Aishwarya Ramesh

“We don’t have the time to be sweet and nice with our advertising”: Shashank Mehta, The Whole Truth Foods

The brand’s latest ad campaign starring Rohan Joshi has a few truth bombs to drop on its consumers.

The truth can be bitter, but The Whole Truth Foods wants to sweeten the deal. The 28-month-old company is keeping busy with product launches as well as a campaign, starring Rohan Joshi, an influencer and content creator.

The topics that the ads cover include added sugar, chemicals, deceiving food photography, etc. An ad that the company had released in December 2021, threw light on how influencers were willing to endorse any product that came their way without actually trying it.

Like the previous iterations of the company’s ads, CEO Shashank Mehta makes an appearance in them.

In addition to being in the business of selling healthy food, The Whole Truth Foods also seems to be in the business of ruffling feathers. The company's competitors include the likes of Marico, Hindustan Unilever (which has health brands like Horlicks) and individual companies like Ritebite, True Elements and Soulfull.

Over a call with afaqs!, Mehta says that there are two fundamental pillars, when it comes to the tone of the company’s marketing messages. One is to educate the consumer. The other is to throw light on industry practices and emphasise on how ‘truth’ful the brand is.

Shashank Mehta at The Whole Truth's manufacturing plant
Shashank Mehta at The Whole Truth's manufacturing plant

“These are the two pillars that all our advertising and marketing is based on. We wanted to throw light on some marketing gimmicks that big companies use, in order to get people to eat their food,” he says.

The ads are sure to ruffle a few feathers, considering how they openly names industry practices that big names indulge in. “We don’t have the time to be nice and sweet. People have the highest rates of health issues (including diabetes and cancer) right now. We need to act fast and want to bring the truth to the market,” says Mehta.

Many individuals likened the ads, created by TBWA\Media Arts Lab, to Apple’s Mac versus PC ads from 2006-09. Mehta mentions that the intention is, indeed, to mimic those ads, and create a comparison between the bigwigs in the industry and his company’s offerings.

The ads were scripted in-house and produced by Harkat Studios. “We are not a big company and don’t have massive budgets. Most of our media spends are going to be on digital. We are exploring advertising on OTT platforms like Disney+ Hotstar. We will also allot a portion of our budget for marketing across Facebook and Google platforms,” Mehta says, talking about the company’s media mix spending.

He adds that the target audience for the company’s products are 25-40 year olds, including metro dwellers, young bachelors and couples.

“This audience is the most discerning group in the country. You will be surprised at the amount of misinformation that they are exposed to. We want people to know that they’re being lied to and something is wrong with the food they’re being sold,” reveals Mehta.

Different people follow different healthy diets like low-fat, no-carb, keto, etc. “It’s important that whatever food you eat, should be real. The food should be grown on a farm, not made in a lab,” says Mehta.

He mentions that there are companies that claim to be healthy, but their products are still relatively unhealthy.

“There are some companies that say - ‘Our food is healthier than others because that particular company uses 50 per cent chemicals, whereas we use only 30 per cent chemicals’. This market is huge. Unfortunately, a lot of new age marketers are also exploiting this premise to sell us something that is projected as slightly better. We wanted the consumers to wake up to this reality - that the food they eat has a lot of non-natural ingredients.”

The Whole Truth Foods currently has products spread across four categories - protein bars and energy bars, chocolates, muesli and spreads. The company now plans to expand into more categories. Mehta says that the company wants to enter new categories every 4-6 months. The decision to enter a category is often taken based on its size and potential, he adds.

“The bars category is actually a very small one. It has an annual turnover of Rs 300 crore. Whereas, the chocolate category is a massive one, with a turnover of almost Rs 14,000 crore a year. We look at the market share that we can capture in each of these categories. If the top 5-7 per cent of consumers of this category are looking for 100 per cent clean label options - that’s the market we want to capture,” Mehta explains.

A chocolate bar is priced at Rs 200 intentionally. It is more expensive than the mass-produced FMCG chocolates, but less expensive than artisanal chocolates available in the market. Mehta informs that the most popular product category in the market is that of protein bars.

The protein bars shown in the company’s ads, featuring Joshi, have a lower shelf life (of approximately four months), than those that have a shelf life of up 12 months.

“It’s a huge challenge and a competitive disadvantage for our company. We run a tight supply chain and the answer to our problem is demand generation. If the customers are picking up products from stores and distribution channels, then we don’t have to worry about a product’s expiry (date),” Mehta says.

The company has only one manufacturing plant - in Marol, Andheri East in Mumbai, he says.

“We are less than two years old and have not had the time to optimise our business. We have optimised to provide a good consumer experience, but now have to optimise, from a business point of view,” Mehta concludes.

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