This Mumbai-based company is making a splash in the ready-to-cook market with its sauces
In 2013, Deb Mukherjee felt that it was now time to move away from his decade-long career as an investment banker. He had seen his father working in the hospitality industry for 40 years, which is why food business seemed a natural transition. He launched Ceres Hospitality in 2014, a Quick Service Restaurant (QSR) chain, and over the next five years, scaled it up to 45 outlets across Maharashtra. In 2019, Deb realised that maintaining consistency, which is paramount to scale an F&B company, was the most daunting task. “When you start multiplying a restaurant chain, the quality falters because every location is being run by chefs. And so, the taste changes location-wise no matter how hard you try,” Deb tells SMBStory.
Deb and his team started working on a solution that would ensure that “food can be prepared without any specific skill.” The real breakthrough came when the private equity fund, Bluestone Capital, invited Ceres to help them set up a cloud kitchen business in Sri Lanka. For this project, Ceres rolled out a series of ready-to-eat products such as those in the Biryani category, South Indian Chettinad, Burmese Khao Suey and more. When these products saw decent growth on foreign shores, Deb decided to implement the same concept in India. This is how Mumbai-based ready-to-cook startup Ceres Foods came into existence in 2020. Deb was also joined by co-founders Amit Mange and Jagmandeep Singh in the same year. Currently, Ceres offers 13 products in two categories — Oriental sauces and Indian gravies.
The manufacturing is 100 percent sourced through four units located in Maharashtra and Gujarat. Last month, Ceres clocked Rs 25 lakh revenue. in the last month. Ceres Foods began its journey with Rs 5.5 crore as the initial investment. However, the brand had to face an uphill task to find customers. “We rolled out products such as ready to eat gravies of Butter Chicken and Palak Paneer. But we soon realised we were competing with masala brands such as MDH or IDC Kitchen,” the co-founder says. With products overlapping with the big names of the industry-led Ceres to “fail very badly.” Its sales tanked. Deb then shifted his focus onto the non-vegetarian market. According to the National Family Health Survey, 75 percent of Indians are non-vegetarian. This compelled the co-founders to take a step back and explore a niche product line in the non-vegetarian category. The company then introduced liquid masalas for dishes like Laal Maas, Mustard Fish, Nalli Nihari, and more.