Naveen Bachani, originally from Bhopal in India, is the founder of Bombay style street food company Vada Pow. Bachani graduated from the Shannon College of Hotel Management in 2005 and worked in Ireland and India before returning here in 2016 to set up his business.
“We are the only company in Ireland producing Indian street food and my niche products are very different to ‘stereotyped’ Indian curry products,” Bachani says. “Indian street food is gaining in popularity because it caters to people’s curiosity and allows them to explore new foods. All our products are produced in Ireland and our ingredients are all sourced from Irish suppliers.”
The Vada Pow line-up comprises chilled and frozen vegan and vegetarian products which Bachani describes as “tasty, convenient and authentic foods that can be eaten on their own, as a snack or part of a main meal.” The products are available in over 200 retail outlets and are also sold into the food service sector. There are currently five products in the range including a sweet potato burger and a Mumbai samosa. The products are soya and wheat free.
The company is selling into Lidl and SuperValu, distributing through Musgraves and BWG Foods and has customers in Northern Ireland.
“Vada Pow comes from the Indian name for burger and bun and my mission with the brand is to offer people food that is good for body and soul and comes with a punch of flavours and the knockout taste of India,” Bachani says. “Versatility, affordability and convenience are the main features of our products.”
Initially, Bachani was producing the products himself in a kitchen in Bray, but having worked closely with companies such as Unilever and Mondelez while employed by a food packaging company in India, his aim was to create a sizeable food business so outsourcing was always on the cards. As sales took off he began looking for a manufacturing partner and after a couple of false starts, linked up with Finnegan Farms in Navan, Co Meath.
“The tie up with Finnegans was a natural fit because potatoes are their core business and they were already selling added value potato potatoes to the retail market,” Bachani says. “This tie up secures year around availability of our main ingredient at a competitive price and production is now on an industrial scale. Ours is an ideal match: the perfect fusion of Irish spuds and Indian spices.”
Bachani says the move to outsourcing has been good for his business because it has reduced manufacturing costs, optimised production runs and lowered the cost of ingredients. “All of these reductions combined greatly increase our chances of commercial success,” he says.
Vada Pow is an Enterprise Ireland HPSU company meaning Bachani beat off stiff international competition to be one of 10 companies funded under his round of the programme. Investment in the business, which has been revenue generating from the beginning, is around €70,00 including €50,000 from Enterprise Ireland. Bachani is happy with the company's organic domestic growth for now, but ultimately has plans to export.
“The fact that our products have gone down very well with Irish consumers is reflected in the number of awards we’ve won including the Best Food and Drink Start-up of the Year 2019 and a silver award at Free From Foods Ireland 2019,” he says. “We were also successful in the Lidl Kickstart programme which means they will promote three of our products in February and into March and we also have two new frozen products coming for 2020, Croquette Tikka Masala and Mumbai Potato Pie.
“ Not all Irish food companies source their ingredients or have their production here so I’m very pleased to have achieved both. It costs more but despite this we have been able to get a good balance between price to the consumer and quality of the product.”