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How Edible Cutlery is Helping India Fight Plastic Waste

How Edible Cutlery is Helping India Fight Plastic Waste

Chew your way through edible cutlery and crockery to fight plastic waste

 While edible cutlery is still in its nascent stage in India, the global edible cutlery market is expected to reach $56.9 million by 2026 While edible cutlery is still in its nascent stage in India, the global edible cutlery market is expected to reach $56.9 million by 2026

Quick question: How many times have you licked your spoon clean after a particularly satisfying meal or have been tempted to lick your plate? Admit it, we have all been there, done that and would probably do it more often if it wasn’t considered bad etiquette. There is good news for all you ‘spoon-lickers’ out there: you don’t have to stop at licking your spoon clean, you can actually eat it. And the plate and bowls too. Also, straws, forks and chopsticks. Welcome to the world of edible cutlery and tableware that sounds right out of Grimm Brothers’ Hansel and Gretel. Except that while the witch’s house was made of candy and gingerbread, edible cutlery is actually healthy. Consider this: one spoon made of multigrain flour by Vadodara-based Trishula has 14 per cent dietary fibre, 10 gm protein, 2 per cent potassium, 7 per cent calcium and 33 per cent iron. It’s probably healthier than the dish you use it to eat. It’s also tasty as it comes in a range of flavours from peri peri to black pepper.

While edible cutlery is still in its nascent stage in India, the global edible cutlery market is expected to reach $56.9 million by 2026 from $24.8 million in 2018, registering a CAGR of 11.1 per cent from 2019 to 2026, as per a report by market research firm Allied Market Research.

Thooshan’s dinner plates are made of wheat bran and are microwave-friendly

“It’s a healthy and tasty alternative to single-use plastic,” says Shaila Gurudutt, an ex-IBMer who along with her colleague Lakshmi Bheemachar founded Bengaluru-based start-up Gajamukha Foods in 2017. After eight months of trial and error they launched their first edible tableware in 2018 under the brand name EdiblePRO. “I started by literally cooking in my kitchen. I experimented with various flours and settled on millets for their nutritional value,” says Gurudutt who is somewhere in her early 50s but likes to think of herself as a 17-year-old. Today they make 32 products in over a 100 variants in a semi-automatic factory. So you can have a plate tasting of spinach or beetroot or have a spicy soup bowl and spoon to add additional flavour to a bland chicken broth. “Our soup bowls can hold hot liquid for up to 40 minutes. However, most people will finish having their soup in around 20 minutes and by that time the bowl is suitably soaked to be eaten,” says Gurudutt in all seriousness.

. EdiblePRO’s little coffee mugs are perfect to drink coffee and bite into as a snack

Another popular product is the coffee mug. Drink your coffee and keep nibbling on the cup like a biscuit or mathri, she says. EdiblePRO, which is exporting to six countries, has a variety of plates, bowls, cutlery, etc., priced between Rs 2 and Rs 260 a piece depending upon the product and the variation. While it primarily caters to the B2B market and targets events, destination weddings, theme parties, etc., it is currently available for retail through quick delivery service blinkit. It will be available on six e-commerce platforms including Flipkart, Amazon and Ebay in the next few weeks.

Vadodara-based Trishula makes spoons in three sizes—soup, dessert and table spoon—and eight different flavours

For 56-year-old Vinayakumar Balakrishnan, Founder of Kochi-based Thooshan, it’s not so much about edible crockery as it is about making a biodegradable product to fight single-use plastic. India generates about 3.5 million tonnes of plastic annually and the per capita plastic waste generation has almost doubled over the last five years, according to the Ministry of Environment. “Our plates are made of wheat bran and are completely biodegradable. If you want you can eat it. It’s good for health because it contains a lot of fibre,” says Balakrishnan who was the CEO of an insurance firm in Mauritius before returning to India. Thooshan, that comes from thooshanila, which means banana leaf in Malayalam, started production last year in August and currently makes 6-inch and 10-inch plates of wheat bran and straws of rice flour at a fully-automatic factory in Kochi. It produces around a thousand plates a day. The plates are available on Amazon and on the company’s website. One box containing 40 wheat bran snack plates costs Rs 500 and one box of 10 dinner plates costs Rs 350. The plates are microwave-proof and have a shelf life of a year. Thooshan has recently launched small straws for tetrapacks as plastic straws are getting banned.

“India is a price-sensitive market. People are always comparing the price of edible cutlery to plastic spoons and saying our stuff is expensive. So while a plastic spoon costs 50 paise, ours costs Rs 3,” says 28-year-old Kruvil Patel, a B. Tech engineer from Udaipur who set up Trishula in Vadodara in 2018. Trishula, which is currently only making spoons and sporks in eight flavours and three sizes, exports to 32 countries with Germany and the US being the largest markets. Patel says they are setting up a new plant that will be ready by the end of the year and then they will introduce other products such as plates, bowls, etc. Trishula’s products are 100 per cent natural with no added preservatives or artificial flavours, made of multi-grain flour, salt and water. Trishula currently produces 100,000 spoons a day and production will increase to 500,000 spoons a day at the new facility. Once production increases it will start retailing in the Indian market as well.

Like any other food item, all edible cutlery/crockery needs to be kept in an air-tight container and on an average has a shelf life of a year. Whether or not you actually chew your way through a plate or simply dispose it off, with single-use plastic being banned by India from July 1, it is definitely worth replacing it with.