Cheers to chikoo cider

Amrita Prasad
Monday, 6 May 2019

Fruzzante, a wine-making startup, is using fermented chikoo and pineapple to create a wide range of gluten-free, cider-style beverages. Priyanka Save, who launched the brand along with her husband Nagesh Pai, tells us more

Ciders are one of the most underrated beverages in India. These simplest forms of alcohol, which are manufactured by fermenting the natural sugars/ fructose present in a fruit, has around 5-6 per cent alcohol in them, which is a lot less than alcoholic beverages. Ciders, made of fermented apple juice, are immensely popular in the West, however, India is still catching up. In order to glamourise ciders, Fruzzanté, touted to be the country’s first local chikoo-based wine brand, is offering unique cider style wine flavours created from fruits. Instead of apples, Fruzzanté, a wine-making startup, is using fermented chikoo (sapota) and pineapple to create an impressive new range of gluten-free, cider-style beverages. It also introduced two new vegan flavours recently.  

Nagesh Pai and his wife Priyanka Save launched Fruzzanté in 2010. They started their venture when chikoos from their family orchards, which in the past brought prosperity to its growers, started losing lustre. Unlike other fruits, chikoo was just a table fruit and not available in any processed or packaged form due to its highly perishable nature. Coming from a challenging Mechanical Engineering background, the couple was already accustomed to winning against odds when they founded this fruit-based commercial winery in the picturesque hills on the outskirts of Bordi near Dahanu. 

They introduced their first flagship product in 2017 and since then, the chikoo-based alcoholic beverage has been winning hearts with its bubbling fresh and fruity cider-style flavour. Apart from their flagship product, they also have other variants in the vegan cider range which includes pineapple, mango, and spice garden (cinnamon, ginger, and honey). They plan to diversify their product range further while working with several other fruits in the near future. 

What makes this start-up stand out from the rest is its initiative to help the local Warli tribe by manufacturing some unique wines. The company regularly donates some percentage of profits earned through the sale of its Starfruit Jiwa sparkling white wine. The fruits are sourced directly from the farmers to maintain quality. The company also mentions where the fruit is sourced from to highlight its quality. For example, in the case of pineapples which are sourced directly from a farmer in Dodamarg Sindhudurg, you can find all the details of the source on the bottle. 

Fruzzanté drinks are available in Palghar, Mumbai, Pune, Satara and Nagpur in Maharashtra. While Fruzzanté Original, Spice Garden and Pineapple are available at Rs 255 for 330 ml bottles, Jiwa is priced at Rs 195 for 330 ml.

Priyanka tells us more about their product:
- What inspired you to create Fruzzanté?
The idea of Fruzzanté stemmed unknowingly during my childhood years, I think. Raised in the chikoo orchards of Dahanu-Gholvad, I had a profound affection for farm-grown fruits early in life. There was a seed borer disease which hit the local chikoo market in 2004. I saw entire plantations being slashed and uprooted and at that moment, I knew I wanted to revive the fruit and the plantation.

Being a farmer’s daughter, I knew fruits like the back of my hand. My husband is also a wine enthusiast and with his support, we decided to overturn the depleted chikoo market after doing extensive experiments on its high perishability, extraction, fermentation, storage, and packaging. After several trials with by-products, we realised that it’s in the nature of chikoo to ferment and hence decided to go with a cider-style beverage — the result of which is Fruzzanté. 

- Fruzzanté is all about cider-style alcoholic beverages but cider-based drinks aren’t too popular in India.
People have started becoming receptive to cider beverages. Fruzzanté’s popularity is a testament to this fact. Consumers today are seeking authenticity, reliability, freshness, and quality in terms of food and beverage. The Geographical Indication has also undoubtedly been massively instrumental for us. It is a mark of fulfilling consumer demands through home-grown means. However, the tag is a representation which doesn’t give the true picture of the earnest efforts of our farmers in growing and harvesting the local produce for manufacturing. For this reason, we highlight their contribution by mentioning them on the labels as well. 

- How do you ensure the quality and freshness of the drinks?
Chikoo is a laborious fruit in terms of attracting the market, and also the manufacturing process. The problems with high pH levels, uneven ripening, and low shelf-life make it immensely dissimilar to fruits like grapes which ripen naturally and is easy to harvest. The manufacturing process of chikoo drinks thus includes controlled environments like chambers that control the natural ripening process instead of non-organic means. This creates uniform ripening and thereby resulting in better quality juice and high-quality wine. 

Apart from this, conducive environments with the use of impeller pumps and fermentation tanks on north facing stilt levels (least sun exposure) are implemented to ensure less cooling and power savings. The further use of automatic temperature-controlled systems, cooling jackets, and ozonators helps maintain hygienic and sterile conditions. 

The problem of packaging the highly perishable fruit is solved with the help of a fully-automatic state-of-the-art bottling filling machine. The technology ensures that the bottles are efficiently rinsed, filled, and capped. Therefore, the collaborative use of the bottling machine and the air-conditioned storage facility helps maintain comfortable temperatures for product storage.

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