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Edible cutlery : Use it and eat it

Posted by
on October 29, 2019 at 05:03 PM

Historically speaking, India has been a land of creations! We have gifted the world with many key inventions like the decimal, zero, concept of atom, yoga, game of chess, so on and so forth. Adding to this list of inventions by our countrymen, is Narayana Peespati’s edible cutlery! It may not be as pivotal but it definitely is the initiation of a trend we urgently need to follow. One might question, what is the real big deal with edible cutlery? The market is flooded with cutlery made of various materials like metal, plastic, wood etc. Most commonly used of all this is plastic cutlery. Convenient to use and cheap, it is a preferred choice specially when travelling. Even take-away and delivery at restaurants is done in plastic cutlery. All this adds to the plastic waste generated by us, which we already know is a global menace to the environment. Additionally, plastic is also very harmful to human health. Stirred by the health hazard caused by plastic, drove Narayan Peesapati to find a solution as simple as edible cutlery.

© Courtesy of internet sources

Started in the year 2010, The company, Bakey’s Foods Private Limited was established in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, with the intention of finding an alternative to disposable plastic/wood cutlery and bamboo chopsticks. Founder of the company, Narayana Peesapati, was initially a researcher at the International Crop Research Institute for Semi - Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Hyderabad.   

“Whenever I travelled, I used to feel terribly guilty about using plastic cutlery because it created so much plastic waste. Why couldn’t we create an alternative?” wondered Narayana Peesapati. Not only does it have adverse effects on the environment but human body as well! Plastic is made up of chemicals and carcinogenic toxins. When used for eating, these can enter our body no matter how clean and well you wash them. Mr Narayana, has closely studied the process of manufacturing plastic cutlery and has concluded that the procedure of manufacturing itself makes it unfit for use with food. 

 “The irony is that there are very stringent food safety norms in India. But there are no norms when it comes to manufacturing the utensils in which we consume food,” he says. In our country, hygiene has always suffered in the name of cost cutting. In the factories he visited, he observed that the end product that is removed from moulds, is just cleaned with plain cloth, exposing the users to the risk of micro plastic consumption. “Even after scraping the extra plastic, there are chances that some micro-granules of plastic get dislodged and can enter the body with our food if a spoon is not washed,” he says. He also noticed the number of plastic spoons getting bought was very high compared to the amount disposed. This could only mean reuse which in turn means, bacterial consumption as well. His fears made him work hard to achieve his goals and today he is the founder and managing director of Bakey’s Food Private Limited, the company that has managed to replace plastic cutlery with edible cutlery.

The idea of edible cutlery struck him when he was travelling from Ahmedabad to Hyderabad in flight when he saw a fellow passenger using a piece of khakra as a spoon to eat dessert. So how does he make these edible spoons? He makes it out of a mix of jowar (sorghum), rice and wheat flour and bakes it at high temperature. The result is a complete natural and vegan cutlery, as sturdy as that done in plastic. No chemicals, preservatives, fat, plasticizes, emulsifiers, artificial colour or milk products are added. The spoons and chopsticks soften when soaked in water for a good fifteen minutes. But nothing happens when placed in water and food. After completing the meal, these spoons can be made soggy and eaten easily. Even if one doesn’t wish to eat it and throws it away, no pollution will be caused as these products are 100 percent biodegradable. Alternately, they can also be made gluten free and with many other grains that are easily available in other countries. The spoons are available in three flavours – plain, sweet and savoury. They are not reusable so the users can be assured of the hygiene of the product.

The 48-year-old entrepreneur, has a good reason for choosing jowar as a key ingredient. In his experience at ICRISAT, he did research on groundwater management. His studies regarding depletion of groundwater led him to conclude that producing less rice and more dryland crops like jowar would help stabilize the levels of groundwater. “Farmers, who are the largest lifters of groundwater, have started moving to cultivation of rice, almost immediately after striking water. Each year, 200,000 Ha of additional area is getting under this crop and almost always, this crop is coming up at the cost of dry land crops, especially millets. Rice is a water guzzler. It needs about 60 times more water compared to millets. So, every acre of millets replaced by rice causes intense extraction of groundwater 60 times more!” This scary statistic inspired him to create a huge market for this crop. So his edible cutlery, achieves two targets with one solution.

Reportedly, this project has cost Narayana around 60 lakh rupees to develop the prototype machines and moulds. He even had to sell two of his homes to raise funds. “Being a new concept, working on the idea was a challenge initially, as there was no established technology. Everything had to be developed with learning and research.”, says Narayana. In spite of these difficulties, he considers creating awareness about the ill effects of plastic as the biggest challenge.  He calls the use of plastic ‘behavioural issue’. People are so used to plastic products that it will be a difficult task to get people to switch to edible cutlery.

They are selling their products online and can be delivered directly to the doorstep. Bakey’s edible cutlery has gained a lot of popularity overseas and gained a good international market. They receive orders from the US as well as UK. Other than selling the cutlery directly from their website, Bakey’s also set up stalls at various platforms like organic bazaars and exhibitions. Currently, the company is at par and hasn’t really begun making profits. Once he starts making profit, his plan is to develop an automatic machine for manufacturing the cutlery. His manufacturing unit is in Hyderabad provides employment to women by being an all-women enterprise.

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