14 Jan 2024 | New Delhi | ANN
Woodberry originated from extensive research focused on tackling vitamin D deficiency within a broader demographic through the fortification of mushrooms. The company aims to transform the integration of natural vitamin D supplements by harnessing the inherent benefits of mushrooms.
During a candid discussion with The Interview World, Dr. Priyangshu M Sharma, the Founder and CEO of Woodberry, sheds light on how his company is actively combating vitamin D deficiency using mushrooms. The following excerpts from his interview provide valuable insights into Woodberry’s approach and mission.
Q: What kind of unique products do you have?
A: We aim to address the widespread vitamin D deficiency in the Indian population, which currently affects nearly 80% of individuals. To naturally incorporate vitamin D into our diets, we explored various options. During our research, we identified mushrooms as a promising source of vitamin D within the vegan spectrum. It’s noteworthy to mention that other fruits and vegetables lack this essential nutrient.
For individuals facing a vitamin D deficiency, the typical options include taking supplements or exposing oneself to sunlight. To tackle this issue, we developed a patented method that significantly boosts the vitamin D content in mushrooms. Conventional mushrooms contain around 30 to 40 International Units (IU) of vitamin D. However, our enhanced mushrooms boast an impressive 2000 to 3000 IU of vitamin D per 100 grams.
To cater to diverse market needs, we offer mushrooms in various packaging sizes. For instance, a 200-gram packet of mushrooms provides an impressive 5000 IU of vitamin D, ensuring a convenient and effective dietary solution.
Q: What’s your innovation story and how are you democratizing it?
A: We’ve introduced a process patent for growing mushrooms, implementing a specific pulsing method. This technique ensures that by the time the mushrooms are ready for harvesting, the vitamin D content is significantly elevated.
Moreover, an interesting facet of mushrooms is their fat-soluble nature. This means that even in dried form, the concentration of vitamin D remains intact. Consequently, we produce dehydrated products and powders from these mushrooms.
Recognizing that many people don’t consume mushrooms as is, we aimed to integrate them into regular diets. Thus, we incorporate this vitamin D-enhanced powder into various food products like cookies, namkeens, and atta. These items are bio-fortified with vitamin D. For instance, our atta yields almost 120 IU of vitamin D with just two chapatis. Similarly, our natural cookies, devoid of chemicals and preservatives, offer 100 IU of vitamin D in just two servings.
To ensure sustainable practices, we establish partnerships with farmers. We provide them with our technology and engage in a buyback arrangement, enhancing their livelihoods. This is particularly crucial for small and marginal farmers, such as those in Assam, where we operate. Despite having numerous mushroom farmers, they often lack access to markets. Hence, we bridge this gap by offering technology and market linkage support, procuring the mushrooms from them.
Q: How many products do you have right now and how do you market them?
A: We currently offer around 19 different products, including mushrooms and various other food items. Our distribution channels are diverse. It comprises our website, collaborations with numerous organic food aggregators, and partnerships with retail stores in Delhi, NCR, Mumbai, Pune, and Assam. We’ve recently launched our products in these locations. The retail outlets actively sell our produce, forming the cornerstone of our marketing strategy. Additionally, we’ve established connections with individuals suffering from vitamin D deficiency, who directly purchase them from us.
Q: When did you start this venture and what’s your growth narrative?
A: Our journey began in 2018 when we initiated our research, fueled by funding from the Department of Biotech, Government of India. Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) provided seed funds for our project.
Over the course of nearly two years, we dedicated ourselves to developing our product. Extensive studies, including an animal model study, were conducted to confirm the effectiveness of the vitamin D we were promoting. These investigations aimed to ascertain whether the consumption of our product would indeed elevate vitamin D levels in the bloodstream.
Having completed all the necessary testing and research, we ventured into the commercial realm two years ago. Since then, we’ve continually expanded our product line and introduced new offerings. Our focus remains on mushrooms, which we source from local farmers, creating a mutually beneficial partnership. In terms of business growth, we have witnessed consistent monthly progress, with a month-on-month growth rate of approximately 10%. To provide a broader perspective on our trajectory, over the last 9 months, we experienced a remarkable threefold growth.