In this case study
Most people believe that there is an inevitable trade-off between tasty and healthy food.
WickedGüd is a young food brand that aims to change this – offering as the name suggests, indulgent comfort foods that taste wickedly delicious, but are also good for you.
The company was co-founded in July 2021, by Bhuman Dani, Soumalya Biswas and Monish Debnath. In October, they launched their first product: pasta made from the three things that Indians eat everyday: Dal, Chawal and Chana (Lentils, Rice and Chickpeas).
WickedGüd has raised Rs. 2.55 crore so far, from Titan Capital and other investors. They currently sell only from their own site (25% of total sales) and marketplaces (75% of total sales) and in just four months have sold more than 10,000 boxes of pasta.
What’s working for them and what can you learn about launching a consumer brand successfully?
The Indian food market is dominated by brands from the FMCG giants like Unilever, Britannia and Nestle. The promise of these brands is largely trust, taste and price, backed by formidable distribution. ‘Healthy’ so far, is restricted to a few variants.
On the other hand there is a rising demand for food without harmful ingredients and additives. For instance, the recent, global Mondelez State of Snacking report states that 86% of respondents want to know what ingredients are going into their snack.
This is the gap that WickedGüd, along with many other startups, is looking to address. As a second-time entrepreneur, (he previously built tea-brand TGL), co-founder Bhuman Dani knows the rules of the game and lists the five most important ones for us.
Rules of the D2C Game
#1 Taste and price rule
No matter what other proposition you have, if your product does not taste good or is seen as overpriced, you cannot scale in India.
WickedGüd’s competitors in the pasta market are foreign brands Barilla and Borges, which are priced between Rs. 300-Rs.500 a kilo. On the other end of the spectrum are healthy pasta startups like Pink Harvest and Nutra-Hi, priced at approximately Rs. 2000-3000 a kilo. WickedGüd is priced at Rs. 550 a kilo. “A 30% premium for a better, highly differentiated product is the maximum you can expect to command,” says Dani. “Any higher and you’ll hit a ceiling very soon.”
To solve for taste, WickedGüd has partnered with Rinka Banerjee’s Thinking Forks Consulting for product development and says they now have patents pending for their formulations (Bannerjee’s last role was Director, Research & Development, Unilever Foods, South Asia). WickedGüd noodles, for instance, will go through a steaming process instead of a deep-frying one, but will still taste just as good.
#2 D2C needs AOV
Even without Covid, the expense and effort involved in cracking offline distribution is hard for a startup. “To launch online only,” recommends Dani, “You must have a minimum Average Order Value (AOV) of Rs. 500 to make business sense.”
#3 Build content and community
The marketing of any D2C brand demands two differentiators: Clutter-breaking content and a loyal community that comes back for repeat purchases. Co-founder Monish Debnath says that the brand’s social content, developed together with agency Django Digital, seeks to be edutainment – educating mothers about the nutritional aspect of their products but with a “healthy dose of quirk and humour that acts as the glue for community building.”
#4 Think long-term
If you calculate immediate return on every marketing investment, you could miss opportunities. Dani’s previous brand TGL, was available at prestigious and high-frequency places like Taj Hotels, duty-free shopping, airport lounges, airline menus and coworking spaces like Cowrks. “These may not have been the most lucrative arrangements, but they were very important for building visibility and trust,” he says.
# 5 Pick your categories carefully
The company ruled out categories like ketchup, which require complex technology to create without preservatives.
The categories that WickedGüd is looking to disrupt are large, and the opportunity significant.
|Category||Market size||Growth rate|
|Pasta||Rs. 2800 crore||18%|
|Noodles||Rs. 10,000 crore||7%|
|Malted drinks||Rs. 15,000 crore||15%|
Brand Building: The Four Questions
At the start of the WickedGüd journey, the team sought answers to these four questions and recommends that any consumer brand do the same.
#1 Who is the target audience? What is their need?
WickedGüd’s target audience consists of two primary cohorts: Gen Z kids and their millennial mothers. There is a constant tussle between these two, with kids driving the purchase of junk food and mother trying to play gate-keeper. Debnath comes from an advertising background and says that when it comes to food, mothers cannot be left out of the equation.
#2 How does our product fulfill this need, in a way that currently available products do not?
Wicked taste and good ingredients: that duality sums up the brand’s promise to resolve the conflict between mothers and kids.
#3 What should the brand stand for, across the lifecycle of our target audience?
The brand message: WickedGüd empowers mothers by reconstructing indulgent junk food into healthy, affordable and tasty choices, made with mum-approved ingredients found in every kitchen.
#4 What should the messaging strategy be, so that you touch the heart, soul and minds of the target audience?
Show how WickedGüd has transformed wicked indulgent, junk food into gud nourishing meals that kids love and mothers approve of.
WickedGüd created a film that captures the answers to all of these questions and makes their brand proposition clear.
Wickedly Good Packaging
WickedGüd partnered with Elephant Design for the name, identity and packaging and Ashwini Deshpande, Co-founder, says that the duality of WickedGüd was the foundation for the unconventional design solution.
The duality is captured by a unique pack design where both sides of the pack are used to engage with the customer. One face is ‘wicked,’ pitching at a fun, emotional level (For guilt-free marathon parties). The other face stresses the functional promise of ‘good’ ingredients (Goodness of chickpea, red lentil and brown rice).
There is no back-of-pack stuffed with information. Instead, the mandatory legal information has been put on the sides of the pack.
Call out the goodness
Elephant has created an exclamation-like shape to showcase the ingredients, building further on the idea of the surprise that wicked food can be good. Not only is this an ownable and on-brand device, it allows ingredients to be shown in roughly the correct proportions, providing important information at a glance, without the need to read.
The bright colour palette along with playful typography and quirky illustrations combine to create a packaging identity that stands apart from their current competition. Deshpande points to the many subliminal cues on the packs that amplify the brand personality. For instance, the brand logo is encased in a device that looks like the top view of an open pack – hinting that wickedly good things wait inside. The neon colours evoke ‘highlighting’, reinforcing that WickedGüd amplifies all important information, without hiding anything.
Cracking Omnichannel Design
Deshpande has worked with both large brands and startups, selling offline and online and she lays out two recommendations for straddling an omnichannel world.
Even if e-commerce is a small percentage of overall sales, brands are discovered on a mobile phone. Start by seeing if your design works there. It is much easier to scale up than scale down
#2 Balance offline and online demands
In a purely offline world, for example, a common packaging strategy is to use a single unifying colour to create a ‘shoulder’ on a shelf and own visual real estate. However this runs the risk of customers picking the wrong variant when they order online.
Conversely, many D2C brands only think about digital channels, without considering how they will stack up against the competition in a retail shelf.
Even as it launches more products, WickedGüd is getting set to take pasta from India to the world. The brand will list on Amazon.com shortly to address the US market, where it will take on competitors like Banza, a chick-pea based pasta startup that is seeing considerable traction. Launches in the UK and EU will follow.