Entrepreneur is inspired by traditional packaging

Disconcerted by the amount of environmentally unfriendly packaging, Jaydeep Korde thought: Why not make packaging out of natural materials, like the Indian food-wraps made of banana leaves? It took him eight years to develop a process that can turn any kind of cereal waste into packaging material.

When Jaydeep Korde founded his company, Valueform, in 2003 as a research entity, he had already been thinking about his business idea for decades. And so had his parents. Originally from India, they were disconcerted by the amount of environmentally unfriendly and over-engineered packaging they saw everywhere. “Why not make packaging out of natural materials”, they wondered, like the food-wraps made of banana leaves that were common in India.

The first product they envisioned was a burger box made of banana tree bark and even though the business eventually took a different route, the idea of using low-cost, biodegradable material as packaging stuck. Korde decided that cereal waste such as rice and wheat straw was the way to go. These materials are widely available and cheap. And most importantly, by using waste, he doesn’t have to compete with food producers and biofuel refineries for raw materials, as the makers of corn-based bioplastics do.

After his company’s launch, it took Korde eight years to develop a process that can turn any kind of cereal waste into packaging material. He engineered his technology to be compatible with existing machinery at paper pulping factories. In defining the process, Korde took an interdisciplinary approach and worked with a host of technology partners including the Danish Technology Institute, Reading University, Bangor University, the Bio-Composite Center, Co-op, BASF and C-Tech.

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This has certainly helped Korde define and develop his products: “It has been invaluable, taking a cross disciplinary approach means you can take ideas from a totally different field and see how they might be useful”, he says. He faced many challenges when trying to match the characteristics of traditional packaging: “The substrate is pretty flexible, but the chemistry required for each application is different, depending on waterproofing requirements, oven and microwave requirements”, Korde explains.

While his goal is to supply supermarkets and any company that is packaging high volumes of food in plastic or paper with packaging made 100 % from straw waste and meets or beats their current price, Korde also wants to license his technology. “That way, anybody who is currently using paper, which is getting increasingly expensive, can start using straw and cereal waste”, he says. The food packaging market is expected to reach more than 70 billion USD by 2017 and Korde thinks his company Valueform is well positioned for solid growth within this market.

While food packaging is one important business focus, Valueform is also supplying hospitals in Great Britain with disposable medical products made of straw or cereal waste. Each new customer is teaching him a new lesson: “We are learning about global logistics and the details around our customers’ businesses, as well as managing the enormous technical detail around the packaging we are replacing.” The biggest lesson so far: “Packaging is not packaging but actually physical marketing”, he says.