(October 8, 2023) When one converses with Sridevi Jasti, founder of the Hyderabad-based Vibrant Foods, which is about creating plant-based superfoods, her passion for food is evident and all-compassing. So when the entrepreneur confesses that as a college-going student, for the lack of time, she would cook organic eggs to be eaten in three days, over a week, one can only laugh at the incongruity of life.
Her inspiration stemmed from how particular her mom was – even about making tea the right way, that she picked up this trait that was going to establish her as a leading force in balancing nutrition without compromising on taste. For over 25 years, this Global Indian has traveled and lived in Canada, the United States, and Italy, exposing herself and learning about healthy local food. It was by sheer accident that she landed in Hyderabad, her karma bhoomi to stay for an extended period and eventually decided to live and set up Vibrant Living which not only propagated healthy eating and curated snacks with a blend of tradition and modern needs. From curry leaf pickles to millet-based snacks, nut and seed spreads, and gourmet groceries, the entrepreneur has revolutionised healthy eating and snacking.
A pioneer in promoting the idea that eating healthy can also mean eating delicious, the entrepreneur is all about natural living – eating vegetables that are in season, ensuring that the ingredients are fresh, and the proportions are right. After a decade of offering deliciously healthy and nutritionally balanced meal services from her cloud kitchen, last year, she started a restaurant in Hyderabad (with the same name) that takes forward the same philosophy.
A nod to her childhood
Due to her father’s job as an engineer, Sridevi and her sister grew up across small towns in Andhra Pradesh (Tirupati, Bapatla, and Vizag among others). The entrepreneur recalls, “My mother is a very good cook and my father always sourced local ingredients wherever he traveled to work in agency areas and cities too. We always had bushels filled with seasonal fruit. We even had a fruit ripening room in the back of our house. Those days it was always whole foods and there were few processed foods or eating out was rare unless you were travelling.”
For these reasons, Sridevi grew up being interested in food and studied nutrition. She studied at the University of Toronto, Canada for her post-graduation degree in community nutrition and that is where she understood different cultures how they eat, and how traditional foods form the bedrock of society.
She tells Global Indian, “Because Toronto is so multicultural, it opened my eyes and that was the first time, over thirty years ago now, I saw health food stores and I was so intrigued by the idea of a place that has healthy and organic food. I would frequent those places where they had books for sale and read up on what is the latest research on holistic nutrition. Having spent a lot of time at these stores, that’s where I educated myself and later I completely got interested in holistic nutrition.”
She accumulated her learnings for 25 years that the entrepreneur spent abroad and used them to create holistic nutrition at Vibrant Foods.
Making a splash
After giving birth to her son Millan, Sridevi started spending more time with her parents in Hyderabad and to expose him to the culture and language she grew up with. She also started noticing the fad diets and lifestyle trends that were not prevalent even a decade ago.
She states, “Even though I was qualified, it was truly my passion to help, I started to teach, and give talks and workshops which led to where I am today. So, it was not enough for people to just learn to cook, they also wanted food which literally pushed me to open a kitchen so that they could eat the food I speak about.” Twelve years ago, the organic movement was just picking up and Sridevi ended up scouting for vegetables. She then realised it would be easier if she became a source for all things organic and the building blocks of her brand Vibrant Living started there.
Initially, Sridevi faced challenges of various kinds – be it manpower and the initial hiccups as people were not familiar with the kind of food or cuisine she spoke about. She outlines her philosophy when the entrepreneur shares, “I want people to experience how it feels to eat deliciously clean food and not feel guilty and get all the benefits from the good food even when you eat out.”
Looking back, the healthy eating proponent is happy with all that she has done. “Back then, people didn’t talk about plant-based foods. I was skeptical about calling it vegan as even though it’s a hundred percent vegan, I thought people would think something strange that they wouldn’t even understand or give the food/services a chance and miss out. I would talk more about how it is delicious while it’s not only healthy and how it’s anti-aging, energising, and how it keeps your skin glowing.”
Integral to the nutritionist’s cuisine is the use of millet – which has been a part of Indian diets since time immemorial. She explored local millets in Telangana – jowar, ragi, and bajra and made recipes including jowar idlis, malted millet porridge, millet muesli, millet junnu, and more from them. These simple foods were what our grandparents consumed. She also hosted a 41-episode cooking show on Maa TV on recipes including millets.
From Asian black sesame seed crackers to pumpkin and sesame seed chikki and nuts, seeds, and lentil namkeen mix, the nutritionist provides traditional foods in a new format. Her spreads made from almonds, sesame, cocoa, and coconut palm jaggery lure youngsters to spread them on their toasts and crackers! From hyperlocal foods to traditional foods, everything about Sridevi is healthy and she works with 200 farmers ensuring that benefits are trickled across the value chain. The entrepreneur adds, “I’m so grateful to have access to passionate farmers who can grow clean food and protect the soil and the planet. It’s a big ecosystem that has formed over the years and we support each other.”
Cooking is a big part of her life and cooking for family, having dinner with them is her ideal mode of de-stressing along with curating recipes for Vibrant Living’s menu. Sridevi loves conducting workshops where she inspires people to eat clean to avert many health conditions. The entrepreneur notes, “I’ve seen my clients over the years getting transformed and reversing their diseases, losing weight, and getting fit. I feel proud when I go give talks and workshops in the schools and when the children, many years later, reach out and say they were inspired by my work.”
The entrepreneur is also actively involved with the Deliciously Healthy Foundation, which works on educating underprivileged groups to end all forms of malnutrition in Telangana. For now, Sridevi is focusing on her new shop and café that opened up at the Hyderabad International Airport and is happy to change perceptions of people – through her healthy and delicious food.