Couple quits jobs to start sugar-free sweets business; clocks Rs 4.4 crore annual revenues

In 2020, Aarti Laxman and Sumit Rastogi launched Artinci, which offers gluten-free, keto-friendly, and sugar-free desserts across the world. The food startup sources all its ingredients locally and has tripled its capacity in four years

Riya Singh
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Aarti Laxman Rastogi and Sumit Rastogi set up Artinci in 2020

Aarti Laxman Rastogi and Sumit Rastogi set up Artinci in 2020

Coming from families with a history of diabetes, Aarti Laxman Rastogi and Sumit Rastogi found themselves yearning for sweets that wouldn't send their blood sugar levels soaring. Frustrated with the sugar-laden options on store shelves, they decided to make their own diabetic-friendly desserts.

Aarti, an HR professional with an avid interest in food, began to experiment with sugar-free desserts. In 2012, she bought a countertop ice cream machine and started creating desserts with the already available recipes. By 2015, Aarti started developing her own recipes without using sugar and her passion found a natural extension in cakes and cookies.

Sugar-free business

In 2019, with a strong repertoire of tried and tested recipes, Sumit and Aaarti decided to quit their jobs. While Sumit had previously worked with The Nielsen Company, Synovate and others, Aarti was associated with Accenture and Citigroup Global Services. 

The Bengaluru-based couple started Artinci in January 2020 with their savings of Rs 25 lakh. 

“Our aim was to create desserts free of sugar, artificial sweeteners, preservatives, chemicals and refined flour notorious for blood sugar spikes,” says Sumit.

Through research and development, Sumit and Aarti formulated an in-house proprietary sweetener blend, which tastes almost like sugar. This low glycemic index (GI) ingredient, made from plant-based stevia, ensured sweetness without the dreaded sugar rush. 

“We have already applied to patent the sweetener blend, which has been tested at the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI), Mysuru,” Sumit points out.

“The products are derived from my research over the years, and are gluten-free, keto-friendly and zero sugar,” Aarti says.

Also Read: Chemical engineer’s healthy food startup finds global buyers, empowers rural women

They began by putting Artinci's sugar free products in 20 retail outlets in Bengaluru and now sell across India. Apart from retail stores and the company website, Artinci products are also available on Amazon, Flipkart and other marketplaces.

Vocal for Local

The duo sources raw materials locally instead of importing ingredients which not only increases costs for customers but also hurts local suppliers. Sweet stevia, a natural sweetener derived from a plant, is procured directly from farmers. Foxtail millet, a superfood lauded for its diabetic-friendly properties, is another key ingredient. 

range of products
Artinci offers a wide range of sugar-free desserts. Pic: Artinci

“All our raw materials are sourced from Indian suppliers. As much as possible, we ensure that the ingredients we use are also grown in India,” says Sumit.

“All our chocolate desserts are made with only Indian cocoa. Why look at quinoa or Belgian chocolate when we have such great ingredients growing right here in India,” Aarti adds.

Aarti and Sumit have replaced sugar, refined flour, hydrogenated fats, and palm oil with healthier ingredients like almond flour, 99 percent dark chocolate, foxtail millet, and various seeds and nuts. This approach resulted in desserts that were not only low-carb but also high in protein and fibre.

Also Read: 7 millet entrepreneurs changing India’s food habits profitably

Rigorous testing

To ensure their creations were diabetic-friendly, the couple sported continuous glucose monitors while taste-testing, meticulously verifying that their desserts caused no blood sugar spikes. 

“We have tested all our desserts on ourselves while wearing glucose monitors,” says Sumit.

“We are proud that they are truly diabetic-friendly and cause no unhealthy sugar spikes while giving goodness and nutrition,” says Aarti. Artinci’s product portfolio includes Indian sweets like Kaju Katli, Motichoor Laddu, Kala Gulab Jamun, Moong Dal Halwa, and many types of cakes, cookies, and ice creams. Their products are priced between Rs 200 and Rs 650.

Artinci’s road to success, however, wasn’t without ups and downs. They received some negative reviews as well, which initially seemed a source of discouragement, but were eventually seen as an opportunity to refine their product. “We used customer feedback, to tweak our offerings,” says Sumit. 

Reflecting on the challenges faced by the company, Sumit said, “Each time we have faced a challenge, we looked upon it as an opportunity to become better. The past year, our main challenge was to learn the right ropes to building a sustainable and long-term business.”

Also Read: How this entrepreneur’s all-women factory in Ooty produces 5,000 kg of chocolates every month

Growing the business

Launched amid the first wave of COVID-19, Artinci was one of the few dessert businesses that stayed open. This gave them an edge as the majority of its current customer base in Bengaluru came on board during the lockdown.

“We suspended the operations just for two days to arrange permissions from the local police station for movement. Our supply chain was broken, but we were lucky that we had six weeks' worth of raw material inventory. We personally delivered our products to the outlets to ensure continuity of operations. We also used that time to enhance our product range. Our entire cake and cookies portfolio developed during the lockdown,” Sumit says.

shark tank
Sumit Rastogi and Aarti Laxman Rastogi at Shark Tank India. Pic: Artinci

The Bengaluru-based startup enjoys a strong demand from metro cities like Delhi NCR, Mumbai, and Bengaluru. 

It has also been shipping its products internationally to London, Dubai, and Singapore and is setting up a global website to make the experience smoother.

Artinci's journey has been remarkable, with their revenue soaring from an initial Rs 30 lakh to a staggering Rs 4.4 crore in FY22-23. “We spent FY23-24 consolidating our costs and carving a path to profitability, so the revenue has mostly stayed flat,” says Sumit.

The food startup appeared on Shark Tank India Season 3, a business reality television series, which catapulted Artinci into the national spotlight. Orders surged by a whopping 700 percent in just 24 hours. “We even received inquiries from diabetics living abroad in the UK and Australia, about how we could ship to them,” says Sumit, adding that Artinci has tripled its production capacity in three years.

However, the greatest reward was the overwhelming support from their loved ones. Looking ahead, Artinci aspires to become a household name for India's 100 million diabetics. “We want to reach every pin code of India with our products and inspire trust and confidence in every consumer who orders from us. More importantly, we want to put the joy and happiness of eating a well-made dessert, back into every diabetic’s life,” says Sumit.

(Riya Singh is a Ranchi-based journalist who writes on environment, farming, sustainability, startups, & women empowerment)

Also See: How this CA set up Rs 50 lakh food business with Rs 1 lakh investment

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