Being a fitness enthusiast, Jasmine Bharucha understands the value of eating right and healthy. Even when she was working at a leading French IT company, she would read up a lot on nutrition and healthy lifestyle. In 2017, she decided to leave her corporate job to finally do something in the health space.
“After leaving my job, I was looking forward to enter the health foods segment with an aim to offer people something healthy to eat. During my research, I was introduced to whole foods plant based-lifestyle and decided to take up a small course in Mumbai through which I understood the concept in a comprehensive manner. It made me aware of the importance of whole foods plant-based lifestyle and what it does to our bodies. It made a lot of sense to me, especially because the institute explained it very logically. During the course, they would give us plant-based food to eat after every class and also taught us how to cook such food. Slowly and steadily, I started implementing the same in my house,” Jasmine, founder of Katharos Foods, told The Vegan Indians.
Jasmine, though happy with her plant-based meals, realised that she missed having something cheesy in her salads. “I was used to adding feta cheese in salads before I shifted to a plant-based diet. So, I started experimenting with a few recipes on how to make a plant-based feta cheese.”
She did buy a few vegan cheeses available in the market before starting her home experimentation but found that all of them contained oil. “Coming with a healthy eating mindset, it did not make sense for me to eat vegan food with too much oil as it would then nullify my hard work. That is when I started experimenting and created a feta cheese version, which became part of a vegan potluck about two years back. The response I received was very encouraging and it gave me the confidence to introduce the cheese at a farmers’ market in Mumbai. Slowly, I started approaching stores in Mumbai, and in 2019, launched it on Amazon.”
The Healthier Artisan Cheese
Katharos, which means pure in Greek, positions itself as a completely natural plant-based brand. At present, the company is catering to customers with its range of vegan cheese options, including Vegan Herbed Feta Cheese, Vegan Pizza Cheese and Vegan Soft Cheese Spread.
Jasmine told us that Katharos cheese range does not have any oil so it works as an ideal choice for health freaks. Its feta is made from almonds and has around 14 grams of protein, while vegan pizza cheese is made from cashews. In November last year, the company launched its soft cheese spread, which is available only in Mumbai currently. The other two products are available pan-India via Amazon. Katharos cheese range is available offline too in more than 20 stores across India.
On what makes Katharos vegan cheese range different from other brands in the market, Jasmine said, “Going back to the name Katharos, which means pure, our products do not have any preservatives, chemicals, oil, stabilisers and emulsifiers. They contain simple ingredients that one would find in their kitchen. We try to keep our ingredients list as pure as possible. There is absolutely no junk going into our products and that is very hard to achieve. It is quite a challenge frankly!”
But how does she ensure that her products have a longer shelf life? “We have a technology which helps us do better packaging and it took us a while to get there. We have improved our packaging and we transport our cheeses through cold storage across India. It works perfectly!”
Making Plant-Based Mainstream
Jasmine told us that through Katharos she is trying to reach everybody, including non-vegans and flexitarians. “Right now, I think there is enough awareness around our brand and a lot of vegans know about it. We are already delivering pan-India via Amazon, which is making it possible for us to reach out to everyone. The idea is to create a dairy alternative that is not just for vegans but anybody who is looking for a healthy and tasty dairy cheese alternative.”
“Since our pan-India launch, we have seen the demand growing for our products, and stores keep coming back to us. The best part is that we have been approached by many non-vegan stores too that want to keep vegan cheese as their customers ask for it. So, I can say that the demand is growing slowly and steadily. What is important right now is to make people understand why they should go vegan or why they should switch to a plant-based diet. The younger generation is well aware and they know what they want, and why they are following a particular lifestyle. But our older generation thinks that this is nothing but a new fad diet. That perception needs to change.”
The Pipeline Looks Cheesy
Jasmine is very clear that she would like to keep her focus on cheese for the time being. “We are looking at different types of cheeses that we could launch in the near future. Our focus is only cheese because there is so much, we can do within the cheese range.”