20/02/2019 – News / Food Processing / Innovation / Environment / Edible Cutlery / India
Forking tasty! Could ‘edible cutlery’ really cut it?
With 120 billion pieces of disposable plastic cutlery discarded annually in India alone, could edible cutlery play a role in solving the world’s monumental waste challenge?
Knowing the threat that plastic poses to our environment and health, groundwater researcher Narayana Peesapathy had the novel idea of creating nutritious and tasty ‘edible cutlery’ back in 2011. He thereafter established a business – Bakeys Food Pvt. Ltd – in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad to do just that.
The chief ingredient of the firm's edible cutlery is the ancient grain sorghum, in addition to a little rice flour, wheat flour and water. The highly nutritious innovation boasts a shelf life of three years – extraordinarily long, given that the cutlery contains no preservatives (nor chemicals, fats, emulsifiers, artificial colours, or dairy products). It’s also remarkably robust – so much so that you can even slurp down hot soup from one of Bakeys’ edible spoons.
A flavourful spoonful
The edible utensils come in an array of flavours to complement the dish they’re intended to accompany – sugar; ginger-cinnamon; ginger-garlic; celery, black pepper and cumin; mint-ginger, and carrot-beetroot varieties. And if you don’t fancy chowing down on any of those flavours, then just throw the cutlery away – it will decompose in a matter of days.
Millets like sorghum are renowned for their excellent nutritional profile; they’re also more water-efficient than many other cereals. Rice consumes a staggering 60 times more water than millets to cultivate – and Bakeys’ founder hopes he can motivate farmers to shift away from growing rice as his company expands.
In terms of competing with the incumbent, plastic is of course very cheap – nonetheless, the entrepreneur believes he'll be able to make sustainable, edible cutlery just as cost-effective in the long-run – with volume, and with the dedication of farmers to cultivate and supply the raw materials in quantity.
May the forks be with you
At present, Bakeys remains only a small operation, with perhaps just a dozen or so employees, yet the firm has already shifted over 1.5 million units of its edible cutlery. What started with spoons (including soup spoons and dessert spoons) is now expanding into forks, with even crockery on the cards in the future (plates, cups, bowls, etc.).
Unfortunately, the firm has thus far been unable to make knives. Yet, as the world gears up with further sustainability efforts, the potential market for even non-cutting cutlery of an environmentally-friendly design looks set to soar in the years ahead.