Back to the roots

Anjali Jhangiani
Sunday, 28 April 2019

Adrish, a zero-waste store that encourages customers to lead an organic and a sustainable lifestyle, has opened in Aundh

What is a zero-waste store? It is a store where customers can bring their own bags and containers to fill in their supplies and save on packaging costs. For example, you bring your own bottle to fill in oil, and pay only for the amount of oil you want, without having to bear the cost of the packaging. When you consider the savings you make on packaging for a number of products like rice, dal etc, it comes to quite a bit. But it’s not just the monetary savings that this store offers, it’s also a healthier lifestyle that you can have by consuming these organic products.
 
“We want to give the consumers a plastic-free experience in a convenient way. We have a range of 250 plus organic products. They come directly from the farms. We work with 8500 farmers across 10 states to get the best products for our customers,” says Akshay Agarwal, partner at Adrish. The other partners include Sabita Agarwal, Sourabh Salunke and Gajendra Choudhary (who has a background in farming). 

“Consumers don’t trust brands that claim to be organic or sustainable. This is probably because somewhere down the line, their trust has been played with and they have been left disappointed. The certification to be organic is not hard to get and there’s no way of telling whether the products are really organic or not,” says Agrwal, adding, “And we are here to change that and encourage people to lead an organic and sustainable lifestyle that will make the consumers and the planet healthier.”

The store, inaugurated recently by former beauty queen Yukta Mookhey who lives a completely waste-free lifestyle, offers a variety of grains, legumes, stone-ground flours, hand-pound rice, whole wheat pastas, herbs, cold-pressed oils, raw cruelty-free honey, wooden utensils, earthenware, copperware, wooden toys, bamboo toothbrushes, organic clothing, handmade natural soaps and shampoos, and so on. 

“We have a particular checklist for product procurement. Firstly, we check if the product is organic and comes from heirloom variety seed. Heirloom seeds are those indigenous varieties of seeds which were used by our ancestors and have been passed on through generations. We are mentored by the Siddhagiri group of farmers in Kolhapur which has training centres for organic farming across the country. With their help, we connect  with farmers. Our team visits the farmers and tests their products for pesticide and heavy metal residue, and if they meet our standards, we procure the products from them. Our team performs regular checks and audits even at the processing level,” says Agarwal. 

Different products are procured from different regions across India — Jowar comes from Maharashtra, wheat from Karnataka and Bajri from Rajasthan. “We have a variety of jowar called Dagdi, which has been used for 5000 years. From Karnataka, we have a 15,000-year-old indigenous variety of ‘miracle wheat’ called khapli, and the finest groundnut oil,” he claims, adding that the store also stocks gluten-free wheat which can be safely consumed by those with gluten intolerance.

Just being harvested organically isn’t enough for your product to be healthy for you, the way it is processed also plays a big part in retaining nutrients. The products at Adrish are slow-processed. “When you process food at a very high speed, the nutrients vanish. You end up eating only for satisfying yourself. This is why we have our dals hand-pounded by women self-help groups in various parts of the country. Along with the certainty that nutrients will remain intact, this process also provides development and employment in rural areas,” says he. 

A must-try is the nutrition-boosting khichdi mix containing hand-pounded red rice, millets, stone-ground mong chilka, moringa powder and other ingredients that is prepared by adivasi groups in areas of Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan. You just need to add haldi, salt and water and cook. 

Apart from groceries, the store also sells utensils and crockery.  “We have to go back to our roots, go back to how it all started and how food was intended to be consumed. When it comes to cooking food, most of us are using non-sick tawas. But with time, the non-stick layer comes off in bits and pieces and can go into the food we cook, which can be carcinogenic when consumed. When you cook in aluminum vessels, about 87 per cent of nutrients are lost, but when you use earthenware, the loss is only a minimal 7 per cent, and ironware loses 13 per cent. The best way to cook is in ironware or earthenware. The best way to eat is in copper plates.We educate out customers about all this, ” says he. 

A section of the store features organic clothing made with natural dyes and indigenous cotton. “The dyes we use are charcoal based or natural oil based. When you wear these clothes, the dyes rub off on your skin, leaving it rejuvenated,” he claims. This apart, there are soaps and shampoos made by women in Auroville with natural oils. 

Can the common man afford an organic and sustainable lifestyle?
Since organic products here are not mass produced, it is more expensive. “When you compare our products with regular organic products, it is cheaper because it is package free. But when you compare it with conventional products that are factory made, the price difference will be about 20-30 per cent,” says Agarwal, further explaining, “Take groundnut oil for example — one kg of groundnut oil requires a minimum of 3 kg of groundnuts, the regular price of groundnuts is about Rs 80, so the cost of raw materials to make that amount of oil should come to Rs 240. Then how is it that the factory made oil is priced at Rs 80 per liter? The best possible explanation for this is that the oil is adulterated.” Now there’s no way you can compare the real deal with adulterated products. 

“Eat millets on a regular basis, reduce your consumption of rice. It is possible to work things out in a way that will add to your health and save you a lot of money which you would end up spending on the doctor,” says he. 

The brand plans to open another outlet in NIBM and is also running another store in Koregaon Park.

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