The food scene in India has been complex, owing to the ever-growing population. This aspect affects everything—food production, quality, and the supply and demand chain. With the growing need for food, there have been significant concerns about sustainability and the environment. For the food on our plates to be economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable, there has to be a shift towards healthy dietary practices, sustainable food production practices, and more inclusive supply chains. Based on these goals, many women entrepreneurs are emerging from every corner of the country, trying to make a difference in this sector. Let us look at four significant ways in which this is unfolding:
1. Women entrepreneurs in health and fitness
Food Matters is an initiative started by Preeti Deshmukh in 2017 to provide customised healthy meals and snacks for hectic urban lifestyles. This company holds a practical approach towards healthy and tasty food for fitness enthusiasts and working professionals. In just a year since its inception, the company was serving over 200 clients regularly. Since then, Food Matters has only been growing in terms of franchises (10+ cities) and customer satisfaction. Food Nest is another venture of Deshmukh, started in 2019, which provides end-to-end solutions for those who want to sustain a healthy lifestyle. Khichdi, poha, flakes, muesli made with millet, and diabetic bars and flours are some of the products they sell.
Nutritionist Chitra Murali’s Jananom Natural Nutrition is another company producing foods that promote gut health through powders enriched with multiple plant proteins. These products belong to an affordable range from INR 250-300, which includes 30 plant porridges and 30 multipurpose mixes.
2. Upholding traditions
Modern ways and lifestyles have not left room for traditional practices and food choices. Moreover, an overflow of heavily processed food items sold at reasonable prices has overshadowed traditional approaches to food.
Owing to that, Manjari Singh (35) and her mother-in-law, Hiranmayi Shivam (58), co-founded The Chhaunk, which is a Gurgaon-based food delivery service. This initiative upholds the lesser-known Indian subculture—the Bihari tradition—by cooking Bihar’s traditional food and promoting the dishes’ historical and cultural background. They also use sustainable packaging, which is leak-proof and easy to freeze and store. Full meals, snacks, and beverages are some of the products they offer.
3. Women entrepreneurs providing plant/vegan-based choices
In dairy production, the cattle are subjected to awful conditions, posing a significant threat to their lives. Moreover, the entire process is highly unsustainable. In response, Sonal, the founder of WhiteCub, was inspired to start producing vegan milk products in 2013. WhiteCub is available pan-India and provides vegan alternatives for all major dairy products like vegan butter, curd, ice cream, etc. In addition, they also sell dairy-free desserts like fruit yoghurt, cookies, and hazelnut-cashew spread.
Dipti Mohan’s Second Nature is another company that places a high premium on sustainable food production, safety, worker welfare, and responsible water use. They have supplied cold-extracted fruit and vegetable juices to Europe for 25 years.
4. Women entrepreneurs promoting sustainable agriculture
Women entrepreneurs have been trying to incorporate sustainable ways that benefit humankind in the long run. For instance, Aparna Rajagopal, a lawyer-turned-farmer, has turned a barren land in Uttar Pradesh into a food forest and animal sanctuary. She has also imparted knowledge about environment-friendly practices to the local community.
Meanwhile, teacher-turned-entrepreneur and Nari Shakti Puraskar recipient Bina Devi (aka ‘Mushroom Mahila’) has been educating women in Bihar about self-employment through fungiculture and rice intensification.
Nurture Fields is an innovative Telangana-based operation by Keerthi Priya and Odapalli Vijaya Laxmi that deals with post-harvest wastage. Their workers convert excess produce into dehydrated (sun-dried) and preserved fruits and vegetables (spinach, papaya, tomato, cabbage). They also produce soup, curry, and juice mixes.
Transforming the food industry
In India’s male-dominated organic food scene, these are some of the many emerging women entrepreneurs transforming the food industry positively. Adopting traditional and sustainable practices through personal and community education has been instrumental in this transformation. Thus, women entrepreneurs are building an inclusive and environment-friendly food system that benefits the environment and other women.