An Exclusive Interview With Borges India’s Managing Director Rajneesh Bhasin
With lifestyle diseases and conditions like obesity on the rise, there’s never been a greater need to eat healthy. Indeed, in India, health food brands are becoming more and more popular. A leading health food brand which focuses on Mediterranean products like nuts and olive oil in India is Borges India, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Borges International Group.
At present, Borges India is headed by Rajneesh Bhasin, who is its Managing Director.
Prior to joining Borges, Bhasin was the sales and business development head at Bharti Wal-mart PVT Limited and has worked with Dabur and Cadbury. Bhasin is also the President of the Indian Olive Association, the national apex association of olive and olive oil producers, growers, distributors, users and consumers.
Considering his expertise in the field, Bhasin is a perfect person to talk to about the burgeoning health market in India. Here’s what he has to say about India’s health scenario, tjhe advantages of the Mediterranean diet and the growth of the Borges brand:
What’s your take on the current health scenario in India?
The current fast paced life in urban cities coupled with higher stress levels, sedentary lifestyle and unhealthy dietary consumption is leading to increasing number of people suffering from diseases like heart strokes, diabetes, hyper-tension among many others.
Heart disease is currently the world’s leading causes of death, claiming 17.3 million lives each year. India has seen a rapid transition in its heart disease burden over the past couple of decades.
As per studies, diabetes and hypertension have been reported as the 2 major causes responsible for the increase in heart related cases in India and about 50.8 million Indians are reported to be diabetic which is reported to be highest number in the world.
The changing lifestyles and bad eating habits are two major reasons behind the declining heart health and the rise in the number of cases of diabetes amongst urban Indian.
So, it is time, we start leading a healthy life through healthier eating habits, regular physical activity and a balanced lifestyle.
Do you believe the attitude towards healthy eating is changing in India?
Yes, the growing health disorders have raised the eyebrows of most of Indians specially the ones based in urbanized zones which has been driving them to adopt a healthier lifestyle. So, there is an increased switch to more nutritious diet for a healthier way of living.
This is a steep rise in the demand for health & wellness food products and the market was expected to be worth INR 33,000 Crore in the year 2015 (as per Nielsen) with a projected growth of 6% YOY.
Today’s Indian consumer is not only on a look out for products that keep him disease- free but also seek for nutritional benefits which help him stay fit. This has led to many global players foraying into this segment and design products which not only meet the taste and flavors suitable to the Indian palette but also offer functional benefit like higher nutrient content. This is exactly why breakfast substitutes like oats, muesli and other healthier products like Green Tea, Olive oil are witnessing exponential growth.
We at Borges are also focused towards introducing such healthy products which meet the daily nutritional requirements of the consumer be it our range of Olive Oils, durum wheat or whole wheat Pastas, High MUFA seed oils –Borgefrit, Canola Oil. Recently, we also introduced our California range of nuts- walnuts, pistachios, almonds & are promoting the consumption of nuts as a part of daily diet.
Tell us a little about Borges growth in India.
Borges India was set up as a 100% Subsidiary in 2009 and commenced commercial operation in 2010. In the 6 years of business operations:
- Borges has crossed 10 Million Euros in Turnover, has footprints in over 58 Urban Conglomerates and has turned profitable
- Based on Consumer Insights it was the first company to commercialize an Extra Light Olive Oil for Indian Cooking and hence is now a 30% Market share across Modern Trade chains and the No. 1 Olive Oil Brand in India.
- Based on successful brand building initiatives over the years, Borges Extra Light was voted “Product of the Year” in the Olive Oil Category in an independent survey conducted by Nielsen (over 7000 consumers surveyed)
Borges India has been building its business in India by launching Mediterranean Food Products across relevant product categories and wants to be a leading player.
In the next 4 – 5 years the company plans to triple its turnover from 10 Mn Euros to about 30 Mn Euros. And the three pillars for our growth are:
- Heart Healthy Oils: Olive oil and Seed Oils which are High on MUFA
- Dry Pasta and Pasta Sauces from Italy
- Imported Nuts Range
The Heart Healthy Oils range has been expanded from Olive Oil to Seed oils like Canola and High MUFA Sunflower where we are already getting very good traction with our Canola Oil.
The Dry pasta Range has again been expanded from a Basic Range of Durham Wheat Pasta to a more premium range which is Whole Wheat Pasta and is much healthier.
We have launched a Range of California Nuts i.e California Walnuts, Pistachio and Almonds which are just hitting the shelves as we speak and should be a third pillar for growth for us as we move forward.
How has being the MD of Borges shaped your attitude towards the Mediterranean diet? What does the Mediterranean diet include?
Unlike popular belief about Mediterranean diet just being about pizza and pastas from Italy and sea food, Mediterranean diet consists mainly vegetables, fruits, olives, olive oil, other Mediterranean origin grains and sea food.
Mediterranean Diet Pyramid
As the pyramid depicts the Mediterranean diet promotes the consumption of vegetables, fruits, wheat grains in form of Pastas and nuts on a daily basis with only weekly consumption of fish, sea food and milk products. The diet also propagates the usage of good fats, like MUFA rich foods and oils like, Olive oil, on a daily basis and nuts which are rich in nutrients and fiber like Walnuts, which is rich in Omega-3 and is known to keep mind and heart healthy.
So, a diet rich in fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts & olive oil combined with a physical activity is known to reduce the risk of many lifestyle related diseases. Hence, I am very strong proponent of the Mediterranean diet and am sure that this category due to its health benefits will garner many followers.
Describe the benefits of using olive oil over other oils in cooking.
The benefits of Olive oil are plenty. Olive Oil is considered to have highest amount of MUFA (Best Fat) amongst all edible oils i.e. 75-80 g per 100 g. It is because of the presence of 75-80% best fat, that olive oil is known to be excellent for heart as higher the MUFA Content, the more it helps reduce the Bad cholesterol and furnishes good cholesterol.
Olive oil is also, rich in Vitamin E and K, loaded with Anti-Oxidants and poly phenols. While MUFA is known to reduce LDL & increase HDL, poly phenols reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome and heart disease.
They are also known to reduce the risk of cancer and prevent the cell damage, thus preventing degenerative diseases. It is because of its components like Vitamin E & K, that olive oil is also considered good for skin, eyes and hair.
How would you advise an individual to start taking baby steps towards healthy eating?
Healthy eating is a habit, that one inculcates over a period of time and the changes are visible with a continued adoption of it in the daily routine. The basics with which one can start are just replacing their daily food options with the healthier ones, where there is no compromise on either taste or the daily nutrient requirement of the body. This might be adopted by simply replacing your edible refined oils with healthier oils like olive oil which offer higher percentage of good fat and helps you cut down on bad cholesterol or if not that then, High MUFA Sunflower Oil, Canola Oil.
Replacing the snacks like fries, chips, namkeens etc. with a bowl of fresh fruits and vegetables, pasta & olives salads etc, also helps cut the additional calorie intake in between meals.
To sum up, healthy eating habits combined with some physical activity is the easiest roadway to a healthier lifestyle.