Going Green is excited to feature Swati Pandey, the Co-founder & CEO of Arboreal on the podcast, and first wanted to dive deeper and learn more about how she is combining biotechnology and natural food ingredients.
Tell us about your background:
I am the co-founder and CEO of Arboreal – an award winning global plant biotechnology and agri-technology company focused on creating a diabetes free world.
I am an engineer by background. I completed bachelors in Mechanical Engineering from IIT in 2010, joined an oil and gas services company after graduating, but soon realised that I wanted to be a part of the solution rather than the problem, and decided to quit within an year and went on to pursue MSc in Sustainable Energy at Imperial College London (where I was also a Commonwealth Scholar). I then worked in the investment management, venture capital and consulting space for a few years in London and Singapore, before quitting my job in 2015 to go back to India and run Arboreal full time.
Arboreal is India’s first vertically integrated Stevia (a 100% natural, zero calorie sweetener that comes from a plant) manufacturing company, where we curate and control every step of the Stevia value chain – right from creating the best quality Stevia saplings to their cultivation in collaboration with smallholder farmers in rural India to extraction (using our proprietary, organic extraction technology), formulations development and market access. Arboreal currently employs over 250 people on its farms in rural India, out of which about 80% are women.
What caused you to get into your industry?
One primary driver of me getting into this industry was very personal to me. My mother has been a diabetic for the last 25 years, and I have seen her struggle first hand. I could see a clear need for a safer, cleaner, natural and healthier alternative to Sugar in my own house, and I knew that there were many people like her around the world who were facing the same issues. Infact, currently more than 550 million people suffer from Diabetes globally.
I have always been someone who is driven my making an impact. No matter what I did in life, having a purpose was always very important to me. I felt, through this business, we had an opportunity to positively impact the lives of not just millions of consumers who are struggling with Diabetes or weight management, but also 100s and 1000s of farmers that we work with in rural India.
What trends are you seeing in your industry?
Sugar is the new fat! We are being fed empty calories by food and beverage companies for years in the name of taste, but with rising cases of Diabetes and Obesity worldwide and increasing scientific evidence linking excess consumption of Sugar with a number of lifestyle diseases, consumers are now waking up to the harmful side effects of excess Sugar consumption. They are now demanding lower calorie, healthier products, which in turn is making F&B companies develop and launch better and healthier products too.
The second trend we see in our industry is consumers’ expectations of companies to follow socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable practices. Consumers now care about what ingredients are being used in the products they are consuming, and how and where are they being sourced from. This is again making Companies take their social and environmental footprint a lot more seriously.
What is one Action Item for our listeners and viewers to take away from this conversation?
Please read labels of the food products you buy off the shelf and make an effort to understand the ingredients used. Special attention should be paid to the ‘hidden’ Sugars added in a lot of food and beverage products.
Thank you Swati for taking the time and sharing your experience combining biotechnology and natural food ingredients.
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