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Entrepreneur reinvents jackfruit with vegan ready-to-eat products

Aman Chhabra launched Kathalfy in 2023 to take the humble jackfruit from farms to homes and minimise its wastage due to a lack of post-harvest processing. He now sells ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat jackfruit products across India and overseas

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Riya Singh
New Update
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Aman Chhabra with Kathalfy's range of jackfruit-based food prodcuts

Working for an event management company in Mumbai for over nine years, Aman Chhabra, spent most of his time working around tight schedules, short deadlines and luxury. However, the COVID-19 pandemic inclined him to create something impactful and sustainable. 

After the March 2020 lockdown, Aman began researching sustainable business opportunities in various segments, the food industry being one of them. During that time, he came across an article on the wastage of jackfruit in the country. It mentioned that jackfruit worth over 2,000 crore goes to waste yearly due to lack of post-harvest processing. 

This piqued Aman’s interest and he decided to take jackfruit from farm to fork through a ready-to-eat vegan product range that would reduce food wastage and provide healthy eating options to consumers.

Thus, the idea of his food startup Kathalfy was born. Jackfruit is called kathal in Hindi.

Also Read: How this Kerala housewife built a global coconut products business from a small shed

During his due diligence on the global trends in the food processing sector, he came across vegan or mock meat, which is fast gaining traction among consumers. Mock meats are food products made from vegetarian or vegan ingredients eaten as a replacement for meat. 

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Kathalfy food products are free of prese

“People are developing mock meats, most of which are unsustainable, whereas jackfruit with its natural texture and qualities similar to veg meat goes to waste,” says Aman. 

Jackfruit farming to processing 

The groundwork for Kathalfy was laid in December 2020. Over the next four to five months, Aman learnt more about jackfruits and spoke to over 500 stakeholders, which included scientists from top universities in India. 

He visited villages across Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Karnataka to speak to farmers and understand the ground realities and issues surrounding jackfruit cultivation and processing. 

Aman realised that jackfruit processing was limited to a few manufacturers. Towards the end of 2021, he ordered ready-to-cook products to study them. 

Also Read: How this CA set up Rs 50 lakh food business with Rs 1 lakh investment

Soon, Aman started working on a jackfruit product catalogue. “Jackfruit is more than vegan meat. Anybody and everybody can consume it. So, why waste it?” he asks. “People are receptive to expensive foreign products such as avocados or kiwis. At the same time, they are wasting the local produce,” he adds. 

He wanted to develop products that could provide customers with multiple interesting choices instead of pushing them to adopt jackfruits in their diet. Kathalfy has a variety of products for all meals including breakfast, lunch, evening snacks, and dinner. 

“I worked on products that could fit into people’s routine as a breakfast item or an evening snack. It wasn’t all about fitness and health,” he says. 

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Kathalfy aims to reduce jackfruit wastage. Pic: Kathalfy

Aman conducted a pilot in Mumbai with a handful of ready-to-cook products in some retail stores for three to four months. The feedback was excellent. He simultaneously worked on product development in collaboration with food manufacturers in Kerala, and Bengaluru. 

Jackfruit curries, kebabs and more

Eventually, Kathalfy was launched in April 2023 with an investment of over Rs 70 lakh. The company started with 13 products and continued to add new ones to its portfolio of pickles, chips, burger patties, gravies, and pancake mixes. From Jackfruit Malabar Curry, Tikka Masala and Lucknowi Keema to burger patty and jackfruit seed flour, Kathalfy offers a wide range of products.

The brand has partnered with three manufacturers in Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Bengaluru in Karnataka for the sourcing and processing of jackfruits.

Also Read: Engineer couple builds Rs 2 crore laddu business with Rs 1 lakh investment 

Jackfruit cultivation in India is still not at a large scale to set up a standard supply chain, says Aman. Some farmers might have 20 trees, and some might have 200 trees, so it is mostly scattered. 

Kathalfy currently sources jackfruits from over a thousand local farmers across Kerala. 

Kathalfy only produces clean-label products, which don’t use any additives or artificial flavours. “We don’t want to create highly processed food items. Our products undergo minimal processing, similar to the food we cook at home, explains Aman. 

The taste of jackfruit varies depending on its ripeness. While ripe jackfruit has a sweet tropical taste, raw one has a mild taste. Processing of jackfruits varies depending on their stage of ripeness. 

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Kathalfy's range of ready-to-cook and ready-to-eat foods

Like during the unripe stage, tender jackfruit has a mild flavour and a great texture, making it a good addition to vegetarian and vegan dishes. Ripe jackfruit with its mildly sweet taste is a good addition to pancake batters.

Aman is slowly trying to bust the misconceptions surrounding jackfruits. “I have met many people who believe jackfruit consumption leads to digestion issues. Instead, it improves digestion and is good for diabetics. From infants to senior citizens, it is beneficial for all age groups,” he says. 

“People have lived with these myths. And there is this notion that Jackfruit doesn’t taste good, but taste has become one of our main USPs,” he adds. 

Jackfruit is rich in fibre, protein, antioxidants and other nutrients. Consuming jackfruits helps reduce inflammation, constipation, ulcers, heart diseases, and skin problems. 

The business of jackfruit packaged foods

The Mumbai-based startup, which receives 500-600 orders monthly, is set to break even soon. 

Around 70 percent of the sales are through their website and online marketplaces such as Amazon, and JioMart while the rest are through retail channels. 

Also Read: How two MBA friends built a millet muesli business

“We are taking our time with retail expansion, slowly picking stores that suit the product and help us connect with the right audience,” says Aman. 

Kathalfy products are popular in Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore, Delhi NCR, Punjab, and Indore. It also ships to international locations such as Abu Dhabi, Malaysia, and London. 

The brand maintains competitive pricing by offering products starting at Rs 125. “We are placed in the mid-segment. While our pricing is not very premium, our quality is the best among similar brands,” says Aman. 

While one-half of India knows jackfruit as a vegetable, the other knows it as a fruit. “I have met several customers in the north who were completely unaware that jackfruit is also a fruit, he says.

Talking about expansion plans, Aman says he is working on setting up international export channels. Going forward online will be the main platform for sale. “We will focus on retail expansion once we have created a good brand presence,” he adds. 

“Our product is new to the market, often people are surprised to know that Jackfruit can be turned into a burger patty or curry. Filling these information gaps and familiarising them with the products are some of the major challenges for the brand,” he says.

(Riya Singh is a Ranchi-based journalist who writes on environment, farming, sustainability, startups, & women empowerment)

Also Read: Four Kerala friends take Kozhikode Halwa global; clock Rs 68 lakh revenues in 8 months

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