The modest jackfruit has always had an indifferent existence in the Indian household -- more ignored than relished. Rather, the largest tree-borne fruit has been the delight of squirrels and birds in its native land.
Now a Kerala engineer is trying to give it a pride of place, similar to what happened in countries like Vietnam, the Philippines and Thailand.
Believed to have originated in the south-western rain forests in the country, the word jackfruit comes from the Portuguese name jaca, which in turn is derived from the Malayalam word chakka.
Last May, Subhash Koroth, 32 year-old engineer-turned- entrepreneur, decided to get into processing of jackfruit, the most commonly available fruit across Kerala.
"This is the most wasted fruit across the state. I felt there was an opportunity here. I spent 10 days visiting jackfruit processing factories in Vietnam and decided to start it here," Koroth, who hails from Taliparambu in Kannur district, told IANS.
Today he own's the only jackfruit processing factory in the country at KINFRA Industrial park near Taliparambu. Within six months of opening, his company, Artocarpus Foods Pvt. Ltd, started supplying jackfruit products to state-owned Kerala Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation and is finalising deals for supplying it to leading private food manufacturing companies.
"We supply three products -- jackfruit pulp, seed and seed powder as raw materials to companies who make ice creams. Jackfruit seed powder is an important ingredient for pastries ," said Koroth.
He has invested around Rs 1.3 crore for his factory providing employment to 20 people.
The availability of the fruit is not a problem because most households are glad to give it away as it causes inconvenience ripening and falling down, inviting flies and other insects.
"The biggest cost element for use is transportation. In a month, we require about 5,000 jackfruits and we are planning to double our daily processing as we are getting many more orders," said Koroth.
Koroth is also trying to diversify into products like vacuum fried chips, chaka vareti (a Kerala grandmothers delicacy similar to a halwa) and pickles.
He says his company is likely to break even in two years. But its contribution to the food processing industry will remain a pioneer that resurrected a lowly fruit.
(Sanu George can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)