Jackfruit is so abundant in Kerala that loads of it goes waste every season.
A software programmer-turned-entrepreneur decided to do something about it. K M Sooraj started Nutritivo Food Products in Wayanad district to tap into the unending supply of nature's bounty.
The firm that works out of the Kinfra Park at Choondal is in the business of making pickles, chutney powder, laddu, halwa, chips and even honey out of jackfruits. The top-selling items are jackfruit pulp, jackfruit powder and jackfruit seed powder.
The firm is hardly a year old but it is already struggling with orders for pulp from the sweeter koozha variety of jackfruit.
Sooraj started the enterprise after working in the software industry abroad for four years and another three years in Kerala. He did feasibility studies on about 20 products before settling on jackfruit. What made him leaning towards the big fruit?
He cites a large market and large supply as prime motivations. “Jackfruits command a price as set by farmers. Jackfruit is available continuously for 10 months. You can store it for the remaining two months. There is excellent technical support available,” he said.
Jackfruit is available all through Thiruvananthapuram district starting January. The fruit is available in other districts up to October. Whatever is required for November and December can be stored.
Jackfruits are directly supplied by farmers. Even if agents supply it, the payment is done straight to farmers. Sooraj's company uses varikka chakka for all products except pulp.
“You get 100 grams of dried jackfruit for Rs 70. Soak it in boiling water for half an hour and you get normal jackfruit that is enough to feed four or five persons. It is more profitable than processing fresh jackfruit,” Sooraj said.
Jackfruit costs Rs 8 to 10 per kilo during the season and up to Rs 40 in offseason.
Jackfruit pulp, jackfruit powder and seed powder are sold to other firms which use them as ingredients in a lot of products including ice cream, peda, ada or juice.
Sooraj's company also makes cookies, cutlet mix, halwa and chips and sells them through bakeries.
Products like soup powder, chutney powders, halwa and pickles are sold through supermarkets.
The company even participates in food festivals to showcase jackfruit products such as biriyani.
The company is constantly producing. There is never an offseason for its products. Though credit is offered, payment is done regularly. Its products are sold all over Kerala and even in Bengaluru. There are 10 distributors for the products.
Jackfruit pulp sells for Rs 150 to Rs 200 per kilo. Jackfruit powder sells for Rs 500 to Rs 600 per kilo. Jackfruit seed powder sells for Rs 150 to Rs 200 per kilo. Sometimes the company just can't keep up with the orders. Monthly turnover ranges from Rs 5 lakh to Rs 6 lakh. Net profit of about 30 per cent is assured.
The company owns machinery worth Rs 20 lakh. They include dryers, pulverisers, roaster, cutting machines, peeling machine and freezers.
The company has availed of a bank loan. They are also awaiting a subsidy of 40 per cent. The firm employs 10 local women as daily wagers.
Sooraj runs the company in partnership with brother Sijo and two others – Sreejayan and Sreelal. The Parappanangadi native chose Wayanad to set up his unit because land was available and the raw materials were always around. Technical help was also assured in the Kinfra Park.
They argue that jackfruit processing is an area worth experimenting with. New entrepreneurs can try it out with relatively lower costs.