Eater­ies Land in a Plas­tic Soup

Kar­nataka ban on serv­ing and pack­ing food in plas­tic con­tain­ers may have wider im­pact

The Economic Times - - Business Of Brands -

Richa Ma­hesh­wari &

Ratna Bhushan

Ben­galuru | New Delhi: Quick ser­vice restau­rant (QSR) chains op­er­at­ing in Ben­galuru and other parts of Kar­nataka have a huge pack­ag­ing prob­lem to grap­ple with.

The state’s ban on serv­ing and pack­ing fresh food in plas­tic con­tain­ers, ef­fec­tive April 1, means pop­u­lar eat­ing out and cof­fee chains in­clud­ing Café Cof­fee Day, McDon­ald’s and KFC have to change their pack­ag­ing strat­egy overnight.

This means food ser­vice busi­nesses will have to switch to bio-degrad­able pack­ag­ing, which restau­ra­teurs say would in­crease costs to the tune of 18-30%, and would have to fac­tor in ad­di­tional costs if the move goes pan-In­dia.

Rahul Singh, founder of The Beer Café and rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Na­tional Restau­rant As­so­ci­a­tion of In­dia, said: “Mea­sures such as these have a cas­cad­ing all-In­dia im­pact. With lack of many workable op­tions and not enough clar­ity, restau­ra­teurs are work­ing out sus­tain­able so­lu­tions to comp-

ly with the new reg­u­la­tions.”

Kar­nataka, with its young pop­u­la­tion has a high eat­ing out and pub cul­ture. Spe­cialised tea cafe Chai Point's chief ex­ec­u­tive Amuleek Bi­jral said: “The gov­ern­ment should give a fixed time­line to all the restau­rants to com­ply with the new guide­lines. There are times when we have no­ticed that al­ter­na­tive pack­ag­ing such as bagasse pack­ag­ing isn't work­ing.” Chai Point has done away with plas­tic coated plates and in­tro­duced 100% plant ma­te­rial and bio-degrad­able bagasse-based plates and bam­boo stick stir­rers, while cold bev­er­ages it de­liv­ers will be done in glasses in­stead of plas­tic cups. “All such mea­sures are more ex­pen­sive and we are ex­plor­ing ways to meet the ex­tra costs. Ei­ther we will add the cost for de­liv­er­ies or price our premium prod­ucts fac­tor­ing the pack­ag­ing costs. Soon we will roll out all these mea­sures across cities we are present in,” Bi­jral said. On av­er­age, bio-degrad­able pack­ag­ing such as bagasse plates are 18-20% more ex­pen­sive than plas­tic coated ones, while glass bot­tles are 30% costlier and rice and corn starch based spoons and forks are 15% more ex­pen­sive.

The coun­try’s largest cof­fee chain Café Cof­fee Day’s group pres­i­dent, mar­ket­ing, Bidisha Na­garaj said the brand is work­ing on al­ter­na­tive so­lu­tions to cer­tain plas­tic prod­ucts that it has been us­ing at its out­lets such as cold bev­er­age cups (typ­i­cally used for take­away or­ders), stir­rers, straws and spoons. Like­wise KFC and McDon­ald’s. A spokesper­son for KFC said the firm is “sup­port­ive of this en­vi­ron­ment-friendly ini­tia­tive to re­duce plas­tic us­age and is work­ing with au­thor­i­ties to get com­plete clar­ity on the law, and find a cost-ef­fec­tive and sus­tain­able so­lu­tion”.

McDon­ald’s In­dia (west & south) manag­ing di­rec­tor Smita Ja­tia said: “We are work­ing to­wards cus­tomis­ing our pack­ag­ing to meet a holis­tic ap­proach.”

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port pub­lished by Free­do­nia Group, the pack­ag­ing food ser­vice dis­pos­able mar­ket in In­dia is pegged at $575 mil­lion by 2020.

Delhi-based biodegrad­able able­ware maker Ecow­are co­founder Rhea Sing­hal, which sup­plies to lead­ing ho­tels and QSR chains said the new law is ex­pected to ac­cel­er­ate de­mand for such prod­ucts.

But the chal­lenge, say restau­ra­teurs, is lack of op­tions. Rashmi Daga, founder of on­line food or­der­ing startup Fresh­menu said: “There are hardly any end-to-end op­tions for biodegrad­able prod­ucts.”

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