Mama Mia! A gelato brand in India has recently received a pre-series A funding by Pareto Capital along with other investors for around 20%. In an exclusive interview with the Restaurant India, Adhiraj Thirani (who along with Akshat Singhania took over the company in 2015) talks about the company’s expansion plans and how gelato in Italy is being consumed as a snack there.
Tell me about your story, how did this idea of taking over and building the brand of gelato come to your mind?
So we took over this brand in 2015 and we grew up eating this brand and had a good faith in the brand. Although the market was nascent at that time but we felt that in the future there will be a tremendous opportunity because we just came back from the UK and saw how gelatos were picking up there quite significantly. We are very creative people and we thought that this business has unlimited avenues or creativity to be put to work.
The company is planning to turn Mama Mia! Into a diversified FMCG company with a multi product portfolio, not limited to frozen confection. How will you expand the portfolio and what new line of products you are planning to incorporate?
We already have quite an expanded portfolio from gelatos to Sorbet. Our gelato is low medium fat ice cream and Sorbet is dairy free ice-cream. We are planning to launch some vegan options. Right now we don’t have vegan ice cream as such. We are also planning to launch ready to eat sundaes which are layered desserts. Apart from that we already have our jar desert which is very popular (Glass jars which are reusable and eco friendly).
Where do you source your ingredients and raw materials from?
We source a lot of out ingredients locally for example milk, pharma grade sugar which are sulphur free and lot of fruits are sourced locally. We always believe in sourcing the best of the best in terms of raw materials. However, we have a lot of ingredients coming from abroad, for example we have two types of vanilla (one variant comes from Madagascar and another one comes from France), our coffee is sourced from Columbia and South America.
How many signature stores you have? How are you planning to expand it further?
We have four signature stores; we are planning to expand by way of franchising. We are also looking at our own company operated stores in key areas. Our primary marketing strategy is the mix of online business and tie ups with the multiplex chains at INOX and PVRs. We feel there is a lot of potential in the online delivery market and will definitely be looking at capturing that along with our offline segment.
Are people aware of the difference between the mainstream ice-creams and Gelatos? Various reports say that the mainstream ice-cream is not good for health?
I think awareness has been growing. The mainstream ice cream that we get is basically a frozen dessert. It is made of vegetable oil and there is no dairy fat. There are questions being raised regarding the health aspect of the product. Not all the manufacturers have strict adherence to the natural flavours they use. A lot of the flavours and colors we get are totally synthetic. And from our research we have learnt that a lot of the times when you consume an ice cream you get a bad throat not because of the cold of the ice-cream but the synthetic colors. A lot of informed consumers will be rejecting it sooner or later.
You said that you see a lot of opportunities in gelato business. Is it because people are becoming health conscious?
There are few reasons for that. Number one people are travelling more and getting exposed to the products abroad. And gelato represents the best of what the ice-cream world has to offer. So, not only does the low fat makes a huge difference but the fact that it is made from absolutely natural products, it makes a huge impact on the taste and flavours as well. gelato tends to have a lot less air, so it has a lot more weight per gram than any normal ice cream. So you are getting more flavors per gram.
gelato is traditionally consumed as a snack in Italy. People have it at any point of day. For a hot country like India we see it as an ideal alternative to chai and samosa in future. It can be substituted because it is far healthier than it.
What are the current price points and do you see price coming down in near future?
No! Actually our products are priced fairly at this point of time. And we are going to maintain this price point. Our cost of raw materials is on a higher side and since we focus on quality we don’t want to compromise the quality in order to compete with the people we don’t want to compete with. We want to be in a segment of our own.
How many flavours you have and what new ones are on their way?
We have a portfolio of over 70 flavours. We have very niche flavours which are specific to our brand. A lot of flavours we do are very different from what is available in the market. We focus a lot on our chocolate flavours and focus on sourcing the best possible coco for it. I am happy to say that our chocolate has very well received and doing extremely well.
Apart from that we do some very unique flavor variations like our black label chocolate which has a whisky and chocolate combination. We evaporate the alcohol and combine with the chocolate; it basically is liquor chocolate. We also have variations for pet friendly which is totally sugar free. Then we have an anti hangover flavor made of charcoal and we use only medical grade charcoal which also helps with any gastric issues.
How many Delivery Service Outlets (DSO) you have currently? How are you expanding it?
We have eight delivery service outlets and at the end of the year we want close to 40 outlets with the help of the funding we recently raised. We also are focusing on opening of multiplex outlets.