Talk with the Expert: In conversation with Manipur’s ‘Forage’ food enterprise

However, it is known that Northeast India has a different way of making food items compared to the Mainland. 

By Ladiangti Rani and Laxmi Chyrmang | IMPHAL:

Be it healthy or junk, people love to hog on all kinds of food! Our taste buds crave new flavours, new items and new dishes. Varieties of food products from all over the world have given us the thrill to relish all of it. 

However, it is known that Northeast India has a different way of making food items compared to the Mainland. 

In this week’s TNT-The Northeast Today’s Talk with the Expert (TWTE), we have Korou Khundrakpam of ‘Forage’- a brand of exciting all-natural food products handmade in Manipur to share about their business.

TNT: Things people should know before starting a food business.

Forage: As with all other businesses, you should have a clear idea of what segment of the market you want to cater to and should also resonate with your strengths - be it your skill set, your network, or access to resources. And it should be something you are passionate about.

TNT: Ingredients required in making natural food products.

Forage: Interestingly, natural food products are less about what you put in and more about what you leave out. Avoiding artificial additives from food products presents some challenges, like reduced shelf-life, inconsistent appearance and texture, etc. 

These challenges can be tackled by being innovative with processes, distribution and marketing. Many answers can be found in traditional foods and practices of the past when all food was natural. We are also a very young enterprise and continually face these challenges as an opportunity to be creative!

TNT: Benefits of having local and natural food.

Forage: With big food companies competing for every corner of the global market on a war footing, their priority is more often than not placed on reducing costs, shelf-life, and instant appeal. The healthfulness of a food product takes a distant back seat. Consuming local and natural food reduces your exposure to carcinogenic additives, refined sugar, and other toxic substances. I would like to stress here that local doesn’t mean natural. Consumers should always read the ingredients carefully and choose wisely. If consumers express a preference for natural products, I believe our local food brands will gear up to provide it more readily.

TNT: Benefits of Kombucha.

Forage: Kombucha is a delicious probiotic beverage made by fermenting brewed red tea. It is an excellent source of Vitamin C and other antioxidants. It restores gut flora and improves digestive health, boosting immunity and helps detox your body. And believe me, it just makes you feel good!

TNT: Steps involved and time to make Kombucha.

Forage: Kombucha starts with a sweetened red tea brew. It is cooled, and a kombucha culture is added to it. It is left in a glass or fermentation grade steel container with a tight canvas cover to allow air but keep out flies. Left at an ideal temperature of 24 to 30 degrees celsius, it takes around ten days to ferment. It can be further infused with fruits and spices for another one to three days. Our favourite infusion is ginger. Or maybe sumac berries. Hard to decide!

(Note: Kombucha is not an indigenous beverage of the Northeast. Its origin is in China.)

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