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Meet The Man Bringing Jackfruit Back to Indian Kitchens in New Avatars

Aman Chhabra founded 'Kathalfy' to reintroduce jackfruit into urban diets, creating a range of ready-to-eat products due to its health benefits and to reduce waste.

Meet The Man Bringing Jackfruit Back to Indian Kitchens in New Avatars

This article has been sponsored by Kathalfy.

Growing up in Ramgarh, Jharkhand, Aman Chhabra remembers his mother preparing delicious dishes with jackfruit, a readily available vegetable. However, now at 33 and residing in Mumbai, he noticed the absence of jackfruit in both households and restaurant menus.

“Jackfruit is not a popular vegetable choice for urban residents because it is hard to find. And even when available, cleaning and cooking it is a time-consuming task. So gradually, jackfruit lost its place in our daily diet that is now largely dominated by lab-grown food products,” he explains.

To make jackfruit future-ready, Aman decided to simplify the accessibility to kathal. To achieve this, he launched a startup ‘Kathalfy’, which currently offers 13 varieties of ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook jackfruit items — from jackfruit makhani, jackfruit tikka masala, jackfruit Malabar curry, jackfruit Lucknowi keema to products like seed flour, pickles, pancake mix, vacuum fried chips and even chocolates!

Kathalfy offers 13 varieties of ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook jackfruit items.
Kathalfy offers 13 varieties of ready-to-eat and ready-to-cook jackfruit items.

Not just your regular vegetable

After completing his graduation from Shri Ram College of Commerce, Delhi University, Aman moved to Mumbai to pursue a career in the events and entertainment industry. “In 2013, I started an event management company and it was performing well until the COVID-19 pandemic hit,” he says.

For the initial couple of months, Aman enjoyed cooking as a hobby and spent his days watching a new web series. “But I realised that I couldn’t sit idle for long. I started conceptualising ideas that are futuristic, purpose-driven and which do not get affected by a pandemic situation,” he adds.

Eventually, Aman zeroed down to the food processing industry. “With the pandemic, people became more health conscious and started switching to plant-based diets. I read about various food items that India generously produces like bananas, jamun and jackfruit. But the latter hit me hard when I found out that almost Rs 2,000 crore worth of jackfruit goes to waste every year in India,” he adds.

Aman says, he has always focussed on selling jackfruit to uplift its social status.
Aman says he has always focussed on selling jackfruit to uplift its social status.

”At a time when people were focused on producing protein-based foods in labs, the nutrient-rich jackfruit was going to waste. I planned to work towards a better value proposition of this fruit in the market,” he says.

From founder’s kitchen to yours

Today, Kathalfy has been able to stack thousands of household pantries with jackfruit food items. Every month, the brand caters to at least 600 orders from across the country majorly from states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, and the Delhi-NCR region.

But this journey also came with its set of challenges, the first being conceptualising a wide range of unique food items. During the initial years of research and development, Aman met several jackfruit farmers, food scientists, and institutions to come up with unique recipes. But no one could satisfactorily help him in developing the products he envisioned.

During his interview with Shree Padre though, a jackfruit activist and journalist, he learnt how minimal processing of jackfruit could do wonders and help solve most of India’s lifestyle problems like diabetes and heart ailments while diversifying their food plates, naturally.

Every month, Kathalfy caters to at least 600 orders from across the country.
Every month, Kathalfy caters to at least 600 orders from across the country.

So without losing hope, Aman took the matter into his own hands. “I used to try different recipes and collect feedback from my friends and neighbours. After multiple trials and positive feedback, I hired a professional chef to help develop the recipes,” he says.

Finally, after three years of research and development, Kathalfy was able to launch the products in April last year, though being formally registered in 2021.

“For Indians, when it comes to food, taste is the most important factor. Hence developing products that are delectable to the taste buds while retaining their nutrients and keeping them free of artificial chemicals has always been my goal. I only wanted to sell products that my family and I would consume ourselves,” he adds.

Aman says, “Since day one, I have focussed on selling jackfruit to uplift its social status. Unlike other brands, I never wanted to term it a meat replacement product. Instead, I always promote jackfruit for what it is, which is also reflected in our brand name Kathalfy, which is Kathal plus Simplify.”

“I am glad that our customer base is increasing month on month and people once again are including kathal in their diets while loving the taste of our products. Anyway, it is just the beginning. There is a long way to go,” he remarks.

You can buy jackfruit-based products from Kathalfy here.

(Edited by Pranita Bhat; All photos courtesy Kathalfy)

Source:
Nutritional and Health Benefits of Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus Lam.): A Review: Published in PubMed Central in January 2019.

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