This year Focus Friday is teaming up with the SuperValu Food Academy to bring you the best new Irish food producers, and tell you all about their products. Today, we chat to Ramen Patel from Patels Indian Food. In collaboration with Bord Bia and the Local Enterprise offices, SuperValu have created the Food Academy Programme, where they work with and nurture over 200 businesses from start up to getting their product on SuperValu shelves.
Can you tell us a bit about your product?
Our product has a new concept and brings something real and alternative to the market and its category. Our product, Patel’s One-der Blend is a family of versatile Indian spice blends that all have a unique offering- each of our One-der Blends have multiple applications allowing the customer to create a number of different dishes from the one same blend!
Our One-der Blend ‘Original’ is a versatile spice blend that can create any of 10 different mouth-watering curries from the one blend, for example, a customer can decide to cook our crowd pleasing Chicken Korma or our amazing Lamb Saag! The base for both curries is the same blend but it’s cooked with different meat and stock ingredients to give each curry its undisputable uniqueness.
Our new One-der Blend is a versatile spice blend that creates any of our Indian style fabulous fajitas, super sticky chicken wings and mouth-watering marinade & rub. Although not typically Indian dishes our expertise in spices allow us to create these wonderful new concepts in Indian food. In fact, this concept has come from a trend set deep in our Indian cultures where we are taking other cultures’ food and combine our traditional spices with them to make amazing new meals.
What inspired you to create your product?
Have you ever dusted down that Indian recipe book, picked a recipe, got very excited about cooking only to look down at the long list of unpronounceable ingredients and find it’s almost impossible to buy them unless you search high and low and take many hours in doing so in the process, sometimes to no avail! Well, having watched my father cooking many curries over the years, and taking the expertise and knowledge from him on how to blend spices and cook amazing curries with a real difference, we were able to marry authenticity with convenience with simply amazing results. We talked largely about how we could make cooking curry real easy for the customer by creating one spice blend for all curries and using non obscure easy ‘already in your cupboard’ ingredients to complete these. Our idea was born!
How has your product evolved since it has launched?
In a million years I couldn’t have foreseen the journey we would take and how our product would evolve and keeps evolving. A lot of our success came from the amazing opportunity we got from the Food Academy Programme we are currently on – an initiative sponsored, run and mentored by our Local Enterprise Office, Bord Bia and SuperValu. We entered this program just prior to our launch phase and the advice and knowledge we took was second to none from pricing to branding and important technical information for our packaging as well as how to conduct and connect with our potential customers in-store. All this culminated in launching on trial in a selected number of SuperValu stores to test us, our product and the partnership between us and SuperValu. Once in-store and on shelf the support we received from the SuperValu owners, managers and staff has been phenomenal. We are selling well and working hard to meet targets set by ourselves. The experience and launch has given us the confidence to launch new products and take on many new stores.
Who is your customer?
We have a wide and varied customer base. All our customers have the following in common: they want to cook from scratch so they know what they are eating and are also aware of the health benefits our spices give. They want authentic meals but to be made under 30-40 minutes making it convenient. Finally, they want value for money. One of our biggest customers are our families and families with children and a prerequisite to buying any product for them is that the kids will eat it! The kids love our curries, so this is a win win for both us and those families. The fact that the customer has so much choice and versatility from the one product has attracted a huge customer base which allowed Patel’s One-der Blend to sit in the cupboard as a staple food and their go to for a great curry. In summary, whether cooking for a dinner party at the weekend or having a quick curry during the week we tick all the boxes and from our students in Ranelagh and Rathgar to the housewives in Blackrock and Blanchardstown and the kids in Swords and Sutton it suits all.
What tips would you give to someone who is starting out and wants to launch a food-related product/business?
Firstly, do your research and make sure there is a market for your product. Your product should be either solving a problem or addressing a need or have a definite point of difference. We have a definite point of difference whilst addressing a need (Our difference -One blend can create all curries. Addressing –our curries use non obscure already in your cupboard ingredients).
Get help!… there is so much help out there contact your Local Enterprise office and ask about programs like the Food Academy and other mentoring programs.
Pricing – I have a thing about pricing. Make sure when you price your product you price it correctly. There are great existing pricing models you can work yours through, include all your costs from the raw material you use to packaging and even the light and heat you use. All these contribute to making your product, so include them in the eventual cost and recommended price.
Design – don’t skimp on design, commit and make you and your product look wonderful from the outset, it’s what represents you.
Finance – do the numbers and apply for grants, investment etc. Believe me you will need cash flow more than you think! Cash flow can kill a good business, sometimes it just needs the time.
In-store tastings – do as many in-store tastings as you possibly can to connect with your customer. It is the single most important marketing tool we use, bar none!
Where can we buy One-der Blend and how much will it cost?
You can buy our One-der Blend in a number of SuperValu’s across the country for €3.49 (includes two sachets, each sachet serves four and comes with your own recipe booklet). Please see www.patels1941.com for a list of current stockists.
What does the future hold for your business?
We will establish ourselves as a real player in the ethnic food market in Ireland in 2015, and concentrate on gaining our targeted market share through innovation and real connection with our customers. We will secure a well-run and profitable good domestic business and we will look at international markets later in the year. With this we will keep our innovative product development fresh in line with what our customer demands are. We are very excited.