The Lounge list of 25 'good for you' brands
Lounge picks 25 tried and tested brands launched in the last five years that focus on healthy and mindful consumption and are good for you and the planet
Leo Tolstoy had said, “One of the first conditions of happiness is that the link between man and nature shall not be broken."
Increasingly, there has been a global effort to reintroduce this idea to how we eat and what we consume on a daily basis. Over the last five years, a clutch of Indian entrepreneurs has founded brands that are changing how we look at health, nourishment, beauty and wellness.
This new entrepreneurial ecosystem is emerging amidst increasing consumer consciousness about the composition of the products we consume. However, there are also concerns, not merely about the brands promoting themselves as natural and chemical-free, but also about the concepts. “Undeniably, there is ample green-washing done by some unscrupulous companies too, considering sustainability is such a buzzword today. With no clear-cut certifications, it is easy to project a certain value," says Neeti Mehra, founder of Beej Living, an online platform that promotes slow living and creates resources for conscious consumers.
Research and personal testing are the best means to ascertain the efficacy and claims of these conscious brands, suggests Mehra. “Thanks to the internet age, there is so much research out there, vis-à-vis ingredient listings, multiple international certifications, reviews from family and friends. Also, thanks to social media, you can also learn more about the founders of the brand and see if their philosophy aligns with yours. But, most importantly, you need to try it yourself."
While putting together this list for conscious consumers, we looked at a number of other criteria beyond a simple organic tag. These are homegrown brands that are eco-friendly, better for animals and committed to a sustainable planet. Many are social enterprises giving back to a community of farmers and small and marginalized producers. While many of these brands are modest in scale, they are big in their vision of changing how we live.
The food brands we have picked showcase India’s diverse regional produce and cover a range of categories, from fresh and seasonal produce to speciality offerings such as honey, coconut oil and chocolate. “As staple foods make up the largest part of a meal, it is important to choose products depending on brand authenticity, nutritional content, quality and customer-friendly packaging," says Shreyans Choksey, founder of Mumbai-based organic store Fruitique, which stocks brands that focus on eco-sustainability.
Products in newer segments like women’s hygiene and home care address concerns like allergies and all-round wellness by replacing harsh synthetics and chemical disinfectants with natural substitutes. Child and pet care are two other categories which focus on organic ingredients and minimal processing.
A bunch of new homegrown herbal skincare brands have carved a niche for themselves over the last five years . These labels use a mix of meticulously procured organic and natural ingredients while following the ethical and general principles of being both chemical- and cruelty-free. In a market cluttered with beauty products, these brands have gained a following for understanding skincare concerns from an Indian perspective and offering eco-conscious, effective and safe solutions.
India’s largest fair trade and organic- certified coffee
There is a hint of peat and berries in the Micro Climate blend, while the Signature is a bolder brew with hints of cacao. All the four varietals of Araku Coffee are complex flavour bouquets. But what draws one to the brand is its remarkable journey from bean to cup. Grown in the Araku Valley in Andhra Pradesh, a land caught in the throes of Maoist insurgency and plagued by underdevelopment, this is coffee espousing a cause. Coffee-growing was introduced as a tribal livelihood initiative by the Hyderabad-based non-governmental organization Naandi Foundation over a decade ago.
Today, Araku Coffee is one of the largest fair trade and organic-certified coffee cooperatives in the world, comprising nearly 11,000 Adivasi farmers. “Any ethical food company brand by necessity should be organic as well as have a strong social dimension. At Araku, we focus on shared value," says David Hogg, chief agriculture adviser, Araku Coffee.
The brand officially launched in Europe in 2017 with a stand-alone boutique in Paris. Its India operations started in January, in an online retail format. While it is still small, producing 100 tonnes of coffee annually, the aim is to triple production by 2023 and develop an online Indian speciality coffee market. It will also enter the café segment with its first outlet in Bengaluru this year.
Lounge pick: Micro Climate
Available at: Arakucoffee.in
A grass-root initiative curating speciality farm products from around the country
Every basket from Zama Organics has the potential to surprise.
While the regular veggie stock can be amped up with a side of seasonal exotics like Himalayan chestnuts, coloured carrots or sunflower microgreens, pantry staples like kalonji (nigella seeds) can be swapped for the pungent jakhiya (wild organic mustard seeds) from Garhwal. Even the everyday basmati can find a fun replacement in bamboo rice.
This “farm-to-kitchen" concept was started in 2018 by Mumbai-based entrepreneur Shriya Naheta and comes directly from farmers and artisanal food producers.
“Our farmers across the regions give us direct access to phenomenal produce. Working at the grass-root level, we are trying to cut down the number of hands exchanged," says Naheta.
The year-old brand has an annual revenue of ₹5 crore. Zama Organics currently operates in Mumbai but plans to expand to Pune by early next year and start shipping its dry staples to other parts of the country.
Lounge pick: Himalayan timur (a variety of Sichuan red pepper)
Available at: Zamaorganics.com
An organic coconut alternative to mainstream butters and oils
Pass up your extra virgin olive oil for cold-pressed virgin coconut oil in a chilli oregano flavour or sate your afternoon junk food craving with delicately roasted coconut chips. While the coconut has always been revered in India, both in ritual and as an overall wellness product, its global cult following has led to its reinvention as a vegan superfood.
Launched in December, Coco Soul from the Marico group (the company behind the iconic Parachute coconut oil) is the newest entrant to the market, offering a specialized range of organic coconut-based products. From flavoured virgin oils to sugar, chips, spreads and butters, this is a niche brand dedicated to the coconut’s health benefits. While Coco Soul’s oils are extracted through the cold-pressing process, the other products are made without any preservatives or artificial flavours. “We will aim to leverage on the strength of our sales and distribution network to make these categories even bigger. Given the enthusiasm that discerning consumers are showing for organic, cold-pressed virgin coconut oils and healthy options for snacks and other food products, we believe this is the right time for us to invest in these categories," says Sanjay Mishra, chief operating officer (COO), India sales and Bangladesh business, Marico Ltd.
Lounge pick: Coco Soul coconut chips
Available at: Cocosoul.in and supermarkets and gourmet stores across India
Traditional organic foods from the Himalayas
Single-origin honey may be a buzzword today but a “ghost honey" infused with bhut jolokia chillies remains a radical game-changer. Theo Organics is one of the newer entrants in the growing market for organic and artisanal honeys. Its farms are located at over 6,000ft above sea level in the Himalayas and the produce is grown and sourced directly from farmers and traditional producers.
Honey is a mainstay—raw, unprocessed, without additives. The firm is upping the game by creating gourmet experimental products like wood-smoked and infused honeys in flavours like vanilla and turmeric ginger, as well as a range of creamed honeys that combine honey with fruit, berries and chocolate.
Founders Sriram Iyer and Swapna Desai started the company in 2016. “It is the love of the land, especially the lure of the Himalayas, that motivated us to produce a range of products that echo the natural beauty and purity of the Himalayas," says Iyer. They also offer a selection of Himalayan pink salts. The self-funded enterprise aims to hit the ₹2 crore mark this year. Further expansion plans include exports as well as increased offline distribution across major cities.
Lounge pick: Apple wood-smoked honey
Available at: Retail stores in Mumbai, Pune and Uttarakhand and e-commerce portals, including Amazon and Qtrove.com
East by Northeast
An ethical brand that offers a fixed fair price to farmers
Last year, during a visit to the supermarket, we chanced upon a Bhut Jolokia Chilli Sauce. For those who crave anything to do with the fiery chillies from the North-East—in the form of oils, pickles, dressings—this was quite a find. Curiosity about a North-East inspired food brand led us to find more about East by Northeast, or ENE, which has created three variants of the Bhut Jolokia Chilli Sauce— sweet, hot and extra hot.
ENE was founded by Manjusha Barua in 2014 to create awareness about ingredients from the North-East. “My husband happens to be in the food industry and helped me with insights and valuable advice. Around the same time, my friend Rinka Banerjee, who used to head research and development at Unilever, quit her job and came on board as consultant," says Barua, who shuttles between Delhi and Bengaluru. The team decided to create a hot sauce with the North-East’s most famous ingredient. “What makes it special is that we use fresh bhut jolokia puree directly sourced from farmers in Karbi Anglong," she says. An ethical brand, it believes in offering fair prices to farmers. The puree is processed within 24 hours in Assam and then transported to a factory in Uttarakhand, where it is bottled before being sent to a warehouse in Delhi. Around 7,000-8,000 bottles are produced each month.
“Now, we have got funding from the North Eastern Development Finance Corporation Ltd (NEDFi). So we are expanding with five more variants around the bhut jolokia, such as tomato chilli sauce, srirachaand mayonnaise," she says.
Lounge pick: The Bhut Jolokia Chilli Sauce (sweet)
Available at: Supermarkets in Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Guwahati. And online, on Amazon, Flipkart and Big Basket
Farm Made Foods
These free-range eggs are good both for you and the hens
The rampant use of antibiotics and growth steroids in the poultry industry has led to serious health debates about the consumption of both chicken and eggs and the importance of free-range farms. Even the greatest sceptic cannot deny the obvious difference in flavour and appearance between eggs from cage-reared chicken and the free-range variety.
Founded in 2015, Coimbatore-based Farm Made free-range eggs are one of the newer entrants in the market. Its tan-coloured eggs are well-packaged with straw and the yolks are dark yellow. The eggs pack in great flavour even if just boiled.
The farms only have 1,200 hens, free to roam, per acre. Nesting boxes are provided and the birds are not pumped with antibiotics and hormones, says the firm. “We are not changing your food habits, we are just making it healthier," says founder Raam Mohan.
While the company started off with an investment of ₹1 crore, it has grown substantially and is available in 400 outlets across all major cities. The brand is constantly expanding production and hopes to extend its reach to 1,000 outlets in two years.
Lounge pick: Free-range eggs
Available at: Retail and online outlets across India
A farm that combines tradition with technology to bring back pure milk
Growing up in the 1990s, milk largely meant squishy pouches from the neighbourhood booth. For children bred on a diet of Enid Blyton, this was far removed from the creamy, frothy goodness that bookended picnics and feasts. Three decades later, a small dairy in Alwar, Rajasthan is producing milk that is the closest approximation of Blyton’s fiction. Whyte Farms, started in 2016 by Kanika and Sanjeev Yadav, provides organic farm-fresh milk in and around Delhi.
Their 25-acre farm is home to 500 Dutch Holstein Friesian cows. The milk is free of artificial hormones and chemicals. The feeding, milking process, treatment and cold chain is monitored through computers, minimizing human intervention. For those with young children, this creamy whole milk is both healthy and tasty, with a fat content of 3.5-4%.
“There’s nothing new in what we do, we just wanted to bring back fresh milk as every family deserves good-quality unadulterated milk," says Sanjeev. Whyte Farms started with an investment of ₹4-5 crore. It has grown slowly, expanding the team and partnering with brands like Blue Tokai. Future plans include expanding to more cities and launching products like curd, paneer and reduced-fat variants.
Lounge pick: Organic cow milk
Available at: The National Capital Region, through subscription via Whytefarms.com
India’s first 100% vegan, cruelty-free skincare brand
“Be Good." The words are actually part of the brand logo. Five-year-old Plum is India’s first 100% vegan skincare brand. And if you thought finding skincare brands that are “cruelty-free" is a challenge given the inconsistencies in Indian regulations, Plum products also claim to be free of parabens, phthalates, paraffin, silicone and sulphates. Founder Shankar Prasad is an Indian Institute of Technology and Indian School of Business graduate whose first job was as a production manager at a Pears soap factory. Later stints at companies like Hindustan Unilever and Everstone Capital appear to have provided the base to conceive a brand that is not just “driven by the desire to be good and do good" but is also consistently sound in its products and messaging.
While Prasad says he would never sell anything resembling a fairness cream, he says their newest launch, the Bright Years range, “is pro-skin, not anti-ageing". “We don’t use aggressive ingredients that claim to reverse or halt ageing but ingredients that can help your skin deal better with the inevitable process of ageing," he says.
It’s a young brand—most of the 35-plus office team is under the age of 30—and this reflects in the brand experience. The modest pricing notwithstanding, the products are light and fuss-free, typically in fresh flavours like white tea, chamomile, grapeseed, sea buckthorn and cherries. There is chocolate and coffee in there too. With 45 stock-keeping units, the serums, scrubs, creams, face washes and so on are priced affordably.
Over the last year, they have expanded to skincare and a limited men’s range but Prasad is not planning to expand colour cosmetics beyond the sole kajal offering. “It’s not possible to offer appealing colours needed for cosmetics as a vegan brand," he says.
While the brand now has close to 200 assisted retail points of sale in 35 cities—largely counters at wellness chains like Health & Glow—e-commerce remains the biggest avenue. The company is expanding rapidly. In January, Mint reported that it was growing at 35% every quarter, serving more than 80,000 customers a month. Its green-tea night gel also recently won the Nykaa Femina Beauty Awards. Now, Plum has started taking back empty bottles from as many as 15,000 pincodes across the country to send them to a certified recycler.
Lounge pick: The e-luminescence serum
Available at: Plumgoodness.com, online marketplaces like Nykaa and Amazon, and 200 assisted retail points in 35 cities
An ethical tea brand that is environmentally and socially sustainable
One first came across Mana Organics in 2016. For a household in Tinsukia, in upper Assam, tea was serious business and one could be assured of having the best of the brews. The family had toured the district’s Chota Tingrai area, tasting and testing teas, and concluded that the Mana Organics Certified Organic Black Assam Tea grown there was a good accompaniment to breakfast fare. As it turned out, they were correct—the bold and malty brew with its sweet aftertaste was a great way to start the morning. The estate has 100 hectares dedicated to organic tea. In the rest of the estate, organic practices are used to augment conventional practices
Mana Organics was founded by Avantika Jalan in 2011 in the Chota Tingrai area where the soil is “clayey-sandy and slightly acidic", and adds a different dimension to the tea. The company, which started with a personal investment of ₹33 lakh, today has an annual turnover of ₹1.5-2 crore. Jalan and her team work with tea-growing communities to improve agricultural practices, resource and waste management. “We also run awareness programmes on social issues such as health, hygiene, financial literacy, women empowerment and education for the worker communities on our tea estates," says Jalan.
Lounge picks: Organic Assam Black Tea and Hojicha Green tea
Available at: Amazon, and through distribution partners in Delhi and Chennai
The Little Farm Co.
A ‘farm-to-fork’ brand that empowers women
A pickle that can be used as a spread and a dip—that’s The Little Farm Co.’s mango gur achaar for you. With its sweet and tangy flavours, it adds that extra zing to a sandwich.
The Little Farm Co., which offers a host of such pickles, chutneys, cold-pressed oils and superfoods, likes to call itself a “farm-to-fork" brand.
Right from the vegetables and fruits to the oils and spices are sourced from the brand’s own 100 acres of cultivated farms in Paharapurwa village in Madhya Pradesh (MP). “This uncultivated land was purchased by my father, who is a first-generation farmer. It has forests on two sides and a river on the third," says Niharika Bhargava, 26, who started The Little Farm Co. in 2016 after quitting a job in marketing. She decided to start a pickles brand—it came naturally to her since her father was somewhat of an expert at pickling.
Bhargava, who shuttles between Paharapurwa and Gurugram, started growing vegetables, spices, oil seeds and fruits. “We now do all our processing and production in Paharapurwa. And whatever little we can’t grow, we source from verified organic producers," she says. The firm has also tied up with a non-governmental organization (NGO), ASHA, in MP to provide employment to women. “Due to increased demand, we now offer the raw materials that go into our products as well," says Bhargava, whose venture is bootstrapped and entirely family-owned.
Pickles and preserves are the fastest moving products, with no synthetic vinegars or white salt being used. “We use sugar-cane vinegar as it goes with Indian tastes. The only sugar we use is khaand and jaggery powder," she says.
Lounge pick: The Mango Gur pickle
Available at: Online platforms such as Swiggy, BigBasket and Qtrove (specialises only in handmade products), and in organic stores in the National Capital Region
Organic gourmet chocolate that gives back to the cacao farmers of Kerala
Dotted with bits of dried mango, Mumbai-based chocolatier Pascati’s Mango Dark is an unusual tropical confection, while the Mint Dark offsets the zing of spearmint with the complexity of dark chocolate. The range traverses tried-and-tested combinations with dark chocolate, like sea salt, almonds and walnuts as well as more adventurous options like lemon ginger, saffron pistachio and rose almond.
However, dark chocolate lies at the heart of all their experiments in bars as well as soft-centred pralines and truffles. Founded in 2015, Pascati is among a clutch of new chocolatiers in the country that take the bean-to-bar ethos to heart. They are also Fairtrade-compliant, which means that farmers get the right prices for their products. Pascati sources cacao beans from a collective of organic farmers in Idukki, Kerala. “We follow a rigorous process to vet a potential cacao-bean farmer. As a brand, we are conscious of ethically and sustainably sourced ingredients and pay a premium for the cacao beans purchased, which is monitored in a transparent fashion by Fairtrade India. When a farmer gets a fair price for his crop, it goes back into the farming community, ensuring better farming practices such as pruning, irrigation, harvesting, etc. As a part of Fairtrade, it also means no child labour is used, a practice followed by many in the cacao industry," says Devansh Ashar, partner, Pascati Chocolate.
The brand also trains farmer cooperatives in Kerala in bean fermentation and drying techniques. Since its inception, it has gone from selling 200 bars a month to 3,500 bars and plans include a line of soft-centred products like filled bars as well as single-origin chocolates from Kerala.
Lounge pick: Mango Dark
Available at: Pascati.com and stores across major cities, including Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Gurugram
Authentic food and textile products from Jammu and Kashmir
An entire Kashmiri wazwan can now come out of a can thanks to Hamiast, an online portal showcasing the diversity of Jammu and Kashmir by bringing together a range of small producers, farmers and artisans. Jammu-based Hamiast was launched in 2018 by Qazi Moien Ahmad Shad in order to create a new employment ecosystem. “The economy of Jammu and Kashmir depends upon agriculture, horticulture, tourism and the craft industry and each of these sectors is struggling due to politico-social issues in the region. We wanted to start an initiative which would create a marketplace to showcase and sell their products," says Shad. All the farm produce available on the portal is chemical-free.
Hamiast began life as a small bootstrapped startup. Today, it has over 200 producers and local brands across categories. Plans include opening collection centres in remote locations and entering the business-to-business (B2B) space. Lounge pick: Kishtwari Marwah Rajma Available at: Hamiast.com
This family-run artisanal brand offers plant-derived skincare acids
Hyaluronic acid, vitamin C and retinol are buzzy trends in the global beauty industry, but striking a balance between safe and effective with these ingredients isn’t easy. Enter Neemli Naturals.
Founded by mother-son duo Rameshwari and Bhaskara Seth with other family members, Neemli started in 2015 by selling handmade soaps and scrubs in flea markets. The brand took a break and relaunched in 2018, still family-run but with US food and drug administration (FDA)-approved ingredients and a vegan philosophy. “We are careful about ingredients and we get as many organically certified ingredients as possible," says Bhaskara, who oversees marketing. “Our lip balms have no beeswax (to maintain the vegan formulation), the squalene comes from olives, the hyaluronic acid is sourced from sweet potato starch. Our vitamin C is encapsulated, so it doesn’t oxidize easily."
The brand’s product range includes handmade soaps, face and body creams, scrubs, lip balms and serums. Future innovations include products with bakuchiol (natural retinol) and haircare products. As the business grows each month—Neemli clocked in sales worth ₹18 lakh in June—the Seths are also working to stabilize their inventory and expand their retail presence.
Lounge pick: Hyaluronic and vitamin C serum
Available at: Neemlinaturals.com, Nykaa.com and Foodhall in Mumbai
Arata Zero Chemicals
A plant-derived unisex brand that offers chemical-free body-care products
The ingredient lists of Indian personal care brands can often be incomprehensible. Dhruv Madhok and Dhruv Bhasin want to be the industry’s game-changers—their unisex skincare brand, Arata Zero Chemicals, is gaining a following not only for its US food and drug administration-approved formulations but also its stringent quality checks.
“To ensure that only the cleanest ingredients go into our products, we collect certificates of analysis, product data sheets and organic certifications (where applicable) from each of our ingredient and raw material suppliers," says Madhok. “Additionally, each ingredient, and its commonly understood name and function, has been written on the label to make it easy for customers to learn more about our products, and to familiarize them with ingredients used in the industry."
In a little over a year, Arata has sold over 50,000 units to more than 30,000 customers across India, with 85% of the buyers in the 18-35 age group. The company also raised ₹3.5 crore in December from DSG Consumer Partners, Utsav Somani of AngelList and Rajan Rangachari, former personal care research and development director at Unilever. “In 2020, the company will be strengthening its presence across Modern Bazaar stores in Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru. We will also be launching five new personal care products this year," Madhok says.
Lounge pick: Flax Seeds Honeysuckle Hair Gel
Available at: Arata.in and Modern Bazaar (Delhi)
Lab-tested skincare products, with ingredients from around the world
Some people want to know exactly what they are putting on their faces. The longer the ingredient list on a moisturizer, the less likely some people are to buy it. They may be convinced to try Organic Riot’s anti-pigmentation serum, Dazzle, because the website clearly explains the “superhero" and “hero" ingredients in it.
Organic Riot was launched in March by 29-year-old entrepreneur Siddharth Somaiya, whose researchers tested over 4,000 raw materials over three years. The brand uses organic, allergy-free ingredients sourced from around the world, such as Cupuaçu butter from Brazil and Manuka honey extract from New Zealand. The formulae are made in a lab in New Zealand.
With only four products on offer so far, Somaiya wants to focus on educating people on skincare. For us, the next pick on Organic Riot is Smog-Block, their anti-pollution moisturizer, intended for urban environments where exposed skin is microscopically inflamed all day.
Lounge pick: Smog-Block
Available at: Organicriot.com
A skincare label spotlighting the benefits of essential oils
Contrary to popular belief, facial oils will not make you break out. In 2015, Gurugram resident Supriya Arora Malik took inspiration from her mother’s home experiments to start Indulgeo Essentials, a range of oil-based products. Today, the label’s fans include make-up artists like Namrata Soni and Vidya Tikari, beauty experts and influencers. “I used the brand’s Wonder Gold Oil recently. Even though most oils are too heavy for my sensitive skin, this one is light and glides on easily—makes for a great make-up base too," says Nikita Upadhyay, digital content strategist and author. The reusable glass bottles are a bonus.
Malik sources the oils from their country of origin. “Our argan and prickly pear oils are sourced from Morocco, rosehip oil from Chile," she says. “We only source from certified vendors—even our beeswax is organic."
Lounge pick: Pout It!
Available at: Indulgeoessentials.com and Nykaa.com
Heyday sanitary napkins
A women’s hygiene brand that swaps plastic for biodegradable solutions
Launched in 2017, Heyday was the first entrant in a category that has more eco-friendly options now. Heyday promised the simplest of things—a soft sanitary napkin. No weird floral scent, no jargon, and still as efficient in providing a stress-free period day.
Founder Deepanjali Dalmia says the napkins are made from seven layers of organic, pesticide-free corn and bamboo, grown in vertical gardens in China. Dalmia says she chose bamboo for its natural water absorption and antibacterial properties and corn fibre for its soft texture.
“About 90% of sanitary napkins are made of plastic and can take about 450 years to decompose. Organic, biodegradable napkins such as Heyday take about six months to a year," she adds. The napkins are available in two options: maxi fluff and ultra thin. In the coming months, Heyday will also launch baby diapers. It is currently bootstrapped, with an initial capital investment of ₹2.5 crore, but plans to raise funds.
You can subscribe to Heyday and have napkins delivered at your doorstep every month.
Lounge pick: Ultra thin XL
Available at: Heydaycare.com, Nykaa.com
A brand championing a zero-waste lifestyle
An online search for eco-friendly straw options leads one to Bare Necessities. On the site, amidst a host of organic, zero-waste offerings such as soaps, detergents, surface cleaners and menstrual cups, lies the solution. There is an entire page devoted to eco-friendly straws, available in stainless steel, bamboo and leafy organic.
Bare Necessities has been offering such zero-waste products, besides conducting educational workshops and consultancy since July 2016. The brand was founded by Bengaluru-based Sahar Mansoor, who wanted to be part of the solution rather than the problem. While working in SELCO, an energy solutions firm, she happened to interact with waste-pickers and began to view the waste crisis as not just an environmental but a “human issue". Thus began her quest for a zero-waste lifestyle.
However, she realized it was impossible to find personal and home-care products which didn’t contain harmful chemicals and weren’t packaged in plastic. Bare Necessities was her response. Today, the firm has seven employees and the products are available in 50 stores across 10 cities and multiple online channels. So far, it has sold over 31,160 zero-waste products, which have kept 94,100kg of plastic away from landfills, and has educated 7,374 people through workshops and talks at Nicobar, the US Green Building Council, Google, Microsoft Parikrama Foundation and others. The team has also worked with like-minded businesses, including Mason & Co, Ethic Attic, Third Wave Coffee Roasts and The Project Cafe.
Lounge pick: The bamboo straws
Available at: 50 stores, including Happy Healthy Me (Bengaluru), The Clove Store, (Mumbai), Paper Boat Collective (Goa) and Free Living (Kolkata), and on multiple online channels
Hoopoe on a Hill
Using beeswax to create alternatives to plastic
They looked like pieces of brightly coloured, block-printed fabric, but felt very different. The young woman behind the counter at the craft fair where the wraps made their debut said they were made of beeswax. “They are like cling film but completely biodegradable and reusable," she said.
The wraps are made by lining cotton fabric with natural beeswax by the Kodaikanal-based cooperative Hoopoe on a Hill, and can be used to pack and store sandwiches, cheese and other food products. Hoopoe also makes beeswax crayons (not toxic, and safe for children) and beeswax balms, and sells four varieties of organic honey.
Founders Priyashri Mani and Nishita Vasanth started the cooperative in 2015 when they visited villages in Tamil Nadu’s Palani Hills to understand the Paliyans, an Adivasi community, and their relationship with the forest. “We were working on documenting their histories for a project. In the process, we got an insight into the traditional hunter-gatherer life in this region—and one of the things we found fascinating was the practice of gathering honey," says Mani. Initially, they started buying honey from the tribals but when they were offered the beeswax too, they started experimenting and came up with the wraps and crayons.
About six months ago, they upgraded the wraps to meet international standards and recently serviced some bulk international orders to the US, Hong Kong and Dubai.
Lounge pick: Beeswax wraps
Available at: Hoopoekodaikanal.com
100% organic and flower-cycled products
The spate of articles in recent times about indoor air pollution had put us off our obsession with incense sticks and cones until a friend suggested Phool (formerly Help Us Green). Made with flowers, 100% natural essential oils and completely charcoal-free, the brand claimed to be devoid of the noxious fumes that other incense sticks generated. We tried the Phool Loban incense cones (made from a resin called gum benzoin), and were surprised by the subtle earthy tones. It wasn’t overpowering, neither did it irritate the eyes with its fumes. And, most importantly, it allowed you to breathe.
The brand started in 2017 following a conversation between two friends, Ankit Agarwal and Karan Rastogi, on the ghats of the Ganga in Kanpur. The duo noticed hundreds of flowers being dumped into the river from the temples nearby, adding to the mulch and sewage generated from the tanneries and factories. They found that the flowers, laden with pesticides, were reducing the oxygen level in the river and threatening marine life.
So they decided to start Phool, to repurpose the waste from places of worship. They met different stakeholders and started a lab in Kanpur for “flower-cycled" incense and vermicompost. Today, the venture, which has received investment from Tata Trust and DRK, has three products on offer: incense sticks and cones, and vermicompost. The company also provides employment to about 80 women from marginalized communities. The team is now working to create biodegradable alternatives to thermocol and leather.
Lounge picks: Loban and Tuberose incense sticks
Available at: Phool.co
Bumpadum Cloth Diapers
Chemical-free cotton diapers in playful designs
Anuradha Rao quit her job as a strategic consultant with IBM when her daughter was 1 and founded Bumpadum in 2016. The 16-people Bengaluru-based company manufactures cloth diapers that are reusable, chemical-free and nearly as absorbent as the disposable variety. The company that started with Rao’s personal savings and just one tailor and helper completes three years of sales this month. Rao says that it made profits of just under ₹1 crore in 2018-19.
Rao wants to add more products made using the same materials, like reusable sandwich wrappings, and expand to the retail space. “Bumpadum cloth diapers are an everyday product, not a luxury, so we hope to be present in every town and city, in the local markets that parents go to," Rao says.
Lounge pick: Bumpadum’s Aviva diapers, with waterproof fabric on the outside
Available at: Bumpadum.com and Amazon
Skin Sense pet-care products
Sustainable and feel-good pet care
Neo, Payal Sarda Rajendran’s “very young" and exuberant Labrador (all of 13 years old), was the reason the Bengaluru-based micro-entrepreneur decided to start a range of organic pet- care products in 2016. “It grew out of the need to address Neo’s grooming and wellness in a holistic manner. There was nothing available off the counter that I felt was doing a good enough job," says Rajendran.
Her Skin Sense line of pet-care products includes wellness and grooming essentials—largely for canines and a few for felines—like shampoos and anti-tick washes, as well as feel-good stuff. These include massage oils, paw and snout butters, and a patented “Golden Paste", a mix of virgin coconut oil and natural turmeric which can be applied topically to treat yeast and fungal infections or added to food for arthritis relief and improving the skin and coat.
“Our customers are conscious, label-reading humans owned by their pets, just like us," says Rajendran. The brand’s plant-based ingredients are US department of agriculture (USDA)-certified organic. The company minimizes the use of chemicals while maintaining transparency by labelling the percentage of natural and organic ingredients in each product. It also gives back to the community, with 10% of profits going to animal welfare.
Lounge pick: Skin Sense Dry Bath Powder for cats and dogs
Available at: Cessnapetstore.in
Baked goods for pets that are organic and gluten-free
These days, with an increasing number of pets being allergic to gluten, it is a challenge to find organic, gluten-free treat options for them. Last year, we came across The Barkery, a Delhi-based bakery for pets started by 23-year-old Nishna Varma in 2017. “I have two pets of my own and one of them is allergic to gluten. The other one, a chihuahua, is extremely fussy about what he eats. I would anyway not buy treats from stores as they contained harmful chemicals and preservatives. So I would bake these goodies myself using fresh meat and veggies," she says. What started as informal sharing of treats among friends soon turned into a business venture.
Varma started The Barkery as a self-funded e-commerce venture, focusing on nutrition-rich cupcakes, cakes and biscuits which were organic, and free of gluten and chemical preservatives. Today, she ships The Barkery products across India. “Our monthly biscuit subscription services are very popular, as are our customized birthday cakes. We do at least 25 cakes a month," she says.
Lounge picks: Pumpkin biscuits and Hugo’s chicken ones
Available at: Barkerydelhi.com
The Great Banyan
Organic, sugarless porridge for babies
Picking the first food the baby will have is a tough decision. It should be something off-the-shelf to suit busy lifestyles but because there can be no compromises when it comes to the baby, it must also be organic, sugar-free, and made with traditional grains. Believe it or not, such a thing is available at an affordable price, and is home-delivered within two days.
Like many businesses offering organic products for babies, the Great Banyan was set up by a woman who started making something she wanted for her baby but couldn’t buy. Chennai-based Ayshwarya Prabhuram, a 30-year-old mother of two, realized there was a business opportunity when friends started asking for her porridge mixes. With the help of her husband and mother-in-law, she put them on Amazon.
Two years later, she has nine products for babies, four for adults, a manufacturing unit, and five employees. “I do this for my own satisfaction," she says. “I am not thinking big, I am thinking about maintaining quality." She is, however, looking at expanding into healthy snacks for toddlers.
Lounge pick: First Solids Sprouted Ragi Porridge
Available at: Amazon, Flipkart, FirstCry and Better India
An apothecary offering DIY products and ready body care based on Vedic wisdom and seasonality
An apothecary housed in the Delhi-based concept store of Paro, Good Earth’s sister brand, Botanica offers an array of plant-derived oils, powders, salts and clay. Anita Lal, founder of Good Earth, has been experimenting with essential oils and natural ingredients for years, and works with a team of chemists and aromatherapists to create formulations for Botanica based on Vedic learning and seasonality.
“Traditional wisdom was to align our bodies to the changing seasons. At Paro, we want to create a culture that helps the modern person to once again consciously create balance by aligning our bodies with the cycles of nature through food and body care," she says. “Certain oils and fragrances are too heavy in summer or too light for dry winter months. In order to give our bodies the appropriate level of protection and nutrition, and also the joy that the scents of a particular season give us, we offer a changing range of body care."
The products are made in small batches with minimal preservatives. Ingredients for the apothecary are sourced from internationally certified suppliers. The brand works with local communities in Uttarakhand to grow therapeutic plants and some ingredients, like wild rosehips and wild peach kernels, are foraged by women in Himachal Pradesh’s Kullu valley as part of the brand’s community development initiatives. Along with season-specific pre-blended body massage oils, shower oils and butters, one can also pick individual ingredients in the store. “We offer high-quality base materials for customers who are curious and want to experiment and create their own skincare," Lal says. “(Ready products) are easier to pick up for people who do not have the time or inclination to experiment.’’
Botanica is currently available only at the Delhi store, though there are plans to retail its products through Good Earth’s stores.
Lounge pick: Ruh Khus-Infused Watermelon Seed Body Oil
Available at: Paro, The Chanakya, Delhi, and Instagram.com/parogoodearth