Meet Wakao Foods - Your New Ready-To-Eat Food Product Brand That Blew The Minds Of Investors On Shark Tank India!

Wakao Foods is a Goa-based sustainable start-up that brings plant-based, ethically sourced ‘Ready to Cook’ and ‘Ready to Eat’ products to the market.

Meet Wakao Foods - Your New Ready-To-Eat Food Product Brand That Blew The Minds Of Investors On Shark Tank India!
Sairaj Dhond, Founder & CEO, Wakao Foods

The changing lifestyle of Indians is responsible for the increase in the ready-to-eat food products market. The hectic lifestyles of professionals and students leave them with little time or energy to prepare nutritious meals. In such situations, ready-to-eat meals seem to be their only choice.

Simultaneously, the rising use of adulteration and chemicals in food has harmed consumers' health. Artificial chemical preservatives such as Benzoates, Parabens, BHA, Nitrates, and others have been found to cause serious health problems such as allergies, hypersensitivity, asthma, neurological damage, and even cancer. As a result, consumers are turning to natural and organic food products that are safe and healthy. 

Meat preservatives are required on a large scale due to the widespread consumption of meat worldwide, with high consumption in key regions such as Latin America, North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific. The economy has improved in many areas, allowing consumers to consume meat products regularly. In the coming years, food preservatives will likely account for most of the market share in poultry, meat, and seafood products.

But What Gave Birth To The Idea Of Wakao Foods?

We all have experienced a massive change during the lockdown in our lives. While some were still taking their time to adapt to the existing conditions, Sairaj Dhond grabbed this opportunity to his benefit and knew exactly what to do with it. It all started one day when he came across an article that said, “Jackfruit is the superfood of the world”. Sairaj realized that Jackfruit is the most readily available fruit in India. It is locally available, locally sourced; it was even available in his own backyard! The best part? Nobody had bothered to experiment with it before. 

Sairaj knew it was time to bring the potential of Jackfruit to light. Its nutritional value and meaty texture blew him away. The food start-up space always excited Sairaj, and the lockdown gave him the perfect opportunity to delve deeper into it. In search of a unique yet trendy name for the brand that would also further add value to it, the team came up with the name ‘Wakao Foods’. December 2020 marks their first sale, and then there was only looking forward. 

What Is Sairaj’s Vision For The Brand?

Inspired by rising trends of veganism worldwide and in India, Wakao Foods brings a new and disruptive approach with a sustainable focus. The company plans to create a better tomorrow – one where humanity thrives, with products curated from ethically grown and sourced produce that is then hygienically processed and packaged. 

Wakao Foods is a Goa-based sustainable start-up that brings plant-based, ethically sourced ‘Ready to Cook’ and ‘Ready to Eat’ products to the market. Their first offering was the native jackfruit meat. All products of Wakao Foods have no preservatives with a shelf life of 1 year and require no refrigeration.

The brand believes in supporting indigenous Agri-practices, fair prices for farmers, prioritising top-quality natural produce and bringing it at the best available value for their customers. Wakao Foods ensures the highest standards of safety & eco-friendly practices in all aspects of their business.

Going ahead, Wakao Foods intends to keep sourcing alternative foods that are good for both people and the planet. So every time you purchase from them, 1% of the sales proceeds would go to local farmers around India who are working to feed our country. 

Also read: The Taste Of Health: How Strawfit Is Getting Children Everywhere To Love Milk

What Does Wakao Food’s Business Insights Look Like?

The pandemic brought quite a few changes in our surroundings but a major change in the mindset of people. People realized that they needed to move to an alternative source of meat, a more natural source of protein. Consumers consciously started opting for a healthier lifestyle which led to them seeking a healthier alternative, even when it came to meat. 

Wakao Foods listened to their customers and responded by providing preservative-free ready to cook food​. The brand saw potential in the market. Like all other companies, faux meat companies also grabbed this opportunity to present their ideas and products in a more open environment for consumers who are ready to change and listen, learn, adapt, and embrace conscious eating methods.

Over the last 10 months, Wakao Foods has managed to sell to more than 10,000 D2C customers and they are only growing further. They are currently available in Pan India through various D2C online channels and marketplaces. They have been on Amazon for just one month now and have already sold in 24 states in India. They also sell a lot through their website and other marketplaces. 

Wakao Foods has an offline presence in Goa and distributors in Chennai, Bombay and Pune. They are looking at appointing at least another 7-10 distributors over the next three months across different cities in the country. Wakao Foods has already exported to Dubai, Norway, Netherlands and will soon be exporting to the USA, Canada, and Mexico in terms of international markets. They are also in the process of closing a deal with another 10 countries for export.

Wakao Food’s Experience And After Effects Of Featuring On Shark Tank

For Wakao Foods, the investors who have come along on this journey create the perfect amalgamation, bringing in key expertise to drive and expand the business multi-fold. Shark Tank gave them National prominence and appearance, helping them reach a much larger audience.

“As someone who grew up watching Shark Tank, coming on this globally acclaimed platform and getting funded has been a great milestone for me and my team. This further solidifies our belief and efforts to introduce innovative and disruptive F&B product categories that will change how consumers perceive plant-based meat. We are looking forward to aggressively expanding our footprint in the next few months and acquiring a bigger clientele in the Industry”, quotes founder and CEO Sairaj Dhond.

Let’s Understand The Growth Achieved By Wakao Foods Over The Years 

Wakao Foods has supplied to more than 70 hotels & restaurants in India for D2B. They supply to all the eighteen Hilton properties in India, all the Ibis properties in India, Burma Burma, restaurants across the country, London taxis, and many restaurants and cafes. The brand has very smart clients and pan India tie-ups.

Wakao Food’s maximum sales are from metropolitan cities like Mumbai, Delhi, etc. What's surprising is that many customers from small cities like tier two & tier-three cities have shown their eagerness towards their products and have also purchased them. Wakao Foods takes great pride in claiming that they have managed to sell their products in every state of our country today right from Jammu & Kashmir to Kanyakumari. 

“Expanding via D2C (direct to consumer) is our primary focus as it’s the next big thing in the world. We are seeing a lot of people who are really excited about these new things that are coming up. Meat and plant-based alternatives are just the tip of the iceberg in India and it’s going to explode. As far as the export markets are concerned they are mature markets already. They have been waiting for a product like ours. And it’s just that we have to reach there and give them our product.” asserts Dhond.

What Can We Expect From The Recent Collaboration With Hilton?

With the joint vision of placing jackfruit as a sustainably sourced plant-based meat substitute, the collaboration between Hilton and Wakao Foods aims to support local producers and products and bring plant-based alternatives prominently to the food and beverage scene in India. A sustainable crop, sourced locally, which does not need irrigation, pesticides/herbicides, Jackfruit can be intergrown with other crops to create a regenerative ecosystem. The innovative food menu will be available across dining outlets at Hilton properties in the country. Moreover, the exciting food festival - 'The Wakao Fest,' aimed at offering an unforgettable dining experience through an exquisite menu with jackfruit as the core ingredient. 

Biggest Challenge Faced By Wakao Foods Today?

The main challenge for Wakao Foods has been to educate people because most of them don't understand what mock meat is and what all could be made out of a Jackfruit. People in India need to understand Jackfruit’s versatility and everything that one can do with it. 

The second challenge that Wakao Foods is looking to walk over is that the cost will come down once the scaling increases. They will be able to have a better go to market strategy. It doesn't have that mass appeal as it is more of a metro and a Tier1 or Tier2 product. For Wakao Foods to make it a mass product, they need to have a better scale, and once that happens, they will be able to go to more people and reach out to more people. Wakao Foods is showing a 25% month on month growth since its inception. 

Wakao Foods is transparent and has nothing to hide from prices to ingredients. Let’s have a glance at their hot selling products.

Jack Burger Patty

Ingredients: Tender jackfruit, Purified Water, Pea Protein, Flavouring Substances, Potato Starch, Refined Sunflower oil, Iodised Salt, Emulsifier, Stabiliser, Beetroot Juice Powder.  

Priced at INR 400 (Qty: 4 * 100g = 400g)

BUTTER JACK - (Heat and Eat)

Ingredients: Tender Jackfruit, Onion, Tomato, Ginger, Garlic, Peanut

Butter, Coconut Milk, Cashew Nut, Turmeric Powder, Chilli Powder,

Sunflower Oil, Garam Masala, Coriander Leaf, Kasuri Methi, Purified

Water, Himalayan Pink Salt.

Priced at INR 350 (Qty: 300g)

TERIYAKI JACK (Heat and Eat)

Ingredients: Tender Jackfruit, Tomato sauce(Tomato puree, Sugar, salt,

onion powder, Garlic powder, onion, garlic, pepper), Tomato, Soy

sauce(Soy Beans, Sugar, salt), Tamarind, Olive Oil/Sunflower oil, Herbs

and Spices(Garlic, Ginger, Oregano, Black Pepper, White Pepper,

Rosemary, Thyme, Garlic powder), Water, Brown sugar, Sesame seeds,

Rock salt, Unrefined cane sugar, Himalayan Pink salt.

Priced at INR 350 (Qty:300g)

BBQ JACK (Heat and Eat)

Ingredients: Tender Jackfruit, Tomato, Unrefined cane sugar, Tomato

sauce (Tomato Puree, Sugar, Salt, Onion Powder, Garlic Powder, Onion,

Garlic, Pepper), Tamarind, Herbs & spices (Ginger, Garlic, Thyme, Black

Pepper, Garlic Powder, White Pepper), Sunflower Oil, Water,

Worcestershire Sauce (Soy Beans), Rock Salt, Himalayan Pink Salt.

Priced at INR 350 (Qty: 300g)

What Strategy Have Wakao Foods Been Following To Reach Where They Are Today?

Wakao Foods was new to the industry. It was never introduced in the market, so Founder and CEO Sairaj knew the impact would be huge. The idea was to reach out to consumers and educate them first on what Wakao Foods was all about its nutritional values, benefits, and new varieties to explore for Jackfruit based on that. 

From Their pricing strategy to combos, All checkpoints were pre-decided. The team was very sure about what customers they wanted to target, the brand positioning, VeganFoods, PremiumBrands and the newly converted vegan consumer audience. Eventually, it all worked really well for them.

Get To Know The Founder 

Sairaj Dhond is the Founder and CEO of Wakao Foods. Sairaj began his career as a criminal lawyer but soon defied his academic-led profession to pursue his true calling, sustainable entrepreneurship. He is deeply committed to creating brands that create a global footprint and help the environment. With sustainability and veganism being the need of the hour, Sairaj sought a solution that could mimic meat for even diehard non-vegetarians. After a year of trials and experimentations with some of India’s best chefs, he founded Wakao Foods, a brand that is true to his vision! His other business ventures include lighting and solar solutions brand and real estate restoration.