Recently, I was contacted by a company wanting to take part in Meet The Manufacturer called Tasty Bite. I’d never heard of them before, which piqued my curiosity. They recently came out with a line of noodle products that only take a minute to cook in the microwave – not bad! Here’s my email interview with Meera Vasudevan, one of the co-founders of Tasty Bite. Enjoy!
THE RAMEN RATER> Thank you for agreeing to this interview! To start, can you tell my readers about the history of Tasty Bite?
TASTY BITE> Tasty Bite was launched in the US in 1995, in response to the emergence of three megatrends that have become entrenched today:
Convenience – Americans seek much greater and more ‘real’ convenience from packaged foods than before. More families with dual income earners means less time for traditional (lengthy) meal preparation, and therefore an increasing reliance on time-saving methods. We are seeing a lot more innovation in food processing today, to meet these needs. Consumers want meal solutions in the pantry, in their fridges and in the freezer, they want to take their special foods camping.
Health & Wellness – the early 90s saw a boom in the launch of natural and organic foods in grocery stores across America. It also saw the growth of natural and organic supermarkets. The FDA had just unveiled the Nutrition Information panel that became mandated for all packaged foods, causing consumers to confront for the first time, the ‘quality’ of what they were buying. This was also a time when our media was raising greater awareness of our nation’s struggle with rising obesity, diabetes and cardio-vascular disease. Consumers began demanding convenience without having to sacrifice health. Merely because a busy mother needs to rely on packaged food for dinner for her family, no longer means she has to put up with excess salt or fat or added chemicals and preservatives. She insists on and is getting a wide variety of healthier meal options in her grocery.
Specialty Foods – as more Americans began to travel internationally, as newer waves of immigrants arrived, and as the trendy new natural foods stores began to showcase interesting and exotic new cuisines as healthy meal solutions, American consumers shifted away from their traditional diets and sought new cuisines. Today, we think nothing of asking our local deli to make a sandwich using a tortilla wrap, filled with tandoori chicken, with a dash of sriracha sauce over it, and a side order of hummus and pita chips – that’s quite a few cuisines in one simple deli lunch!
The Tasty Bite products address all three megatrends… and so, the brand was born. Our products are all natural (we take pride in our ‘clean’ ingredient lists), they take a mere 60 – 90 seconds to heat and eat, and each pack of Tasty Bite takes the consumer on a journey to a new culture.
The Tasty Bite line offers Indian and pan-Asian recipes in entrees, noodles and rices. Each product is carefully created at our R&D labs to keep fat and sodium at sensible levels alongside the ‘good’ nutrients like fiber, vitamins and minerals.
Today, Tasty Bite is distributed across key supermarket chains and a multitude of smaller chains and independent grocery stores across America. We’ve also launched in Canada and Australia. In the US, the brand is the leader in the shelf-stable Indian category, as it is in Australia.
TRR> What was the first product you made?
TB> We launched the brand with 5 Indian entrees, which are still in the market and going strong. Today we have close to 30 products across Indian entrees, Asian noodles and Indian/pan Asian/Mediterranean rices and multigrains. All in our distinctive heat and eat format.
TRR> Your company is located in India. Can you tell us a little about your country?
TB> Our company is headquartered in Stamford, CT in the USA. Our manufacturing plant is in Pune, India. All our products are developed and manufactured there and shipped to the US, Canada and Australia.
The factory and our R&D lab in India are nestled within our farm, where we also grow some of the vegetables we use in our products.
TRR> Can you tell us about the varieties of noodles you make?
TB> We recently launched our innovative new line of fully cooked, heat and eat, all natural Asian noodles. What is so innovative about them is that they require no boiling/draining/adding flavor sachets/adding dehydrated veggies. Each pack offers the consumer fully cooked wheat noodles, cooked with fresh vegetables, aromatic spices & herbs. All you do is heat and serve. Nothing dehydrated or dry about our noodles! Our noodle line comprises recipes from all over Asia – Chinese favorites, Thai, Indonesian-influenced, etc. Each pack of Tasty Bite takes you on a journey to a new culture.
We are considering launching a variety of noodle types in the coming months – stay tuned!
TRR> When did Tasty Bite come to the USA?
TB> We launched the brand in the USA in 1995.
TRR> In what countries are your products available?
TB> USA, Canada, Australia. In India we currently only make products for the fast-growing food service market there.
TRR> I see that a lot of your varieties are meat-free. How has the vegetarian market taken to your offerings?
TB> One of the biggest trends in America is the number of people moving to either a fully vegetarian or vegan diet, or, a flexitarian one. The latter is a term that refers to people who have reduced the amount of meat consumed on an average week and replaced it with vegetarian options – they shift fairly equally between vegetarian and non-vegetarian.
Therefore, not surprisingly, Tasty Bite finds great resonance with vegetarians and vegans (we offer products that suit both dietary preferences). It’s not always easy to be vegetarian, our consumers tell us, and they believe Tasty Bite makes it easy for them because of the exotic flavors and spices, the sensible health values of the products and the sheer ease of heat and eat.
TRR> How does your noodle making process differ from other instant noodle manufacturers?
TB> Our noodles are fully cooked in the sealed pouch, along with fresh vegetables and the spices or sauce. Nothing dehydrated about our noodle dishes, everything is fresh cooked.
TRR> Are noodles the only products you make?
TB> We make a line of heat and eat Indian entrees (both vegetable- and lentil/bean-based), heat and eat rices and multigrains that represent Indian, Asian and Mediterranean influences.
TRR> A lot of people are concerned with their sodium intake. How would you recommend people enjoy your product as part of a healthy meal?
TB> Each pack of Tasty Bite is either a part of a meal or, can be eaten as a meal by itself. Many of our consumers tell us they heat up a pack of our Madras Lentils and eat it as is – it’s like a bowl of vegetarian chili! Therefore, we are careful to keep the sodium levels below the FDA-recommended daily requirement, so consumers can add on anything else to the Tasty Bite entrée without worry.
Similarly, we ensure that fat is kept at a similarly healthy level. We wish to bust the myth that Indian or Asian foods are high in fat and salt – that’s not how these cultures eat at home and that’s how packaged offerings of their cuisines should be crafted.
TRR> Are you involved in in your local community or participate in charities?
TB> As part of our corporate mission, we believe we should be a part of the communities in which we do business. And yet, we do not believe in a ‘Department of Corporate Social Responsibility’ – that sounds so self-serving. We believe that ‘if you keep doing what you are good at, you will not only be good at what you do but also land up doing good’. It’s merely another way of saying that if you wish to do good, just walk the talk – EVERYDAY.
Our products are developed using fresh, natural ingredients, with no heavy reliance on fat or salt for taste, and with an eye to communicate openly on our packs with our shoppers. We take consumer feedback seriously and have a simple policy in Customer Service – respond within 48 hours, no matter what the query.
Our factory in India works hard to maintain sustainable practices that will not harm the environment around it. The manufacturing unit is fueled by vegetable waste, our waste treatment follows a biological rather than a chemical process, so the waste water can be used safely to irrigate our farm.
We also work closely with the local farmers around our farm in India, training them to become our preferred vegetable suppliers. We participate in a science lab project near our factory in India, serving rural school kids and helping them gain access to a real science lab – something their schools are missing. Our managers volunteer time at the lab.
And of course, as you have noticed, our pouches are fully sealed, sterile and have a shelf life of up to 18 months without refrigeration or freezing. Making these pouches the ideal food solution in natural disasters – they have been distributed free to regions hit by Hurricane Katrina, the South Asian tsunami, the earthquake in western India, hurricane-affected areas of northeastern USA, various food banks in America, etc.
This is not ‘corporate social responsibility’, it’s just our way of life.
TRR> Are there any new products coming soon?
TB> Yes, we are about to launch a value-added offering in the rices and wholegrains set. And there are more delicious offerings coming out in the year ahead – as always, we will combine rich good taste with innovation. So, watch those aisles!
TRR> When you make noodles for yourself, what do you like to add to them to make them extra special?
TB> Most times I just eat them as is, because they already have vegetables and spices. But sometimes, I will toss them in a wok with fresh tofu or bean sprouts, add a dash of hot sauce and garnish with fresh green scallions. My ‘quick gourmet’ meal!
TRR> Thank you very much for this opportunity to learn about Tasty Bite and your products!
There you go! Thanks to Meera, Lauren and Jerry over at Tasty Bite for making this happen! Looking forward to trying these products!