Sakshi Chabbra Mittal thought she was health-conscious. She ate well, worked out regularly and meditated everyday.
So it came as huge shock when during her first pregnancy she was diagnosed with a rare liver disease which can be linked to premature or stillbirths.
Told by doctors that there was no known cause for her ailment, the mother-of-two decided to she would try and find out the cause herself.
This journey of self-discovery led her to create FoodHak, a clinically approved, meal delivery service that sources the highest quality vegan ingredients to create delicious meal plans, packed with medicinal qualities.
“When I developed the rare liver breakdown called obstetric cholestasis, I found out it comes back with a vengeance in your second pregnancy and it’s much harder to control. That’s when I got into the clinical research of food,” Mittal tells Eastern Eye.
The 35-year-old has a Biotechnology degree from the University of Birmingham and an MBA from Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
“I’ve been an investor in biotechnology, in food sciences, life sciences for a long time so it was easy for me to dive into this and find clinical data on food.
“I realised that it was strong enough to reverse diseases, prevent diseases, maintain diseases, but the food we are surrounded by today is absolutely wrong, it’s pushing all of us only in one direction, which is that of chronic diseases. We don’t have our health in our own control,” says Mittal, who has worked for pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and SoftBank.
An estimated 90,000 deaths in the UK each year are attributed to poor diet – 11 million globally – with many diseases originating in the gut.
Having read the clinical research, Mittal decided she would change her diet to ensure she didn’t get obstetric cholestasis in her second pregnancy. Not only did she not get it, she also found her health transformed. She slept better, had more energy, and her family’s level of immunity went up with her toddler not catching any colds or infections for over a year.
With the success she personally experienced, the idea for FoodHak – which stands for Healthy Asian Kitchen – was born.
“I identified a few doctors who practice lifestyle medicine and who really believed food can be your medicine and started working with them on creating a line of food that was more health focused. Food that is low GI, anti-inflammatory, alkaline, free from gluten, dairy, refined sugar and all plant based.”
FoodHak combines clinical research data and technology to build recipes and a personalised nutrition tool for consumers wanting to change their diet.
UK-wide subscribers, who are growing by 25 per cent every week, receive a weekly box with premium, ready-to-eat meals for the week, clinically approved by nutritionists.
“These are meal plans which harness the power of medicine. There is a global health crisis and many deaths could be prevented with the right diet. This has been brought closer into focus by the pandemic where nations with obesity problems have been hit particularly hard.
“The food we are surrounded by is wrong and is pushing us towards developing chronic diseases. Given the choice between eating delicious, affordable, natural medicinal foods with no side effects versus popping multiple, expensive pills every day with numerous side effects –which one would you choose?”
While at the moment they do generic healthy meals, later this month, FoodHak will launch meal plans targeted at specific groups, such as a prenatal, postnatal plan and a weight loss plan. And further down the road, the goal is to create meals for specific individuals based on their age, gender, health goals and any illnesses they my have.
“We select only the highest-quality ingredients and source spices and aromatics renowned for their healing properties. Many of our ingredients are high in alkalinity, have anti-inflammatory properties, and promote healthy levels of biomarkers like cholesterol and blood glucose, therefore helping you live in an era of preventative medicine.
“I changed my diet, turned vegan and it changed my life and health. With FoodHak I want to inspire others to do the same, to feel healthier and hopefully extend their lives.”
Mittal is married to Shravin Mittal – son of Indian telecoms billionaire Sunil Mittal. But despite her family’s wealth, the self-confessed “workaholic”, puts in 13-hour days at FoodHak’s North Acton base, working with staff, including chefs and health practitioners, to develop the business
“I’m from a family of entrepreneurs on both sides, my husband’s family, and my family. I’ve seen my own father (a textile businessman) build something out of nothing. Same thing with my father in law. Even at this age, even after building a very successful business empire, he still works really hard.”
A talented entrepreneur in her own right, Mittal’s business secured a $5m (£3.8m) investment last month from a group of businesses, which included firstminute Capital, whose owner is Brent Hoberman, co-founder of lastminute.com and Made.com.
“I am delighted to bring on board a wide spectrum of investors who believe in the power of food science and want to help fuel this food revolution,” Mittal said. “It’s a great testimony to the product, too.”
The investment, Mittal hopes, will see FoodHak expand their reach to a global audience.
Post-COVID-19 forecasts suggest food and beverage online penetration is expected to grow from 3 per cent to 8 per cent by 2025. The meal kit delivery market is worth about $8 billion but growing and estimated to reach $20 billion within three years.
“We are mission driven company. We’re not just any other meal delivery company. We want to give you control of your own health in your own hands. I have cholesterol running in my family. I don’t have any issues today but I want to make sure that I don’t have any cholesterol related issues in the future. I want that control in my hands and we want the masses to have this control in their hands.
“We started out with a subscription model. In the future, we want to move into retail where people can buy meals online because the idea is for everybody to be able to access this kind of food.
“There’s seven billion mouths to feed and in the next five years, once we’ve done a good job in the UK, we want to expand internationally.
“We would love to go to the US, you know, that’s a great market. We want to go to Europe, to South Asia. The idea is to try and change the food we are all surrounded by.”