Specialty Food Magazine

Spring 2020

Specialty Food Magazine is the leading publication for retailers, manufacturers and foodservice professionals in the specialty food trade. It provides news, trends and business-building insights that help readers keep their businesses competitive.

Issue link: https://www.e-digitaleditions.com/i/1220124

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Page 52 of 75

HIGHLIGHTS 2007 Dinesh Tadepalli leaves Southern India to get a master's degree in electrical engineering at USC. ● 2008 Starts working in Silicon Valley as a hardware engineer. ● 2015 Gets the idea to make edible spoons after the birth of his son, trying to think of a way to help the planet's future by eliminating plastic. ● 2018 Daughter born, giving Tadepalli six weeks of paternity leave to travel to India and Malaysia with the goal of figuring out how to start a business that would reduce plastic waste; meets his manufacturing partner Kruvil Patel in Gujarat, India, who is already in the process of designing a machine to make edible cutlery. Tadepalli joins his efforts and together, they build the manufacturing facility. ● 2019 Edible spoons start being manufactured in India; first order of 150,000 spoons is placed by a Canadian caterer. ● 2020 Planeteer wins Front Burner Foodservice Pitch Competition at the Winter Fancy Food Show. ● The company, called Planeteer, started manufacturing 1,000 edible spoons a day in India in February 2019. The initial ingredients were wheat, oat, corn, chickpea, and barley with a one- year storage life at room temperature. There are no preservatives. They are vegan and protein-rich (but not gluten-free) and will naturally compost within days. The crunchy spoons will stay firm for up to 25 minutes in a hot soup and 50 minutes in a cold dessert and exhibit little flavor unless bitten into, so they won't overwhelm whatever you're eating. Current flavors include chocolate, plain, pepper, Indian masala, and vanilla. Planeteer's first major order was from a Canadian company that catered to schools. It was for 150,000, so they had to scale up rapidly. Soon, ice cream shops across the U.S. started ordering them. How to package the product proved to be an obstacle. Sealing the spoons in plastic would defeat the purpose, so they figured out paper pouches and recyclable cardboard boxes for bulk sales. In case a spoon breaks during shipping, all orders contain an extra 10 percent. The biggest problem for his customers, he acknowledges, is the financial cost. Edible spoons are about 20 cents each whereas it's only three cents for a plastic one. "I don't deny that it's expensive," he says. "I agree it's high compared to plastic. It's a hurdle I'm trying to fix. I tell people to see if the customer is willing to pay ten or 20 cents more and they have found that people feel happy to contribute." By 2021, Tadepalli expects to be able to expand his factory facility in order to make half a million spoons a day, reducing the cost by 40 percent. Spoons at 12 to 14 cents each should make it more palatable to business owners and consumers. His goal is to manufacture and sell at least five million spoons by mid-year 2021, expecting that more school and university caterers will sign on as well as the airline and cruise ship industry. "I thank my kids for making me realize that we are doing it for the greater good," Tadepalli says. "I never felt bad for selling my home. We are happy that 350,000 less spoons are in the ocean. I'm more happy than when I was in my home." Another item he wants to tackle are edible coffee stirrers. "You use it for one or two seconds and throw it away," he says of the plastic waste. He also intends to make edible ice cream sticks to replace wooden ones. Tadepalli has found that about 60 percent of customers eat only half of the spoon and throw the rest away. It doesn't bother him. "If you eat it all, it's zero waste, and if not it ends up in the compost bin," he says. Just months into manufacturing, he applied to compete in the Front Burner Foodservice Pitch Competition at the Winter Fancy Food Show and was delighted to be selected since it would make the product more visible than if he'd just been trying to attract attention from a booth. "I didn't feel nervous," he says of making the presentation to judges and the audience. "My passion supersedes everything. I was not expecting to win. The best feedback I got was from a TV crew that wanted an interview. The anchor had been covering the slam since it started and told me this is the only pitch or product that had so much love from the audience. More than getting the award, this made me happy that it touched their hearts and resonated." Julie Besonen writes for The New York Times and is a restaurant columnist for nycgo.com. PHOTOS: MAX MILLA 50 SPECIALTY FOOD SPECIALTYFOOD.COM PRODUCER PROFILE

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