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Inspired by Viral Thailand Shop, Chennai Store Uses Banana Leaves to Package Veggies!

Inspired by Viral Thailand Shop, Chennai Store Uses Banana Leaves to Package Veggies!

Besides being visually appealing and lightweight, banana-leaf packaging is healthy for the produce as it helps to retain the moisture of food and increase its shelf life.

Ever walked into a store and pondered about the real value of the products, where they are coming from or if the packaging is safe for the environment?

If yes, then that’s the first step towards a secured future. If no, then you need to start now!

If you live in Chennai, here’s your chance to be a responsible consumer and contribute to the environment.

SunnyBee, a retail store/supermarket is setting some serious eco-friendly goals for its competitors and customers. It is also at the same time spreading the message that consumerism need not necessarily come at the cost of harmful elements.

24-year-old Sanjay Dasari, the founder of SunnyBee was disappointed to see the way fruits and vegetables were being handled in the country.

Instead of complaining about it, he decided to go a step further and founded his startup barely a month after graduating from Babson College in Boston, in 2016

In an exclusive interview with The Better India, Sanjay says,

“The idea was to build a social enterprise that would create long term impact, taking into consideration people’s consumption patterns. Thus, we focused on procuring organic food, eliminating plastic and minimising food wastage.”

Sanjay Dasari

The 3-year-old startup has 12 outlets across Chennai that sell household essentials including bakery items, organic produce, dairy products and so on.

Here are three things that it is doing right:

1) Getting Produce Directly From The Farmers

SunnyBee sells fresh produce

Following a business-to-business model, Sanjay and his team directly deal with 35,000 farmers across the country to maintain the real value of fruits and vegetables. To ensure that the quality is never compromised on, samples from farmers are regularly sent to local testing labs.

“In the age of organic produce, we have mapped our purchase and procure the vegetable or fruit depending on the region. For example, apples are purchased only from Kashmir and onions from Maharashtra,” says Sanjay.

Procuring food from the farmers has eliminated middle-men, and this has led to an increase in the income of farmers by 25-40%.

Since SunnyBee has a direct tie-up with the farmers, they also take customers on farm visits from time to time to explain the farming process and generate awareness.

“Awesome company with a mission to remove the middlemen and provide farmers their justified share of profit while providing customers organic and reliable veggies and fruits.During the farm visit we could interact directly with the farmers and understand their plight as well as their happiness of dealing with SunnyBee in lieu of commission agents,” reads a customer’s feedback on Facebook.

Narrating one of the memorable incidents, Sanjay says, “A 4-year-old was surprised to find that milk comes out of a cow and not a milk packet. For incidents like these, we deem it necessary to spread awareness as well.”

2) Plastic Out, Banana Leaf In

Banana leaves provide for an eco friendly packaging option

Considering that plastic takes up to 500 to 1000 years to decompose, Sanjay was against the idea of plastic packaging from the very beginning. There was a time when they stopped giving plastic bags to their customers, but due to negative feedback, the plastic bags had to be brought back.

When the plastic ban recently came into effect across Tamil Nadu, Sanjay jumped on the opportunity to get rid of plastic bags, and to an extent, even plastic packaging. Recently, the two of its stores switched plastic packaging to banana leaves.

Crediting the idea to his customers, Sanjay says, “Social media is a potent tool, and I realised this when our customers started tagging us in examples where a Thailand shop uses banana leaves. While it was a good idea, it was also awesome that it came from them, so the fear of rejection was automatically eliminated.”

Sanjay got in touch with the farmers who supply their produce to implement the idea.

The farmers use the leaves they discard post-production, and cut them in different sizes and strips that make packaging easy.

Besides being visually appealing and lightweight, banana-leaf packaging is healthy for the produce as it helps to retain the moisture of food and increase its shelf life.

It has been two weeks since this initiative was started and so far, it has received a mixed response. While some customers are happy, some still demand plastic bags.

Some people refuse to take a different route as they prefer convenience over anything. So now we are trying to improve the quality of packaging by customising the banana leaves as per the weight and size of the product, says Sanjay.

3) Reducing Food Wastage

Food wastage is down to 2-3% in SunnyBee outlets

Nearly 40% of all fresh food produced in India spoils before it reaches the customers, reported BBC. The food waste, in turn, is a loss for small-time farmers. It also means a high price for consumers.

To ensure that the same does not happen in SunnyBee, Sanjay and his team carefully calculate the amount of food required in all its outlets, “Our team of experts accurately foresee the demand. The key here is to tell the farmers how much to plant, instead of how much to harvest,” says Sanjay.

All this careful planning has certainly worked, and they have successfully reduced food wastage from 40% to a mere 2%. Sanjay states that, the team, although happy to bring down the wastage significantly, is not satisfied and will only celebrate when it becomes nil.

With SunnyBee doing its own bit for the environment, it is time we as consumers support such initiatives and implement such practices in our lives too!

Get in touch with Sunnybee here

(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)

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