How Sairaj Dhond of Wakao is transforming the Indian mock meat industry

Wakao has been making headlines among the plant-based food communities. In the past 10 months, the brand has sold its products to over 10,000 D2C customers. 

Over the past few years, there’s been an explosion of interest in the ‘meatless meat’ phenomenon. The market reaction has been positive worldwide. For many, it is becoming a healthy style statement. In India, however, the foodies are still warming up to the concept. 

Sairaj dhond, founder, wakao foods
Sairaj Dhond, Founder, Wakao Foods

The indecisive mindset of the Indian market has not hindered lawyer-turned-entrepreneur Sairaj Dhond from setting up his Goa-based vegan brand, Wakao Foods, which packs antioxidant-rich jackfruit as its hero ingredient. The brand boasts mock meat bestsellers like Jack Burger Patty, Butter Jack, Teriyaki Jack, and BBQ Jack.

Jackfruit is the future of meat alternatives, says Dhond. 

“When I was a child, I couldn’t differentiate between jackfruit and chicken for the longest time. I would savour my grandmother’s prized recipe of chickanchi bhaaji (chicken gravy), without realising that the gravy contained pieces of the jackfruit. The jackfruit is the king of underappreciated fruits, and it is not uncommon to find its blends in a myriad of food items including flour, juices, chocolates, coffees, and so on. Indians have been smitten by the giant fruit for decades now, but it is only in the recent past that it has caught the world’s attention, albeit as a vegan alternative to meat,” says Dhond.

Barely a year old, Wakao has been making headlines among the plant-based food communities. In the past 10 months, the brand has sold its products to over 10,000 D2C customers. 

“We have been on Amazon for just one month now, and we have already sold in 24 states in India through the channel. We also sell a lot through our website and other market places. We have an offline presence in Goa and distributors in cities like Chennai, Mumbai, and Pune,” he says.

Wakao is available across India through various D2C online channels and market places. 

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Focus on HoReCa

Wakao is focusing on the B2B market: Hotels, restaurants, and cafes. The brand’s recent collaboration with Hilton for ‘THE WAKAO FEST’ received a good response. 

“The HoReCa segment isreally huge. Currently, we are supplying pan India to a lot of chains, hotels, and restaurants from Goa but we want to centralize it and have more teams across the country. On the D2C front, we are looking at pushing strongly with our online presence and having a wider reach to a wider audience and getting more people to try our product. We are also thinking on the line of QSR service, which we probably may launch sometime later but it’s something that’s there in our expansion plan,” he says.

Jackfruit-based wakao products are available across india through various d2c online channels.
Jackfruit-based Wakao products are available across India through various D2C online channels.

Wakao has already exported to Dubai, Norway, and The Netherlands. Soon, the brand will be focusing on the U.S, Canada, and Mexico. 

“We are also in the process of closing a deal with another 10 countries for export,” says Dhond, who recently won funding in business reality television series, Shark Tank.

The brand will also expand to tier 2 and tier 3 cities in India. Wakao products have no preservatives with a shelf life of 1 year and require no refrigeration. 

“At Wakao, we are passionate about healthy, sustainable food. Our goal is to bring ethically sourced, sustainably grown food to our customer’s dinner table and explore alternative foods in our search for wholesome products that are good for our customers’ health and also great for our planet. We support cruelty-free food and a vegan way of life,” says Dhond.

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