Eat your spoon!

An entrepreneur who had to eat hard rotis, hit upon an idea for edible cutlery

June 15, 2018 08:58 pm | Updated June 16, 2018 12:38 am IST

In 2005, while he was on a field visit to Mahabubnagar, a drought-prone district in Telangana, Narayana Peesapaty ordered a jowar roti (millet bread) for lunch. He arrived late at lunch, and the roti had become cold and hard.

“I had to break the roti and scoop the dal and curry with its pieces, crunching into them. That was the eureka moment for me. If a two-dimensional spatula can work, then why not a three-dimensional spoon? I felt that I would be able to hit two birds in one shot,” Mr. Peesapaty said.

The birds he was referring to are two major issues: the need to reduce the acreage used for water-intensive rice cultivation in India, and the global problem of plastic pollution, as well as its misuse. Though the material is not intrinsically bad, Mr. Peesapaty explained that plastics should not be used for handling food, since they contain chemicals with carcinogenic and neurotoxic properties that leach into what we eat.


Edible cutlery was his solution, and he founded a company called Bakeys to produce it.

Bakeys manufactures spoons made primarily from jowar, besides rice and wheat flour in three flavours — savoury, sweet and plain. Mr. Peesapaty said, “As an agricultural scientist, I want this world to be a better place to live.” His wife, Pragyna Keskar, says the spoons are safe to eat and “taste like crackers.” Even if they are not eaten, they are safe to dispose of into the environment, as they are biodegradable.

Poor people in India have traditionally eaten millets as a staple and rice on special occasions such as festivals. Rice thus became an aspirational food until the mid-1980s, after which a policy to subsidise energy to the agricultural sector was adopted by some States. Since then, rice cultivation has grown exponentially and millets have lost their important place on the table.

In 2016, the Indian government kept nearly 50 million tonnes of rice as buffer stock. “The rice is rotting in warehouses and nobody cares. Something is wrong,” Mr. Peesapaty said, adding that one solution to the impending crisis would be to reduce rice cultivation by 25% and encourage millet consumption.

He researched what was happening to used plastic spoons. Looking into garbage bins, he found plastic material and plastic bags but only broken spoons, which indicated that people were reusing them. “This strengthened my resolve to make edible cutlery and I began experimenting at home,” Mr. Peesapaty said. “The kitchen was my laboratory.”

Finding investors

He tried making cutlery using different combinations of flour. When he finally got it right, he had difficulty finding a mould maker. Then it was a struggle to find investors.

“Those were very bad days. Friends and relatives started avoiding me as I was asking them for money.” He sold some of his assets, including a house in Vadodara and a flat in Hyderabad. He used his savings. “We have seen the worst,” he recalled.

The couple raised more than ₹20 million ($ 300,000) on their own; it was not until 2014 that they got a bank loan. In the meantime, Pragya had taken up casual jobs to supplement their income. “I share his passion for making edible spoons. So does his mother,” she said.

In 2016, Bakeys raised ₹18.7 million by crowdfunding on Kickstarter and more than ₹2.4 million on Ketto, thanks to a social media film that went viral.

Bakeys now employs eleven people — eight at the factory on the outskirts of Hyderabad, besides an accountant, a web designer and a researcher. It produces 10,000 spoons a day using 500 kg of jowar flour and an equal quantity of rice flour and other ingredients. More than 120 countries are currently trying to place orders, but Bakeys is not accepting them.

“Our web site is meant to take orders but it has stopped as we can’t supply,” Ms. Keskar said, adding that the mismatch between demand and supply is huge. The company’s largest orders come from the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Dubai, Singapore, Taiwan and China.

The spoons cost ₹3 each (including the courier cost, it’s ₹4). Bakeys has sold 2.25 million spoons since September 2016. Mr. Peesapaty says he cannot sell more due to production constraints.

“We don’t want to do more. Now we want to sell machines [to make the cutlery] and teach them [buyers] to use them. Let them sell it under their own brand because we can’t do huge bulk production with just one machine,” Mr. Peesapaty said, adding that the machines will cost ₹1.4 million apiece. Profits from these sales will help pay for Bakeys to expand its product line from cutlery to utensils.

Bakeys’ patent has been pending since 2012. “I realised that the world had woken up to our products, but our prototype to mass produce edible spoons took two years to perfect,” said the entrepreneur. “Now we are ready.”

0 / 0
Sign in to unlock member-only benefits!
  • Access 10 free stories every month
  • Save stories to read later
  • Access to comment on every story
  • Sign-up/manage your newsletter subscriptions with a single click
  • Get notified by email for early access to discounts & offers on our products
Sign in


Comments have to be in English, and in full sentences. They cannot be abusive or personal. Please abide by our community guidelines for posting your comments.

We have migrated to a new commenting platform. If you are already a registered user of The Hindu and logged in, you may continue to engage with our articles. If you do not have an account please register and login to post comments. Users can access their older comments by logging into their accounts on Vuukle.