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Healthy profits

Smita Tripathi | May 22, 2004

Vijay Nagpal confesses that he's nuts about nuts. So, it's no wonder that, he turned his passion into a business and started Speedway Food and Beverages two years ago in Delhi. The company manufactures and distributes Star Nuts, which it says are 100 per cent cholesterol-free.

Nagpal worked in his family business of rice and tea exports for over 10 years before he decided to switch streams. While hunting around for a business opportunity, Nagpal realised that the market for nuts was totally unorganised and there wasn't a single branded player.

Moreover, he felt there was a market for nuts as snacks if they were easily available and in the right pack sizes.

Today Star Nuts are available in all the metros and there are plans to export it to the Gulf. Nagpal has also recently entered into a tie-up with US-based Solae, a joint venture between DuPont and Bunge and is now manufacturing and distributing health bars.

A couple of years back I decided to move out of the family business and start something new. I realised that there was a market for nuts in India as there were no organised players.

Also, the middle class is fast becoming extremely health conscious. With heart diseases on the rise, cholesterol is becoming a major problem. I felt that if a cholesterol-free healthy product was offered which did not compromise on taste, it would sell. That was the basic concept behind Star Nuts.

We buy raw nuts such as peanuts, cashews, almonds and pistachios from traders and then process them. What really distinguishes our product is that it is roasted and not fried. This makes it 100 per cent cholesterol-free.

Cholesterol is of two kinds -- good cholesterol and bad cholesterol. The cholesterol, which the nuts have naturally is good cholesterol which does not lead to heart diseases. The bad cholesterol is a result of frying. By roasting the nuts, we eliminate that. So we are able to offer healthy snacks.

We have got our nuts certified from various agencies and laboratories that have certified our claim of being cholesterol-free.

Star Nuts are available in seven different flavours such as cheese and tomato, pepper etc. We have to keep the Indian palate in mind. We are planning to introduce a samosa flavour.

Our latest offering is the health bar. It is a strawberry-flavoured wafer, which has soya nut as its main ingredient. We have entered into a tie-up with US-based Solae, which is a joint venture between DuPont and Bunge, which is a leading supplier of soya protein-based ingredients. The technical know-how is also from Solae.

The health bar is meant for the person on the go. If you have two 40 gm health bars it is equivalent to a meal.

Abroad, most health bars are chocolate coated. However, we decided to go for a wafer-like product instead because a chocolate-coated product would need to be refrigerated. This would cause problems in distribution.

Also, in India chocolate has never been associated with health. Moreover, a chocolate flavoured product is automatically seen as a product for kids.

We have set up a manufacturing plant, which has the capacity to manufacture 4,000 health bars a day. We are promoting the bars at various health clubs and gymnasiums in Delhi. We have also held promotions at some call centres. The product will soon be available at all the metros.

I'm also in talks with airlines and the railways for making Star Nuts and the health bars available on board. Another distribution network that we are looking at are the army canteens. If that comes through then our products will be available across the country.

I'm planning to export Star Nuts to the Gulf countries and also to England. Since I was involved in the family export business, I got to learn in detail about foreign markets. That is coming to my aid now. I've spoken to a few dealers abroad and they have shown an interest in my product. Within a few months my products will be exported.

I'm also planning to enter the breakfast cereal market. Here too, our product will be based on the health platform.

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