Using Paper to change the way we eat

The Lempert Report
October 30, 2014

Fenugreen FreshPaper is used by farmers and families across the globe.

Can a simple piece of paper change the way we eat?  It's an innovative idea, and a challenge  that inventor and entrepreneur Kavita Shukla took on after discovering that an age-old home recipe was a great way to keep food fresh.

Kavita Shukla, Fenugreen CEO I was 12 years old when I was visiting my Gramma in India and while I was brushing my teeth one of my first days there I drank almost an entire cup of tap water. So I was really scared that I was going to get sick and my Grandma just calmly went in the kitchen and she came back with this like murky brown spiced tea that she gave me and she said “drink this it’s a home remedy.”  And I actually didn’t get sick.  And then when I got back home to the U.S. I started a little middle school science project where I was trying to learn more about these spices.  And over the years what I actually found was that some of the spices my Grandmother had used were actually really effective inhibitors of bacterial and fungal growth.

One day I went to the grocery store with my mom and I noticed that a lot of the containers of strawberry’s had something growing at the bottom.  And that gave me this idea to try dipping berries in my mixture.  So I went home and I tried it.  I was just amazed by the results.  The strawberries I had dipped stayed fresh a lot longer than the ones that had been left outside.  

Eventually after many years as this like weird kid in high school meticuloususly rotting fruits and vegetables in my garage I actually developed this application.  And I infused the spices in to Fresh Paper.  And from the beginning I really wanted to see if there were ways I could get Fresh Paper in to packaging.  Because I imagined in the developing work it would be tremendously beneficial to farmers but even in the food supply chain in the US I know that spoilage is such a big part of hunger and access to food in food deserts.  All of this is really built around the fact that we’re not able to efficiently distribute fresh food.

I decided to start really small and really simple and I handmade a batch of Fresh Paper and I took it to my local Farmer’s Market.  So that was how I started 3 years ago and from there it was incredible.  We had no funding.  I started with just a folding table and a little over $100 in materials.

Consumers are not only able to eat everything they buy and to eat more produce but they’re actually telling us that they’re able to afford eating a fresher healthier diet simply because they’re using something like Fresh Paper.  

So you would just use a sheet like this, it’s about 5 inches by 5 inches and drop it into a refrigerator door or fruit bowl or anywhere you store fruits and veggies and it will keep all of it fresh for 2-4 times longer.  You don’t have to wrap the Produce.  You don’t have to put it into a container.  It’s so simple and so small and very low cost it can actually be used in these large scale applications as well.  As well as in places like India and Africa where they don’t even have any electricity or any other method of preserving their food.

Today our mission is Fresh For All.  And we’re working towards a world where access to fresh fruits and vegetables isn’t limited by distribution systems or cold chains but one in which everyone, from Farmers to families to Food Banks can use really simple innovations like Fresh Paper to make our food system not just more sustainable but more accessible or affordable.