For most working couples, packed lunch from home is either last night’s leftovers or what the maid cooked this morning. So a handful of enterprising Mumbaikars have begun to dish up healthy “dabbas” to improve health-conscious office workers’ lunch hours.
Sai Gundewar and his four partners, for instance, launched Foodizm in January this year. “We know that Mumbaikars have begun to look for healthy food options just as they have become conscious about healthier living.” says Gundewar, who is also an actor and director. “Foodizm was our answer to cater to this growing demand.” Adding new members every day, Foodizm claims that all its meals are cooked in one of India’s first Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point and ISO 22000-certified compliant state-of-the-art kitchens. “We have employed nutritionists and certified dieticians who work out the meal menus and give calorie-counted options to our patrons,” he says.
Foodizm has a team of 25 chefs to whip up lunch and dinner meals. The company is also in talks with retail stores like Godrej Nature’s Basket and Star Bazaar to provide packaged, ready-to-eat diet meals in retail stores across Mumbai. “We will start with health juices and snacks, but the idea is to widen Foodizm’s footprint with complete packaged healthy meals in stores,” says Gundewar. Overseen by a group of five experts and featuring dishes like ratatouille, kimchi, rosemary roast chicken, usal and more, the lunch menus start at Rs 110.
Calorie Care, another health food delivery service, caters to individuals, offices and homes. Co-founder Parinaaz Driver says her company offers its members a scientifically planned service. “All meals are calorie-counted and every new customer, while making a meal request, supplies details like age, weight and health-related issues, like whether they are diabetic, have cholesterol problems, high blood pressure, etc.,” she explains. “This information is fed into special software which generates a customised meal plan.”
Calorie Care’s website mirrors Driver’s confidence. “You can eat calorie rich but nutrient ‘empty’ potato chips calories vs nutrient rich peanuts & almonds [sic],” the website text reads. “We use fresh ingredients which are dense in nutrients in all our meals. There are no artificial sweeteners, supplements or substitutes used as shortcuts to reduce the calorie count of our meals.”
Calorie Care’s kitchen, located at Sewri in central Mumbai, prepares and packs meals in an air-conditioned atmosphere. In fact Driver takes hygiene so seriously that absolutely anyone can go and visit the kitchen to check for cleanliness, without prior notice.
Today Calorie Care delivers more than 900 meals a day to executives in Mumbai. This includes breakfast, lunch, between-meals snacks and dinner. The meals — which can be customised for diabetes patients, those who prefer low salt, vegetarians, non-vegetarians and so on — are either tray-packed, in disposable plastic trays, or dabba-packed, in stainless-steel containers. A meal is accompanied by a nutritional chart which lists the nutritional content (proteins, carbohydrates, calories). Prices start at about Rs 115 for the basic Indian vegetarian option.
Founded by Cyrus and Parinaaz Driver, the company is now mulling over an expansion to Delhi and Bangalore. “We feel that Delhi and Bangalore are ready markets for healthy meal services,” says Driver, who presently employs about 60 people. She recalls that for the first three years they could not afford to advertise. “Our growth primarily relied on word-of-mouth publicity. But the company is now profitable and we have invested in sales and marketing.”
Even individuals like Rahul Patgaonkar, who provides home-cooked meals to 80 executives all over Mumbai, have noticed the rising demand for healthy meals. Patgaonkar maintains that “Most professionals do not want fancy food. What they want from us is oil-free vegetables, sprouts, salads, yoghurt-based dishes and rotis. So we have decided to focus on healthy meals to grow our business.”
Patgaonkar provides vegetarian meals starting at Rs 55. To prepare low-calorie diet meals, he employs over 20 people and has a dedicated kitchen in Dadar from where he sends his hygienically packaged meals to his clients.