Chaat takes Indian street food to US dairy aisle

By Jim Cornall

- Last updated on GMT

The Chaat Co launched three yogurt snack products in January in the US.
The Chaat Co launched three yogurt snack products in January in the US.
The street food of India, called chaat, has inspired a newly-launched US brand of healthy dairy products aimed at afternoon snacks.

The Chaat Co produces three different flavors of savory yogurt - cucumber and mint, mango and chili, and tamarind and date – and was noted as a company to watch by Canadean at its Dairy Summit conference recently.

Anshu Dua, one of the co-founders of The Chaat Co, which is based in Manhattan, told DairyReporter that while the snacks on the streets of India might not be well known in the US, the ingredients are.

“Most Indian food here is curry, naans and rice, and Indian snacks haven't been exposed to the American snacker. But Americans are snacking more frequently, they are using snacks to replace meals, and they are more receptive to global flavors in their snacks,”​ Dua said.

Ingredients are familiar

He said that many of the key ingredients in chaat are highly popular ingredients in American snacking culture, however, lentils, chickpeas, and spices like turmeric.

In order to make a product for the US, The Chaat Co decided to focus on the yogurt category.

“It's a large category, it's grown over the last five or six years with the advent of Greek yogurt, folks like Chobani have helped fuel that,”​ Dua said.

“But most of the yogurt in the US is sweet, and it's primarily focused on breakfast.

“We thought we could extend this already popular yogurt category into later in the day snacking, to interesting flavor profiles and ingredients.”

No added sugar

He added that, in many parts of the world, such as in India and the Mediterranean, yogurt isn't eaten with added sugar.

“We decided to launch this line of savory yogurt snacks, and they launched in January this year.”

The products are already available in natural retailers such as Whole Foods, where it can be found in around 50 stores in the North East.

“Our focus for this year is built out our distribution on the East Coast, the Boston down to Washington, DC, area,”​ Dua said.

Consumers looking for a change

Dua said that consumers are looking for new flavors in the yogurt category, and they are looking to avoid sugar.

“Part of our job is to raise the visibility of the category away from vanilla, blueberry, strawberry, and into different flavor profiles without the added sugar and into different dayparts. We've been aggressive in doing that,”​ he said.

Short ingredient list

He noted that all of the products have high protein lentil toppings to mix into the yogurt.

“They have cumin and turmeric on top, so it really emulates the street snacking experience from India, but we put it in a format that the American snacker can understand,”​ Dua said.

“We wanted to have a very short ingredient label, for a small company like ours that's important. It goes with the trends, and we don't necessarily want to have to stand in front of customers and explain what's in it.

“We have very simple ingredients, and we have a blend of custom cultures that we've worked on, including the probiotics.”

Power of turmeric

Turmeric may not have been high on consumers’ ingredient agendas until recently, but it’s now a spice that’s in demand.

“Turmeric growing up was a staple in all our dishes at mealtimes,”​ Dua explained.

“Over the last half a decade or so it's really been brought to the forefront, a lot of research is going into the health benefits of turmeric. It adds a nice flavor to our products.”

Dua said the company is hoping to inhabit an intersection of flavor, the fact that it’s a different product, and the clean label attributes.

“What's going to attract people is the uniqueness, the flavor profile,”​ he said.

“And the fact that we're focused on very clean ingredient labels is going to close the sale.”

The company will present its story, ‘Savoury yogurt: dairy to be different,’ at the upcoming 10th​ Zenith Global Dairy Congress in London from June 27-29, as part of the entrepreneurship session. 

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