Himalayan barnyard, kodo and proso varieties of millets, a range of alternative flours ranging from cassava to raw banana, virgin avocado oils, organic baby carrots in various colours—this could be the pantry of dreams for hipsters, health enthusiasts and the organic food brigade as well as those interested in exploring India’s diverse produce.
Zama Organics is the latest entrant in the growing organic food start-up sector of India. The initiative of Mumbai-based Shriya Naheta, 25, this food portal launched operations in February with fresh produce like salad leaves and exotic vegetables from an organic farm in Pune.
“The idea of Zama started while I was travelling with my sister Aditi Dugar (who runs the Mumbai-based experiential fine-dining restaurant Masque) around India, sourcing ingredients for her restaurant and catering company. I saw this huge gap in the market.
There is a lot of fancy imported produce but there is little or no access to local home-grown stuff from different parts of the country,” says Naheta. She interacted with many small indigenous farmers who had been growing the same things over generations and according to traditional methods, untouched by modern technology or commercial demands.
Over the last few months, Naheta has travelled across the country and expanded her operations to cover a consortium of over 350 farmers. Although her main suppliers are based in Nashik, Pune and near Mukteshwar in Uttarakhand, she sources specialized products directly from their place of origin, like pink rice from Meghalaya, cashews from Coimbatore and saffron from Kashmir.
The objective is to source things that are native to different climatic belts and geographies and bring them to a common platform. And while not all the produce is organic, Naheta ensures that the farmers they bring on board follow the best practices and their produce is uncontaminated by pollutants or pesticides.
Since a lot of the produce is seasonal, be prepared to see stuff out of stock, as well as surprises like Himalayan chestnuts on the website.
All of Zama’s fresh produce is locally grown at farms in Nashik and Pune. Freshness is key to their vision. Nothing lies on a shelf all day long and wilts away as the items are harvested based on pre-orders and delivered the very next morning.
So the journey from farm to table is very short. Apart from fresh produce, Zama also sources and packages air-dried herbs, hand-pounded spices like cumin, coriander and turmeric as well as lesser known products like the local Himalayan timur (a variety of the Sichuan red pepper), Himalayan garlic rock salt and Himalayan lemon rind rock salt, among others.
Naheta also works with local farmer communities to create value-added products like preservative-free seasonal jams, pickles and chutneys. There is a small selection of cheeses from the Spotted Cow Fromagerie in Mumbai as well as virgin oils and superfoods and nuts.
“I don’t want Zama Organics to be a lifestyle product, the idea is to introduce all this great produce as well as the idea of sustainable farming to a wider audience. And while we want to grow this online, we also would like to create Zama pop-up stores and our own version of a farmer’s market,” says Naheta