Catching up with incrEDIBLE, the plant-based edible spoon guys

Made in India and (currently) sold in America, incrEDIBLE make edible spoons from a blend of five plant-based ingredients for both hot and cold products, with the brand launching in February 2019 after successfully creating a machine that could handle their patent-pending baking method.

Currently available in two savoury flavours (Oregano Chilli and Black Pepper), as well as two sweet (Chocolate and Vanilla); I first came across incrEDIBLE in October after they made waves at the World Plant-Based Awards 2020.

The brand, entering under the name of parent company Planeteer, won the ‘Best plant-based sustainability’ category and finished runners-up in both the ‘Best plant-based packaging’ and ‘Best plant-based functional product’ categories.

Then, that same month, I watched as co-founder Dinesh Tadepalli came out on top in a live investor pitch at the 2020 Bread & Jam festival for food entrepreneurs.

Judging on the reactions of the Bread & Jam investors (namely a partner from Joelson, a financial advisor from Veg Capital, a vegan investor from Capital V and an investor from Plantbase), incrEDIBLE Spoons has a very bright future.

I recently caught up with Dinesh to blow through the incrEDIBLE concept, their five-blend dough mix and their plans for the future.

incrEDIBLE spoon co-founder Dinesh Tadepalli
incrEDIBLE spoon co-founder Dinesh Tadepalli

Why did you decide to make edible spoons in the first place?

A lot of people are now taking action against climate change, but it’s still a huge issue. Plastic pollution is a big part of that. I decided I wanted to find an alternative to plastic, not only to help the planet but also because I have two small children and I want to make a difference for their future.

I looked at many different alternatives. Compostable cutlery didn’t really make sense. We don’t have enough sorting facilities and, of those we do have, many of them don’t accept compostable cutlery because they can’t differentiate between something like a plastic spoon and a compostable spoon.

That means there’s huge scope for contamination. So I decided to look into making something you could consume. Or if you throw it away, it composts like food.

How did you make this a reality?

I met my business partner, Kruvil Patel, in India. While I do have electrical engineering in my background, he is the brains behind the machinery. He’s our ‘Chief Spoon Maker’!

For two years, we worked together to make the machine possible. We must have done about 80 trials! It wasn’t until February 2019 that we achieved a machine that could make an edible spoon to our exact specifications. And one that could produce at least 100 of those spoons a day.

At that point, I sold my home in the Bay Area in California and used the proceeds to build my own facility and to fund myself for our first two years.

Tell me about this machine!

While I can’t give you the exact details, the machine moulds and bakes the product. First we mix our blended flour into a dough, then the machine sucks the dough into a mould and bakes it.

The mould itself bespoke and also a secret. The exact temperature and the speed at which the machine bakes is our patent pending process.

incredible spoon ingredients

The spoons are made with five ingredients – why did you choose each?

The spoons are made of a blend of non-GM whole wheat, oats, brown rice, corn and chickpea. There are also natural flavours added (our black pepper spoon has black pepper, for example, and our oregano and chilli spoon has oregano, red chilli flakes and garlic powder).

We chose the five ingredients for different reasons, but none of them affects the flavour of the food you’re eating. The flavour of the spoon is inside. We wanted a mix of grains to be more nutritionally complete. Corn and chickpea is for binding. Oat and brown rice is to have a nutritional profile that is more than just wheat.

Long term, we want to move away from wheat because we want to make the spoon gluten free. We are doing plenty of R&D to reach that goal.

Is there a coating?

No, the whole spoon is just compressed and baked dough. It reminds me a little of biscotti. It’s similar, but shaped in the form of a spoon.

If you try and eat it on its own, it is a bit hard. But once you have it in the food, it becomes softer. It stays firm for 20-25 minutes in hot soup. After then, it’ll get soggy, but not break apart.

It will last between 45-50 minutes in cold food, such as ice cream. We launched incrEDIBLE with spoons but that’s just the beginning. We’re also planning to produce both sporks and straws in the near future.

How is distribution going and has COVID been a big hindrance?

There is clearly opportunity for us in the UK with single use plastics like straws, spoons and coffee stirrers being banned since October last year. We hope to arrive in the UK this year – and we’d love to hear from UK distributors – but it’s not been straightforward thanks to COVID, with shops and businesses struggling.

We’ve been available to US businesses since 2019, but due to COVID, we’ve had to incorporate B2C (and we’re also on Amazon).

We are making progress in Europe, though. We already have a distributor in the Netherlands and a huge ice cream brand in Europe (I can’t say who just yet) recently started a trial with us in Switzerland, Belgium and France.

We also very proud of our environmental and social work. We plant trees to make us carbon negative, we use solar electricity, we upcycle our factory waste to make cookies for stray animals in India, and we also provide local job opportunities for those who operate on under $4 a day.

Tom Gatehouse
Tom is the editor of Pure NPD Insights. He previously spent three years at William Reed’s food insight platform Food Spark, was the co-founder and editor of The Cream, is a former Restaurant magazine columnist and has had chef training in fifty of the best restaurants in the UK and Europe.

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