Frelish Foods – A Smooth, Refreshing Take on Cool Beverages

Four committed founders with one common purpose – to offer tasty, cafe-style beverages to grab and go.

With new brands in the fresh foods category sprouting almost everyday, it takes a lot more than just resolve to hold’s one own in such a competitive market. Presenting Frelish, a brand that has not one, or two, but four different founders who are putting their might behind a venture that’s trying to make inroads into the grab-and-go fresh beverage segment. It seems to be working out well for them as within a year they’ve sold over a lakh units. What’s been their strategy and what are their plans going forward? Let’s go behind the scenes of this fledgling brand from Chennai.

Spotting the Opportunity

Anand Louie a consultant assessing the growth strategies of manufacturing units saw an opportunity in the fresh food segment. “A couple of years ago we couldn’t find freshly made cafe-style cold coffee that one could just grab and go. This got us thinking about the science behind extending the shelf life of fresh drinks,”observes Anand, the CEO and Founder of Frelish. Saiprasad Rode, the other Cofounder who handles the manufacturing aspect adds, “The core science behind this requires the use of good manufacturing practices and the choice of smart ingredients. We tried this and the positive response from the market gave us the thumbs up to take the next step.” It took 8 months for the factory to be set up and to get things going. Frelish was launched in April 2023.

The Four Founders of Frelish - Saiprasad Rode, Nandita S, Anand Louie & Venkatesh R (L to R)
The Four Founders of Frelish – Saiprasad Rode, Nandita S, Anand Louie & Venkatesh R (L to R)

Consumption Within a Km of Purchase

Nandita S, is the other CoFounder of Frelish. She’s a Chartered Accountant and handles their Finance and Marketing. She works closely with Venkatesh R, the CoFounder who heads Distribution and directs their fleet of fully refrigerated trucks, making sure the products reach the customer in optimum temperature. Due to the perishable nature of these products, their focus is on marketing and distributing to outlets where immediate consumption of fresh drinks is high. “The drinks should be consumed within a kilometre of where they’re purchased to maintain product integrity of freshness and taste. That led us to the canteens of schools, colleges, hospitals and corporate offices where the drinks are consumed immediately and can be restocked on a regular basis. Entertainment hubs such as cinema halls are also our customers,” says Venkatesh..

Winning Combo of Freshness and Taste

So why would a consumer pick a freshly made drink as against an FMCG product? The team assures us it has to do with the appeal of the recipe, the serving size and maintaining the right chillness. But when they began, the technology in the market for manufacturing cold beverages was skewed towards western recipes rather than for Indian favourites such as rose milk, badam milk and lassi.  So the team went about customising the technology and today they assure us that they’ve managed to extend the shelf life of the products without degrading the freshness and taste. The shelf life for milk products being 12 days and fermented products, like lassi, being 21 days. “The many tetra-packs available in the market have a long shelf life but it requires the addition of preservatives to make that possible. Also many of these milk based products are boiled and then cooled rapidly to kill bacteria. Taste gets a hit and these drinks tend to have a saltiness to them. In comparison our products taste fresh,” adds Venkatesh.

Basil Lemon

A Fast Growing Range of Popular Flavours

The first Frelish products to be rolled out were cold coffee, rose milk, punjabi lassi, lemonade, and greek yoghurt smoothie. Within two to three months other products were in the market. Today they also have a basil lemonade and their Greek yogurt smoothie comes in 3 flavours – Strawberry, Blueberry and Mango. Their best seller continues to be cold coffee even as R&D efforts are on to keep introducing popular additions to the range. The milk is sourced from aggregators out of Cheyyar. “We don’t mind paying 7 to 8% more to get quality milk with a minimum fat percentage of 4%. And we actually use cocoa and coffee powder and not flavours. That makes a difference to the product taste,” assures Venkatesh.

BB Smoothie
BB Smoothie

End to end Control Over Supply Chain

Maintaining quality and consistency in such a product line requires having utmost control of the entire supply chain right from product design to delivery. Having realised it early on, the founders have kept the end to end management under their control and this also explains why each of them leads a different specialised function. And being completely bootstrapped as of now has given them the elbow room to experiment and fine tune the processes. “Like in all such businesses until the products were stabilised there were returns, shelf life issues etc. But they were soon sorted out and today we have a smooth flow from manufacturing to storage and distribution,”says Venkatesh.


Disrupting to Deliver Value

Yet, breaking into institutions that are used to the practice of preparing their own products or selling FMCG beverages took time. “We had to create a sort of disruption. Initially prospects were reluctant to stock the Frelish range as the price was higher than the juices and cold coffees they prepared fresh in their canteens. But when they realised they could sell more SKUs off the shelf in the time it takes to make them fresh, they gave in and now they are our loyal customers,”explains Nandita. It’s a matter of taste too. “We had reached out to a reputed college in Cuddalore 7 months ago to stock our products but they were hesitant because we were relatively new. But just this morning we got a call back from them. The college owner had tasted Freslish at another outlet and has recommended it to be have the product placed in their canteen,” says Venkatesh.

Strawberry | Blueberry | Mango
Strawberry | Blueberry | Mango

Happy Customers

“We’ve been able to grow thanks to references. And we’re happy that we’ve made a difference to the lives of a few or our retailers. For example a client who had just started a canteen was making Rs.2 on a soft drinks bottle now makes more and from Frelish,” says Venkatesh. “There are a couple of food chains that partner with us on a regular basis and their sales have gone up because of our products. Our refrigerator at their outlet attracts customers to get a drink and then they end up buying other food products,”chips in Nandita. “The challenge though has been to differentiate our offering from the other products that come with added preservatives, because they come packed in bottles too! Slowly over time we’ve tried to create awareness about the wholesome freshness of Frelish products but it’s a slow process,”she adds.

Chocolate | Mango | Punjabi | Rose Milk

Eyeing other States

Within a year Frelish has seen a healthy increase in its geographical coverage. Apart from Chennai their supply extends till Pondicherry and Cuddalore to Vellore on the other side. With active expansion plans they are gaining more areas in Tamil Nadu. Their focus is on Bangalore next and to start a smaller factory within a 150km radius to the city so they can manage logistics and ensure freshness.

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