Indonesia’s first edible food packaging firm reveals automation plan to drive down costs

By Lester Wan contact

- Last updated on GMT

The Edible Seaweed Packaging can be used as a wrapper for fast foods and sachets for beverages.
The Edible Seaweed Packaging can be used as a wrapper for fast foods and sachets for beverages.
Indonesia’s first edible packaging firm, Evoware, has unveiled plans to automate and rapidly scale up production of its seaweed-based items, which will lead to a big cut in the final costs of its products.

The company currently produces about 60 sheets of seaweed packaging (21cm x 26cm) per day using manual labour — by hand. The company has acquired new machines that, come July, will be producing 2,000 sheets of seaweed packaging per day.

“We are in the process of scaling up for mass production to meet the demand,”​ said David Christian, co-founder of Evoware.

According to Christian, they have been receiving about 100 enquiries about their packaging per week. Most of these enquiries come from outside of Indonesia. He said that only 13% of enquiries come from within the country.

They intend to first focus on the local market, due to factors such as resources, logistics and certification that would be easier to obtain and possibly more cost-effective.

The company’s production facility is in Jakarta, while it sources its seaweed from seaweed farmers in Makassar.

Christian said they are considering expanding their operation and location options. He said the first possibility would be in Bali, where consumer awareness about environmental issues is high.

Nonetheless, the company is open to expanding its channels to meet the increasing demand from other Asian countries, most likely through distributors.

In order to further scale up production as well as expand their business, Christian said Evoware is also currently open to investors who could help to ramp up their growth.

Product development

Evoware is also in plans with an organic company to produce a new product: a type of travelling food kit with edible packaging specifically designed for travellers or hikers. The biodegradable packaging is environmentally friendly and will help to reduce the risk of plastics and other non-biodegradable packaging harming the environment.

Currently, Evoware manufactures Ello Jello edible seaweed cones or cups that can be used for ice creams, desserts and drinks, as well as its Edible Seaweed Packaging that can be used as a wrapper for fast food such as burgers and French fries, or as sachets for coffee or tea, or even food seasoning.

The Edible Seaweed Packaging can be dissolved in hot water, so consumers and cleaners do not need to worry about waste or litter.

While Christian admits that the Edible Seaweed Packaging has a low moisture barrier and risks degradation or deterioration due to high humidity or contact with water, he said the product is designed to be a quick-use, single-use wrapper for fast food or a replacement for internal packaging in packaged food — such as for ingredients and condiments.

On the other hand, he said Edible Seaweed Packaging has been tested and found to be more resistant to oxygen or atmosphere exposure, and the resulting deterioration of the food product, than the usual metallic sachets.

The food applications for which Edible Seaweed Packaging is already being used by the company’s clients include sandwiches, waffles, coffee, popsicles, seasonings, snacks, energy bars and organic sugar.

Christian further revealed that they are currently researching “the next stage”​ of product development. They are in the process of developing a more durable product that is more waterproof. While it would not be an edible product, it would still be biodegradable.

Environmentally-friendly and sustainable

Christian said he started his business with his first business partner, Edwin Aldrin, as he was alarmed by the amount of pollution and plastic waste he saw in Indonesia after returning from studying in Canada for four years.

According to the company, Indonesia is the world’s second-biggest plastic waste contributor to the ocean, and 90% of plastic waste goes into the ocean. Of that waste, 70% comes from food and beverage packaging.

Christian also said that 70% of water in Indonesia is contaminated by micro plastics, as are 25% of the fish in the Indonesian market.

He said the company not only wants to educate children and youths who can make a difference, they also want to help and improve the lives and livelihood of the underprivileged, such as the seaweed farmers.

While Indonesia is the largest seaweed producer, with 80% of it exported, he said seaweed farmers are very poor due to a long marketing chain with many middle men.

Evoware is working with a local cooperative of about 1,200 seaweed farmers in Makassar and purchases the seaweed from the farmers for 178% more than what the middle men would pay them. 

The company has taught them how to clean and prepare the seaweed and to maintain a high standard of quality in the process.

One challenge Evoware currently faces is price. According to some customers, the price of its Ello Jelly edible seaweed cone costs up to about five times more than a crepe ice cream cone.

However, Christian said that the problem would be significantly reduced once their machinery is installed and they begin to produce en masse. He said the price of their edible seaweed packaging would only be about 20% more than non-biodegradable conventional packaging.

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