Home Bangalore The Kerala Edition

0 914

Regional gourmet food brands are making waves in the national food industry and going global.

-By Anoop Menon & Surya Praphulla Kumar

We live in an age where food is photographed before it is consumed, families gather around their television sets to binge-watch MasterChef re-runs and new-age connoisseurs demand sustainable, fair-price ingredients. While many gourmet food brands across the country are in tune with such overarching epicurean trends, a recent trend has been producers in Kerala adapting to meet the rising demand for premium products.

The state, which was once known for its spice exports (between 2014-15, 28,000 tonnes of pepper and 18,000 tonnes of cardamom were harvested, of which approximately 90 per cent was exported), is now home to brands like Sprig—with their artisan-style products—and Planter’s Treasure—with their single-origin fruit concentrate—that are casting a wider net.

“Kerala is the de facto capital of flavour and Malayalis are aware that the world knows about their spices and food. They’ve also seen how other countries use and sell their place of origin as a premium. So now they are using that learning to spot and identify gourmet demands,” states Prathap Suthan, managing partner of Delhi-based ad agency Bang In The Middle who, incidentally, was part of the team that came up with the state’s marketing slogan, God’s Own Country.

“They also know how great design and relevant packaging work and why they command better prices. Overall, they have never been so well equipped to market their strengths,” he adds. We speak to the top Kerala-based gourmet brands that have been making their mark with the highest-grade ingredients and their intelligent marketing.

Sprig

Founded: 2014
Gourmet products: Whole green cardamom from Idukki, rosemary and lavender infused sea salt and more


spring cover

A hand-crafted passion fruit concentrate made from organically-grown, single origin fruit. It checks all the boxes that a well-travelled customerspring snip with a taste for high-quality, sustainable food, wants. And it’s no coincidence that Joppu Sebastian, the managing director of Kothamangalam-based brand Planter’s Treasure, is one himself. When the 27-year-old decided to quit his corporate job, to take over his parents’ rubber and passion fruit plantations, his research into market needs revealed that limited-edition gourmet is the need of the hour. “Much of what you get today undergoes colour and taste calibration. But our emphasis is on fresh and seasonal. And since passion fruit is not very common, instead of coming out with 10 different products, I thought I’d concentrate on one and do it really well,” he says.

With only 5,000 bottles made every season, with fruit harvested from his Nellimattom farm, in Idukki—just hours away from his manufacturing unit in Kothamangalam—he also makes sure that each bottle has a stamp of authenticity. “Every bottle sports the fingerprint of the person who hand-bottled it. This not only shows our attention to detail, but also gives our workers a sense of pride and ownership,” shares Sebastian, who recently launched his passion fruit preserve (Rs 450 for 400 gms) and a preservative-free ready-to-drink juice. “We retail only at select gourmet stores in Kerala, and now that we are entering the Chennai and Bengaluru markets, we are making sure the stores we choose cater to our customer base,” he says. He is also doing his bit for the environment: if customers return the glass bottles that the ready-to-drink juice (Rs 200 for 300 ml) comes in, they will be reimbursed Rs 80.

At Amma Naana and Gormei Market. Passion fruit concentrate: Rs 500 (500 ml). Details: planterstreasure.com

Coming Soon:BluCha and RedCha, first-of-its-kind in the world, are instantly soluble, flower-infused green teas, harvested just hours away from their factory in Kolenchery. They contain a pioneering combination of blue butterfly pea and hibiscus (which contain antioxidants called anthocyanins).

 

Planter’s Treasure

Founded: 2014
Gourmet products: Passion fruit concentrate,passion fruit preserve and more

planter cover

A hand-crafted passion fruit concentrate made from organically-grown, single origin fruit. It checks all the boxes that a well-travelled customer with a taste for high-quality, sustainable food, wants. And it’s no coincidence that Joppu Sebastian, the managing director of Kothamangalam-based brand Planter’s Treasure, is one himself. When the 27-year-old decided to quit his corporate job, to take over his parents’ rubber and planter snippassion fruit plantations, his research into market needs revealed that limited-edition gourmet is the need of the hour. “Much of what you get today undergoes colour and taste calibration. But our emphasis is on fresh and seasonal. And since passion fruit is not very common, instead of coming out with 10 different products, I thought I’d concentrate on one and do it really well,” he says.

With only 5,000 bottles made every season, with fruit harvested from his Nellimattom farm, in Idukki—just hours away from his manufacturing unit in Kothamangalam—he also makes sure that each bottle has a stamp of authenticity. “Every bottle sports the fingerprint of the person who hand-bottled it. This not only shows our attention to detail, but also gives our workers a sense of pride and ownership,” shares Sebastian, who recently launched his passion fruit preserve (Rs 450 for 400 gms) and a preservative-free ready-to-drink juice. “We retail only at select gourmet stores in Kerala, and now that we are entering the Chennai and Bengaluru markets, we are making sure the stores we choose cater to our customer base,” he says. He is also doing his bit for the environment: if customers return the glass bottles that the ready-to-drink juice (Rs 200 for 300 ml) comes in, they will be reimbursed Rs 80.

At Amma Naana and Gormei Market. Passion fruit concentrate: Rs 500 (500 ml). Details: planterstreasure.com

Coming SoonA passion fruit chilli sauce that Sebastian promises will go “great with barbecues and with the recipes that you might try from multi-Michelin starred chef Gordon Ramsay’s books”.

 

Kappa Chakka Kandhari

Yet to be launched
Gourmet products: Slow-cooked paani, kandhari achar and more

kappa cover

The last few months have seen multiple tasting sessions in Chennai and Bengaluru, and a naadan Kerala food festival in the garden city in kappa snipJanuary, all heralding the entry of chef Regi Mathew’s newest venture, Kappa Chakka Kandhari. The brand—which claims to be a ‘neostalgic gastronomic journey’—promises to unearth and bottle traditional recipes that are disappearing. Like paani. Made from toddy before it ferments, it is slow-cooked over a wood fire for hours to get a treacle-like sweet, which he explains was a popular yesteryear dessert. “We are reviving dishes from our childhood, but using new-age techniques including blast freezing of ingredients (hence, neostalgic), to make a selection of 24 products to start off with,” says Mathew, the name behind city-based restaurants like Ente Keralam and Benjarong. With a hand-picked team of 10 home cooks, and ingredients sourced from farms that use organic farming practices, production will soon start in Kochi. “We plan to launch online in June, with pickles like the fiery kandhari achar (made with bird’s eye chillies), traditional avalose unda, kuzhalappam and achappam,” he signs off.

Products from Rs 200 onwards. Details: facebook.com/kappachakkakandhari

Kerala is the logical place to begin a gourmet ingredients company. It is a macrocosm that represents metropolitan cities—because it has a per-capita income higher than most other Indian states—and doubles up as a test market for consumer products. If a product fares well in Kerala, you can rest assured it will fare well in other metropolitan markets. This is why you will never see above-the-line advertising for such products in the state. -— James Joseph, founder of Jackfruit 365

 

Elements Homestead Products

Founded: 1999
Gourmet products: Cold-pressed organic virgin coconut oil, organic fair-trade cashew and more

elements cover
For the last decade-and-a-half, three-Michelin star chef Olivier Roellinger has been working with Kozhikode-based Elements Homestead Products, to create flavour profiles of rare Malabar pepper strains. This confluence of global flavours—pairing pepper varieties including elements snipKarimunda, Neelamundi and Aimpiriyan (sourced from close to 1,400 organic farmers) with rare French cottage cheese—has even been featured in Time magazine.

Elements is a business initiative that aims to bridge the physical as well as emotional distance between the sensitive farmer and the conscious consumer. Besides being the world’s largest source of organic and fair-trade cashew, they also import olive oil—made from the fruit sourced from 2,000-year-old olive trees in Palestine—to create an organic gourmet product that expresses their solidarity with the Palestine cause. “There are only two credentials for gourmet ingredients in a Kerala context. It needs to be organically produced and its authenticity of origin should be known,” begins managing director Tomy Mathew, elaborating, “Nowadays, the foodie-take on gourmet is giving rise to an aspect called social gourmet (as seen in the Terra Madre or slow-food movement, which is gaining popularity). Which is why I ensure fair-trade with the primary producers of the product, enabling its sustainability.” Their global marketing strategy—products sold in almost every continent except Africa—primarily rests on two pillars: showing buyers that a fair price is the best organic manure and how their products are produced by farming families (who’ve adopted environmentally-sensitive farming practices) in the Western Ghats of India, a world heritage site.

Virgin coconut oil Rs 490 (750 ml). Details: 0495 2765783

Regional gourmet food brands are making waves in the national food industry and going global.

Coming SoonAuthentic and nutritious rice strains like Wayanadan thondi, adikkan, veliyan and gandhagashala, that were believed to be near extinction at Rs 90 (per kg).

 

Cocoacraft

Founded: 2008
Gourmet products: Couverture chocolate slabs, dark cocoa powder

coca craft cover

The chocolatiers at Cocoacraft truly believe that less is more. In fact, their gourmet product, couverture chocolate, is crafted with just three ingredients: cocoa bean, natural vanilla extract and a soy-lecithin emulsifier. This bean-to-bar slab ranges from 85 per cent bitter chocolate to coca craft snip52 per cent dark chocolate, and is diabetic friendly, trans-fat free and packed with antioxidants, which is why it’s such an in-demand product outside Kerala.

Cocoacraft’s cocoa beans aren’t mass produced. They are sourced in small batches from specific planters in Kerala and fermented to attain its refined flavour. Once processed, it is packaged in natural, high-grade food packaging, which minimises temperature variations, as the melting point of pure chocolate is low (28°C-30°C). Another one of this Kochi-based brand’s in-demand gourmet products—which is free from preservatives and additional flavours—is their rich, dark cocoa powder that usually contains a sinful 22 per cent cocoa butter. “We’ve targeted growth in specific retail categories, such as gourmet food stores like Nature’s Basket and Foodhall. Our success there helped us get noticed by other retail chains and distributors, and also led to industrial orders,” explains co-owner Sanjana Kuruvilla, adding that they also conduct classes to popularise and educate customers about the use of pure chocolate.

Bitter 85 per cent chocolate couverture slab Rs 1,285 (per kg), dark cocoa powder Rs 300 (200 gm).
Details: 0484 4049057

Coming SoonBesides chocolate chips and chocolate drinks, having just gained the Indocert organic certification, these chocolatiers are working towards crafting completely organic couverture chocolate.

 

SIMILAR ARTICLES

0 366

0 369