in June 2019 and, by October that year, launched a protein bar brand And Nothing Else. With a double chocolate protein bar as the first product, Mehta rented a small space in Saki Naka, Mumbai, for production and began work in earnest. Four months later, he decided to rebrand and dream bigger.
“We still love that name - And Nothing Else. But after we launched, we realised that the conversation we were having was much larger than just the truth of ingredients. We were talking about the whole truth of legal, marketing and packaging,” explains Mehta. Thus, they rebranded themselves as The Whole Truth in August 2020.
Currently, the brand has two main products — Protein Bars (regular and mini) and Immunity Balls — available in seven flavours. Priced at an average of Rs.100 (regular bar), Rs.55 (mini bar) and Rs.25 (immunity ball), the goods definitely come at a premium. But, according to Mehta, customers are willing to pay for a better product, which is priced 15-20% more than peers’. While 80-85% of their sales come from the website, the start-up has also partnered with like-minded offline locations such as Blue Tokai Cafe, KCRoasters, Reset Gym and Bandra Gold Gym.
It’s not enough to give people healthy options; Mehta says they have to educate people about nutrition, too. The start-up is dabbling with blogs, newsletters, videos and podcasts to initiate discussions around health and nutrition. For all its efforts, The Whole Truth has received around $2 million in funding, till date. This includes seed investments from Matrix Partners, Sauce.VC and various angel investors such as Zerodha’s Nithin Kamath, Rebel Foods’ Jaydeep Burman and Airtel’s CMO Shashwat Sharma.
With India’s nutritional bars market estimated to reach $46.2 million by 2024, growing at 30% CAGR, The Whole Truth has definitely stepped into a market with a big appetite. Aiming to have a presence in offline retail stores and eventually setting up a multi-category food brand, the start-up is all set to make India fitter, one bar at a time.