Founders Feature: Gourmend Foods

In this week's Founders Feature we're diving into Gourmend Foods, a company that creates specialty food products for those suffering from a common insensitivity to certain foods known as FODMAPs. Founder Ketan Vakil created Gourmend Foods to replace problematic FODMAP ingredients with low FODMAP alternatives that are made from 100% real food. Ketan has grown his company into the go-to eCommerce brand for low FODMAP alternatives.
Read Time: 6 minutes
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Gourmend Foods

"Gentle Ingredients. Gourmet Taste."

Website |  Instagram |  Facebook

Tell us a little bit about yourself and Gourmend Foods.

Most of my career has been spent in digital marketing, but coming from a multicultural family that loves to cook flavorful foods and now living in NYC among awesome restaurants, great food has been central to my life. I started Gourmend Foods for those suffering from a common but not yet widely recognized insensitivity to certain foods, known as FODMAPs. These FODMAPs are poorly absorbed in the small intestine, making them difficult to digest and are highly concentrated in many of the world’s most flavorful ingredients, including onions, garlic and many others.

We’re committed to creating products for those who have sacrificed taste because of digestive distress for too long. Our products replace these problematic ingredients with low FODMAP alternatives made from 100% real food. Our inaugural product line encompasses an organic Low FODMAP Garlic Scape Powder, an organic Low FODMAP Garlic Chive Powder and a shelf-stable Low FODMAP Organic Chicken Broth made with free-range chicken bones and vegetables like green leek and scallion tops that are savory while gentle on the stomach. Soon we’ll be launching a unique Green Onion Powder made from the tops of scallions. 

Gourmend Foods' Founder Ketan Vakil


What led you to start Gourmend Foods?

I’d been dealing with undiagnosed digestive issues since I was a teenager.  It took me a really long time to discover the low FODMAP diet. After seeing way too many doctors, trialing way too many medicines and undergoing too many unnecessary tests, I stumbled across some research on my own. It suggested that FODMAPs might be the reason for my digestive distress. Long story short, I basically had to push to have some special tests (that were not well known at the time) at a well-known hospital in NYC and they indicated that I needed to limit certain high FODMAP foods… and it proved true and helped almost immediately.

Given the limited amount of low FODMAP ingredients available to those who love to cook, it didn’t take long to realize there was an opportunity to share my creations with more people. But the complexities of creating a line of wholesome, shelf-stable, low FODMAP foods were also daunting.

It took me a couple years to finally decide that I couldn’t not try—and another two years after that to land on the right formulas, processing techniques, suppliers and manufacturing partners to help produce our specialty products. So, it’s been a labor of love since the beginning.

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Gourmend Foods:
Organic Chicken Broth


What have been some of the greatest challenges you have experienced as an entrepreneur, and what did you take away or learn from those experiences?

Finding partners that believed in the vision to create 100% from scratch products with base ingredients that are just not available on the open market was the most challenging. But, I’ve learned that awesome companies, manufacturers, farms, and many more are out there and with enough effort, even something pretty unique is ultimately achievable. So, persistence is very important and I’ve also learned that even though food is a complicated space, acts of kindness from people you email and call are more common than you might think. I’ve also learned it gets a little easier the more you’re “in it.” Having products on the market adds credibility and doors open more easily.

What kind of growth have you seen at Gourmend Foods? What do you think helped drive that growth?

We’re on target to double revenue year over year but we shall see! We’ve benefited from people taking on more home cooking during the pandemic and have also been able to source fresh product from some fantastic farms that otherwise might have been at capacity growing for and selling to restaurants. 


Do you have any techniques, tools, or words of wisdom on how you successfully engage your customers?

We’ve tried to be super transparent with our customers – how we are making our products, where ingredients are from, and why we do it. I feel this storytelling is a very important piece of the puzzle across social media, email and more.

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Gourmend Foods:
Garlic Chive Powder


Why Gourmend Foods? What sets you apart?

There are other low FODMAP brands, of course, but we are the only ones that are making truly all-natural products. Gourmend's products are responsibly sourced; prepared by exacting specifications; enhanced by slow-cooking techniques; and packaged and processed using sustainable methods that preserve flavor. We don’t believe in using artificial anything—flavorings, gums, corn starches, sugars, yeast extract, maltodextrin, excessive sodium or preservatives—to replace lost flavors. That would just be trading out one ingredient that makes us sick in the moment for a questionable preservative that’s not great for anyone’s health in the long run. I don’t want to feed those kinds of things to my family so it wouldn’t feel right to sell anything like that to our community.

Who or what has been your biggest influence in starting your company?

Mainly, our direction has been inspired by the low FODMAP community – people who sacrificed flavor in their diet, relied on products that are low FODMAP but filled with junk, or both! We want to give people more options and show that healthy, all-natural flavor is completely within reach. While we are not yet B-Corp certified, we are inspired by the many companies that are following similar practices to source our ingredients very responsibly, be as kind to the environment as we can and work with manufacturers that feel the same way.

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Gourmend Foods:
Garlic Scape Powder


What advice would you give to someone that is just starting their business?

Some industries are harder to get started in than others but if you have an idea, then figure out some way to test the market - either by making a small amount or even running some digital advertising for “pre sales” to prove there is interest even before you start production. That way you’ll get some feedback, proof that others care and learnings around what marketing messaging works best –giving you more confidence to forge ahead.


What does the future have in store for Gourmend Foods​? Is there anything you want us to know about?

We have lots of ideas for new products but are aiming to expand the line in a measured way – we’re planning to get some new unique seasonings out later this year and some new tasty broth flavors. And we’re always working on ways to educate people who struggle with food sensitivities, helping them understand if it might be the FODMAPs (or something else) that’s the culprit. I know what it’s like to live for years without an answer and want to help as many people avoid that as we can!


That's all for this week's edition of The New Yak Times! A huge thank you to Ketan and Gourmend Foods for sharing their recipe for success. Tune in next week and subscribe below!

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