It is Time to Eat Your Spoon!

By Jhuma Biswas

Today, going green is not an option but should be perceived as a compulsion by individuals, societies and businesses. Our food service and food retail businesses too should proactively become extra sensitive towards environmental concerns, which not only includes adhering to stringent hygienic principles in preserving and preparing food, but also following or at least preferring environment-friendly options in consuming food. 

And one of the effective ways for food service businesses to become environment-friendly is through the use of edible cutlery. As the name suggests, edible cutlery is made of food materials and is meant to be eaten.

If the usage of edible cutlery becomes popular in India’s food service industry, it would curtail the usage of plastic spoons and plates and arrest their increasing usage to some extent. 

The Plastic Bane 

Despite its adverse environmental impact, plastic cutlery has gained popularity because of its convenience or the ease of use and disposal. After eating food, many a time, single use plastic cutlery are thrown in dustbin without care, and much of them are not recycled and they contribute to the further degradation of our fragile environment and harm marine lives, land animal lives and human lives while they are degrading.  

And moreover, plastic cutlery can directly harm the person eating with the help of it. According to Bakeys, a Hyderabad-based edible cutlery manufacturing company, “Plastic, a petroleum by-product, is harmful to human body because of the presence of several toxins and carcinogens. Its application as food consumption utensil enhances the chances of these chemicals to get into the human system.” Bakeys makes its edible cutlery with dough made f r o m a mixture of sorghum, rice and wheat flours, kneaded with hot water. The products are baked in moulds.

Moreover, as the Bakeys website rightly states, “Plastic is manufactured in a very unhygienic manner. Industrial lubrication is applied on the moulds to prevent them f r o m sticking to products.” These are generally wiped but not cleaned with proper wash.  Thus, people having food on plastic cutlery, would possibly be licking this industrial contamination!

Edible and Green 

But edible cutlery can not only address the environmental problem inherent in the use of plastic cutlery, but it can be more convenient to use and dispose than their plastic versions, which can easily offset this market advantage of plastic cutlery. You can eat with them and eat them too…And even if you do not want to eat them and dispose them in your stomach then also they can be decomposed within days, not decompose through span of centuries like plastic. 

Some outlets use wood cutlery, which is becoming fashionable too. But wood cutlery and bamboo chopsticks also directly contribute towards depletion of our forest cover, which eventually harms the environment and local livelihoods.

Even if disposable plastic cutlery and wood cutlery experience significantly reduced usage in the restaurants in the near future due to strong and persistent campaign by the environmental activists, then also we cannot overlook the fact that aluminium or steel cutlery (besides plastic cutlery they are most widely used) or reusable plastic cutlery or other forms of cutlery need to be thoroughly washed after having food, which leads to enormous usage of water for the food service industry. Such water usage is not environmentally sustainable in the long-run, in the backdrop of scarcity of water resources, especially when the choice of edible cutlery is there. 

We can see that edible cutlery is perhaps the most apt environmentally-friendly cutlery option available for the present day restaurant business. 

The use of edible cutlery can also lead to some enhancement of profits for the food service outlets, provided the price of the edible cutlery is added to the food cost for the guests. 

I don’t think the guests in a fine dining or a casual dining outlet would mind shelling Rs.20-25 extra per guest (an edible spoon can cost around Rs.2-3), for the innovation of edible cutlery but for a roadside outlet or dhaba in India adding the extra cost of the edible cutlery to the food price can be a challenge.

Innovative Players
Besides Bakeys Foods Pvt. Ltd., which was established in 2010, Hyderabad-based Eclery Foods LLP is another player engaged in commercial production of edible cutlery. The company’s website claimed to have a fully automated process for production, and being engaged in the production of edible table spoons, soup spoons and dessert spoons. 

Then there is Vadodara-based Trishula. The tableware manufactured by the company is a blend of multigrain flour, binding agents (i.e. salt and water), natural Indian spices and natural flavours. The website of Trishula claims its edible tableware is 100 percent natural with no added preservative, no added artificial flavour and no added sugar being among its many healthy attributes. The spoons f r o m Trishula, apart f r o m being edible, are also biodegradable in nature. 

Trishula currently produces eight major product variations of edible spoons. In these spoons one can find the delectable taste of Indian spices. These product variations are termed as Carom Touch (it comprises edible spoons made with carom seeds), Choco Delight (spoons with the Choco Crunch flavour is primarily introduced for kids, and for people who love everything chocolate), Masala Magic (here a unique mélange of aromatic roasted spices, fortified with iron, Vitamin A, and iodine is presented in the form of spoons), Mint Wave, Peppercorn, Root Power, Simply Salted, and Spinack Strength. 

Customisation of spoons f r o m Trishula is also available in terms of size/shape/taste of the spoon along with embossing of logo/brand name on the body of the spoon, if there is a prior intimation.

Besides them, there may be many other players engaged in the production of innovative edible cutlery in the country, bur all said and done, the market for edible cutlery is still at a very nascent stage in India. The exception of edible cutlery in India deserves a huge momentum for evolving itself into a perceptible trend. 

Factors to Consider 

However, it is always preferable to make the edible cutlery with those ingredients whose production doesn’t require much water. Otherwise the sustainable edge of edible cutlery would be diminished.  “Care for ground water led me to invent edible cutlery made f r o m sorghum (jowar). Our product range includes soup spoons, regular spoons, dessert spoons, forks and chopsticks; all made f r o m a mix of flours and baked in a state-of-the-art fully automatic production facility, located in Hyderabad,” expressed Narayana Peesapaty, Managing Director, Bakeys Foods Pvt. Ltd. 

Here it deserves a mention that edible cutlery can be savoury or sweet  but it is always preferable that the edible cutlery is tasty and nutritious. If edible cutlery is spruced with healthy ingredients, it can add value to the menu of a food service outlet in India, especially in these increasingly health conscious times. 

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