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Your skinny pizza is ready

Arzoo Dina | Updated on November 29, 2019 Published on November 28, 2019

Stay fresh: Far East Salad at Kitchen Garden by Suzette

Gone are those days when eating out meant digging into a steak with buttery potatoes on the side. Increasingly in the big cities, restaurants are offering a host of healthy food

The aroma of health tickles your nostrils as you walk past Pali Hill, Mumbai’s upmarket suburb of Bandra. A glance will reveal a string of cafés, between gyms, grocery stores and salons. A closer look will tell you that most eateries cater to the health-conscious consumer, and offer everything from gluten-free sandwiches, cold-pressed juices, keto-friendly meals to guilt-free desserts.

Gone are those days when eating out meant digging into a steak — rare medium — with buttery potatoes on the side. Increasingly in the big cities, restaurants are offering a host of healthy food. People are adopting healthier lifestyles, and are looking out for food that complements their regimen. And that explains the proliferation of health-focussed cafés and restaurants across cities.

Health in a bowl: People are adopting healthier lifestyles, and are looking out for food that complements their regimen

 

Among them is Suzette, a restaurant that French expats Antonia Achache, Jérémie Sabbagh and Pierre Labial opened in Mumbai in 2011. The idea was to offer the same wholesome fare that they would get back home in Paris. Seeing the lack of options in the city, they left their day jobs to set up their own café and crêperie in Mumbai’s Nariman Point, serving buckwheat flour crêpes, salads, light eats and coffees. Eight years on, they’ve got a success story, having expanded with two more outlets along with two other brands — Kitchen Garden by Suzette and Suzette Bakery, housed under the company Suzette Gourmet Pvt. Ltd with a total of eight outlets across its brands. While Kitchen Garden was launched in 2016 as a salad and sandwich bar, Suzette Bakery, which serves traditional Parisian bakes and artisan breads, opened a few months ago.

“When we started out, there weren’t many places doing what we were,” Labial says. In fact, people would consider a salad a side dish and not a meal in itself, he says. The perception, he adds, is changing, especially with office-goers who want something simple yet healthy. “We focus on organic ingredients and highlight local produce in our menus.”

It was a similar premise that prompted Minali Gaba, founder of Farmers’ Café, to set up shop in 2017. The Bandra-based café promotes the use of organic produce sourced from local farmers just outside Mumbai. The café’s tagline — ‘eat like it matters’ — resonates with her notion of offering preservative-free, low-calorie home-style fare.

Farmers’ Café — which has also turned into a celebrity haunt — serves organic, vegan and gluten-free eats, and is known for its skinny pizzas, bowl meals and healthy desserts. Gaba makes her pizza base with amaranth flour, or rajgira, as it is locally known, and the sauces are healthy alternatives prepared with almond butter, pesto or pumpkin. Even the ketchup is made in-house, daily.

Given the popularity it’s earned in a short span, (it’s often a go-to with celebrities), the café has recently shifted to a bigger space in Bandra. The new 50-seater Farmers’ Café has an extended menu of vegan and keto-friendly beverages such as the iced almond latte with coffee ice cubes, and also features several millet-based dishes. Going forward, Gaba says she hopes to introduce a line of to-go packaged foods, such as quinoa crackers and the like.

Suzette and Farmers’ Café are just a couple of examples of how this segment has seen a spurt in growth. Even ethnic retail chain, Fabindia, has tapped into this market with its own bistro chain — FabCafé, offering regionally-inspired Indian cuisine with a healthy twist. On the menu, you can find dishes such as polenta upma, quinoa and jackfruit biryani, slow-pressed juices and more. Currently, FabCafé has outlets in Mumbai, Delhi-NCR, Bengaluru and Chennai, among other cities.

Labial attributes the shift in the market to a changing consumer base—one that doesn’t mind shelling out a little extra if it means not compromising on one’s health (or taste for that matter). It’s also why private equity and VC firms have shown an interest in this market. To supplement their expansion, Suzette Gourmet has raised two rounds of funding, first with DSG Consumer Partners, and the latest round of ₹10 crore with private equity firm, Yuj Ventures, together with DSG. The fresh capital infusion will be used to open more outlets of Kitchen Garden by Suzette and Suzette Bakery, along with scaling up technology and services. According to Gurmeet Arora, founder, Flax, a chain of healthy cafétarias, “Today’s consumer is smart, savvy and educated. The market for healthy foods has seen a massive growth in both demand and supply.” There are a great many opportunities in the sector, he says, referring to Flax’s growth from one outlet in 2017 to six outlets now in Mumbai, Pune and Bengaluru. At Flax, the menu is curated to include super-bowls, salads, wraps and sandwiches that are nutrition-focused. Gaba agrees that the potential for growth is immense, thanks to local, ingredient-driven cuisine and conscious consumers. Besides, who says healthy can’t be tasty?

Arzoo Dina is a Mumbai-based freelance writer

Published on November 28, 2019
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