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Healthy carbonated drinks, shaping the future of beverage culture of India

Nitish Kapoor | New Delhi |

Health risks associated with carbonated drinks have increased at a massive rate. Multiple debates have arised to replace one’s regular carbonated drinks with healthy alternatives. Third Culture founder Radhikka Kapur explains how healthy carbonated drinks can be a new and comprehensive approach for the beverage industry.

Q – What was the idea behind Third Culture’s genesis?
During my time in Seattle, I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, despite leading a healthy lifestyle, consuming “healthy” products and no family history. At that time I realized the impact of the “preservatives, artificial ingredients & sweeteners” were having on my health. Consuming these products put me on a fast track to a lifetime of lifestyle associated diseases like diabetes, hypertension and cancer and then passing it on to my kids.

And being a person of minority in Seattle, USA, passion for diversity and inclusion was a very strong motivator for me to bring the concept of Third Culture together on the principles of health, diversity and sustainability.
The genesis of Third Culture is embedded in celebrating simple, delicious beverages, made from the best of local and wholesome ingredients, minimally processed focusing on the flavor and nutrition with no artificial ingredients and preservatives at all. Enjoying beverages as they are enjoyed in their authentic form around the world and celebrating diversity. Third Culture opened doors to its flagship location in Bellevue in 2017 and focused on providing a home away from home, connecting with people emotionally through cultural beverages whether it was an authentic Vietnamese Coffee, a New Orleans Coffee, American Milkshake or an Indian filter coffee. Creating a place for all people , of all gender and nationalities.

Q – How has the trajectory of Third Culture been so far? Are you satisfied with it?
A couple of years of intensive research went into creating the concept of Third Culture before the doors to its flagship location was opened in 2017. The journey ever since then has been full of high and lows. We still remember the nervousness of opening doors to the American audience offering a globally diverse menu with smaller sizes and lower sugar than the normal everyday coffee shop. However, the love, acknowledgement, and support that we have seen from the very same audience when they tasted our beverages and connected with our story has been gratifying and extremely rewarding. Most recently, the lows were a direct result of Covid 2019. At these times, we came together, stronger than before to work out the best strategy and navigate our way out of it. So much so that in 2020, we opened another franchise in Seattle and started work on launching the Ready to drink offering in India, which will be launching in Jan 2021.

Q – What is the USP of Third Culture? What makes it different from the other brands?
What really sets us apart is our philosophy on food and beverages. We are a clean label company: we use locally sourced, high quality everyday superfoods like coffee, ginger , turmeric etc and brew beverages that are first and foremost delicious and are actually good for us. We believe in letting the flavors of all the ingredients shine through and not overloading the drinks with excessive sugar. Each of our beverages take anywhere from 16 hours to 3-4 days to truly develop flavor. With absolutely no preservatives, artificial colors or additives, we take pride in crafting delicious beverages that are expertly balanced to let the primary ingredient shine through.
What sets us apart from other beverages in the market is first and foremost our taste and secondly our focus on providing goodness, in a simple , uncomplicated way . We are bringing the best of the international beverage market to India, catered to the Indian palate and needs.

Q – In wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, do you think consumers are more open to drinks based on natural ingredients instead of artificial or chemically-enhanced drinks?
Absolutely, the corona pandemic has really accelerated the move towards health. Earlier it might have taken years, whereas now, people are really focusing on their health and paying attention to what they are consuming. India, as a country, anyways has the advantage where the younger generation while aware of the global trends is appreciative of their own culture and the value that it adds. The west has always acknowledged the power of ancient cultures and that is obvious with the success of cultural beverages like Kombucha and Golden Latte abroad. With Corona, we are now seeing the emergence of these products in a convenient / ready to drink format in Indian grocery and e-commerce shelves. Third Culture is proud to be serving Haldi doodh in Seattle ever since inception and is excited to bring drinks like Sparkling Ginger and Sparkling Haldi to a market that is receptive and on the lookout for these products.

Q – How did you think of expanding into the Indian market? What attracted you to ‘come home’ with your business?
Whilst I am a Third Culture kid (a person for whom home is defined by people, rather than geographies) having lived across India, Australia & US, India has an incredibly special connection which is difficult to explain. The opportunity to bring to India the best of what we have learnt through the years across the world, meant a lot. To be able to bring an offering that provides a delicious healthy option for the Indian consumers and the market opportunity associated with it was compelling enough to justify an entry into the Indian market.

Q – How is the Indian consumer different from the global consumer?
The Indian consumer’s taste preferences are changing in line with global trends. We can already see a number of foreign brands are selling beverages in India quite successfully.

Q- Do you believe it will be easy to create a space for Third Culture in India, with so many beverage brands already doing business here?
Creating a space in people’s heart and minds is always challenging as a new brand, however this is where storytelling and brand come into play. The beverage market is only now seeing new interesting entrants come through, there is definitely room for innovative challenger brands to come into the market, with unique offerings that are missing into the market.

Q – What are the challenges facing the FMCG sector globally as well as in India today? How do you plan to overcome those challenges?
There are challenges in every market, they are just more specific to the geographies. Having exposure across both US and India, we see a lot of synergies but also varied challenges. Coming from a tech background, the digital transformation of the traditional distribution space is FMCG is a challenging area where we hope to see more innovation come through for greater efficiency. There are opportunities to explore within the direct-to-consumer space as well as subscription services which is just now getting started in the country. It’s heartening to see that there are a number of companies and startups which are venturing into this space to address these problems.

Q – Are you satisfied with the way women entrepreneurs are driving business growth globally as well as in India? What more needs to be done to see more women in the driving seat in business?
Women Entrepreneurs face a lot of challenges around the globe. In 2020 female led startups only raised 2.3% of total funding raised in the year, a drop from 2019 @ 2.9%. Whilst we see a lot of funds being announced towards startups, it’s worth considering the path which is not really connecting with female founders in order to kick start their journeys. The ones where we see the success are either extreme examples of grit and determination against all odds. While the intent might be there, the execution really needs to be scrutinized and invested in, by governments, by private entities.