S’porean, 31, quits full-time MNC job & starts edible cutlery business to help reduce plastic waste amid Covid-19

From kitchen experiments to a solution to tackle single-use plastic waste.

| Zhangxin Zheng | Sponsored | May 02, 2021, 08:27 PM

Many Singaporeans probably recall experimenting a lot at home during Circuit Breaker last year, be it with some crafts or cooking.

Like many of us, 31-year-old Singaporean Anna Lam found herself experimenting with a simple recipe for hardtack — a type of biscuit that’s more lasting than the usual ones we eat.

Some hardtacks can even last for years, and can be staples for travellers on long sea voyages.

Nope, Lam is not preparing for a long getaway in a post-Covid-19 world, but an entrepreneurial journey that set sail from those little kitchen experiments.

And now, Lam is one of the female game changers in the sustainability scene who’s receiving support from HSBC.

Edible cutlery to replace disposables

In an email interview with Mothership, Lam shared that she got the idea to work on edible cutlery in 2015, when she came across an Indian company called Bakeys, which was seeking crowdfunding on Kickstarter.

“I was fascinated by the concept,” Lam said.

After seeing how much single-use plastic waste that people, including herself, inevitably generated from all the takeaways during Circuit Breaker, Lam was determined to do something.

“Another key motivator was the single-use plastic waste I personally accumulated during the circuit breaker from takeaways and food delivery. I found it hard to stick to reusable cutlery because of the added inconvenience.

That was when I realised that the inconvenience pain point had to be solved to make an impact on single-use plastic consumption in Singapore.”

Lam then quit her full-time job at Mars Food Inc to start Crunch Cutlery, a company that produces edible cutlery, with two other like-minded Singaporeans, Sean Neo and Ezra Chan.

Six flavours and very nutritious

Convincing people to stop using single-use plastic waste is, unsurprisingly, tough because it’s just so convenient to just “use and throw”.

To make a compelling case for more Singaporeans to choose edible cutlery over plastic cutlery, the trio set out to create an exciting gourmet experience for users by collaborating with scientists and engineers.

The trio has since developed six flavours of edible cutlery. They include both sweet and savoury flavours like strawberry, blue pea lychee, green tea, tomato, spicy and gluten-free buckwheat.

Photo courtesy of Crunch Cutlery.

Depending on what you are eating, you can be sure to find the right edible spoon to go with. For example, a tomato-flavoured spoon can go well with a poke bowl.

And a bowl of acai would perhaps taste even better with blue pea lychee spoon.

Yummy. Photo courtesy of Crunch Cutlery.

Besides being tasty and sustainable, the edible cutlery from Crunch Cutlery is also nutritious, with ingredients that are high in fibre and vitamins, such as organic chia seeds.

While many F&B businesses took a hit from Covid-19 pandemic, the trio behind Crunch Cutlery still managed to get their products on the shelves of several eateries.

Where you can currently find Crunch Cutlery products. Screengrab from Crunch Cutlery’s website.

They also aim to make a “quantifiable reduction” to the number of plastic cutleries used in Singapore by 2022, and to expand to overseas markets in the near future.

An uphill battle

Give it some time, and hopefully more people will be aware of, and enjoy using edible cutlery, as it is still not widely adopted in Singapore.

Through events like "Swing for the Game Changers", a contest which coincided with the HSBC Women's World Championship, Lam had the opportunity to introduce Crunch Cutlery to the masses.

Lam revealed that raising awareness and encouraging people to use edible cutlery is the hardest part of this business venture:

“Educating customers about our product is challenging as we are fundamentally striving to redefine the dining experience for customers – to have cutlery as part of the meal experience rather than an accessory to a meal.”

That said, when asked if she’d ever felt like giving up and going back to the relative stability of a nine-to-five job, Lam’s reply was: “Thankfully not yet!”

She admitted, however, that starting a business in the sustainable space is an “uphill battle”.

“Sustainability in Singapore is a challenging field. Many are aware of it, but not many practice it. If you want to start a business in the sustainability space, you have to be mentally prepared for an uphill battle.”

Photo courtesy of Crunch Cutlery.

Be aware and take action

What’s keeping Lam and her partners going in this “uphill battle” is constantly being reminded that our actions today determine how our future will be.

“Be aware that we are at an environmental tipping point. If you are part of the younger demographics, you will bear the brunt of environmental degradation over the coming decades. Keeping this in mind will hopefully spark and sustain your efforts to be more personally environmentally friendly,” Lam shared.

Lam added that starting Crunch Cutlery is her personal commitment to the cause and that she hopes to encourage more people to gradually adopt a more sustainable lifestyle by starting small.

Most importantly, the lifestyle tweaks that one chooses to make have to be sustainable (pun intended).

Lam said:

“Start small with quantifiable changes that you can sustain, [for example], if water bottles are too heavy, consider keeping a small foldable cup in your bag instead of buying bottled water.”

Anna Lam is one of the three HSBC Women’s World Championship Game Changers who are passionate about sustainability and driving positive change on this front.

You can find out more about Crunch Cutlery and other sustainability champions here.

This sponsored article is brought to you by HSBC which champions women Game Changers in the HSBC Women’s World Championship and in businesses tackling the environmental challenges we face today. Top photos courtesy of Crunch Cutlery.