As childhood obesity continues to escalate in the UAE, a recent survey conducted by the Ministry of Health and Prevention in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre, confirmed that 46% of children were physically less active than before the Covid-19 pandemic. The children F&B market is flooded with snack and meal replacement options full of highly processed ingredients, alarmingly high quantities of sugar, salt, trans-fats, additives, and stabiliser —these are numbers that do not meet the nutritional needs of its target audience. Studies in the region have brought in to focus the problem areas of child nutrition – kids aren’t consuming enough fruits and vegetables; daily consumption of soft drinks and sweets is extremely high; childhood obesity is continuing to escalate. Hence, parents are looking for options that will put their children on a better health trajectory.
Keeping this in mind, startups like Slurrp Farm are bringing healthy, nutritious snack and mealtime options for young children and their parents. Started in India in 2016, Slurrp Farm was born when co-founders Meghana Narayan and Shauravi Malik became mothers themselves and noticed a sizeable gap in the children’s food market. “When both of us were new mums, we wanted high-quality and nutritious food options for our children but unfortunately couldn’t find anything. We also began talking to other friends who were new parents and found that they shared the same sentiment. It became fairly clear to us that there was a giant-sized gap in the market and we were determined to do something about it,” said the founders. Although children’s food products are readily available in almost every region and every store, the deep penetration of the internet has powered the growth of the market further. Online shopping provides an ease to the customers to select from a range of domestic and foreign varieties. “At the same time, we were clear that we wanted to start a business that could be a change for good. Extensive market research, R&D, and some introspection showed us that the answers lay in traditional Indian food wisdom and our grandmothers’ kitchens. We dug into recipes our grandmothers favored, revisited ingredients like millets from our own childhoods, and found ways to make them tasty,” they said.
Children’s food and beverage are a fast growing market. According to ReportLinker, the sector is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 4.78% over the forecast period to reach a market size of $141.229 billion in 2026. The GCC market is poised for growth too with the rising number of families from across the world making it their home. “This increasing population is a key driver for the sector. Also in recent years, there is a heightened sense of responsibility in the GCC region when it comes to children’s food – a stellar example is the recent regulations restricting the sale of low nutritional value foods in schools. We anticipate this demand to consistently grow over the mid-term as more economic opportunities open up in the region, attracting families from across the world,” said Meghana.
Slurrp Farm is innovating food brands for children with health, nutrition and taste in mind. Millets, along with plant proteins such as lentils, legumes and chickpeas are the base of a large proportion of their products, which range from categories such as toddler cereals for children just starting out on solids, to dosas, cakes, pancakes, puffs, noodles, and vermicelli for older children. “There is a slow but sure shift amongst parents towards finding healthy and natural food options for their children – food which is nutritious and wholesome, while at the same time convenient for them to prepare in the midst of their busy schedules”. In the UAE, Slurrp Farm products are available at Amazon, Kibsons, Mumzworld, First Cry, Noon, Spinneys as well as Waitrose,” they said.
Since starting their operations in the UAE in August 2021, Slurrp Farm has already achieved much on its journey to educate, inspire, provide healthier choices and make a difference to parents and children across the region. Their first round of angel funding saw $1 million raised from over 20 investors. In December 2020, Indian multi-stage venture fund Fireside Ventures invested $2 million in Wholsum Foods, the parent company of Slurrp Farm. In 2021, they accelerated operations outside India by making their products available in the UAE, United States of America, and the United Kingdom. “Today we are serving almost 15 lakh customers across 3,000+ towns and cities in India as well as across their international markets. We have a 40% consumer repeat rate across leading e-commerce websites, a repeat sales cart size averaging INR 1000 – this is a figure on the higher side for startups in the F&B sector,” they said. Having recently secured $7 million in funding, they also won the Amazon Global Selling Propel Start-up Accelerator program, which enabled them to get access to customers across the world through Amazon’s e-commerce exports program and create a global brand.
Poised for growth and expansion in the brand’s journey, Meghana and Shauravi reiterated, “In 2022, we are working towards growing our offline and online presence both in India and in international markets. We also plan to introduce new products through the year as well as enter new categories as we build our house of brands. In addition, we have a lot of fun collaborations in the offing next year as well. The year after, which is 2023, is the UN-designated International Year of Millets, so we have got a lot of planning to do in the run-up to it. Any business is only as good as its people. “We are seeing demand for our products from international markets aside from the ones we are already present in and expansion plans are definitely in the works over the next 18-24 months. For us, it is important to bring on board people who share our vision of re-introducing sustainable, nutrient-dense, and diverse ingredients back into children’s diets, and retain them over the long term.”
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