Friday, May 8, 2015

'disruptive eating' simplified

The 'disruptive eating' consists of 4 stages. Each stage of activities or actions has its own reasons.

First stage is to inform people about the healthy eating and the healthy drinking ~ the mantra for Nirmal. Please visit our website and see ‘Nirmal at a glance.’

From the ‘BMI chart’ at the entrance, we have put various posters which our patrons can not ignore. Then we have our toll free phone number ~ 844-KNOW-BMI or our logo which leaves no one in doubt about our intention.

Let us talk about the magnitude of the obesity or overweight prevalence problem. There was a global conference in Nov 2014 at Rome, Italy under the auspices of FAO, UN. 2 Billion people out of 7 Billion world population are obese or overweight and the price tag to fight this is $1 trillion. In the US, 74% of the population are obese or overweight and the price tag to fight this menace is $116B. Incidentally in Nov 2014, FDA here in the US came out with the guideline that any restaurant chain with 20 or more locations need to post the ‘calorie count’ for their food items within a year. It may include the food vendors at the cinema halls, the grocery stores selling the food items. This is good first step, but is that enough given the magnitude of the problem. The New York city has such guidelines since 2004-5 and the survey after survey have pointed out that only 30% of the patrons took notice of it.

At Nirmal, our message is so explicit that 90% of the patrons have taken notice of it whether it is BMI or why eat lentils or Goat meat is healthier than Chicken. Majority have appreciated it though someone has called these weird, the dietician office etc. We believe we need to speak out loud if we need to take our message specially to the low income or less educated populace which are disproportionately affected by this menace. And the best place is the restaurants where everyone visits once or twice a week.

The second stage of ‘disruptive eating’ is the content of the message which is aimed at dispelling so many myths. And then why Indian cuisine for the disruptive eating?

Indian cuisine has 2 staple food items ~ lentils and whole wheat bread (roti) besides plenty of vegetarian and vegan options alongside the goat meat for the non-vegetarians. Let me explain how the disruptive eating revolves around these food items.

For example, here in the US, the meat is synonymous with the protein. We have put the nutrition chart on the back page of the menu or the walls of the dining hall which depicts that the lentils or the soya chunks have twice or more protein than the meat for the same quantity. Lot of people want to avoid the meat on the various grounds, what are their options? Indian food is ‘Curry’ based food. ‘Curry’ is a kind of gravy which is made from some base sauce like tomato or onion with the plethora of spices. Once you develop the taste of curry with the spices, you won’t even notice if you are eating soya chunks or Chicken. India has 500 millions vegetarians more than all vegetarians combined all over the world and the credit goes to the curry based food. Population wise 42% of India’s population is vegetarian as compared to only 8% in the US. So Indian food makes the choice of vegetarian eating much easier.

India is 2nd largest producer of the lentils and we consume it all in India as the lentils is the staple food item. On the other hand, Canada is the largest producer and the largest exporter too of the lentils. Lentils or legumes may be the only excellent source of the protein as well as the dietary fiber. Similarly India is 2nd largest producer of wheat too, no surprise why roti is staple food item for 60% of us Indians.

Take the calorie chart for the meat items used by us. The goat meat, a red meat, is healthier than Chicken. The guideline proposed by FDA is deceptive. Say if some food joint uses 70 gms of meat in beef burger as compared to 100 gms of meat in chicken burger, the calorie count would be almost the same. And people may miss that chicken is far healthier than beef.

India is 2nd largest producer of the goat meat (150 million head as compared to 4 million in the US). Needless to mention, the goat meat is very popular in India and with Indian spices, anyone can get hooked to goat meat items at Nirmal specially goat curry and goat biryani. In Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti region, no Chinese (China has the largest goat population) or Mediterranean or  American restaurant serve the goat meat. So if someone wants to try goat meat, what is their option?

At Nirmal, we provide plenty of vegan and vegetarian options, only whole wheat bread and the goat meat for the non-vegetarians.

The third stage of ‘disruptive eating’ is to position Indian food in competition with the pizza, taco or burger or specially the Subway sandwich. At present Indian food may be considered elite, one meal costing around $9-$10 at the minimum. We have brought it down to $5 introducing Food Box for lunch or dinner which contains 5 items. Food Box is a healthier alternative to the buffet. Eventually with our aim to impart the free cooking classes and the sharing of the recipes through the social media, we can bring it down more if cooked at home. We introduced various options in the menu such as 8 Oz entrees or the only curry which makes it cheaper for everyone to try Indian food. Also we changed the way we cook food to keep our food fresh as well as cheaper by minimizing the wastage. At Nirmal we have decided to remove the ‘Tandoor oven’ used to make the white flour bread (naan) from the kitchen which would bring down the labor charges as well as the energy cost. Various innovations can sustain us for the first 2 years of our operation, the period which we need to get our message through to the targeted population.

We need to wean away the populace who are still eating the pizza, taco or burger and provide them with a healthier option in the form of Indian food. This segment of population is not in good physical health and this is a huge barrier to overcome the health inequality. And we believe that the health inequality is the biggest impediment to fight the other 2 components of the social inequality ~ the income inequality and the education inequality.

The final and fourth stage of the ‘disruptive eating’ has 2 components ~ first to provide a sense of gratification to our patrons and second, to expose them to the culture associated with Indian cuisine. Say for example 100 million people out of 330 million population in the US skips meat a day per week, the total savings in the meat production is 3.6 billion pound (average per capita per day meat consumption is 330 gms in the US). The meat production accounts for 21% of the green house gases, the main culprit for the global warming. At Nirmal we use the bio-degradable products and our patrons sense that they are also a part of this big endeavor of reducing the global warming.

All of us know that the beef and the pork are not sustainable meats and no surprise we humans are trying to develop the synthetic meat. The unveiling of $350K burger last year is still fresh in our memory. The goat rearing could turn out to be an alternative as meat as well as to combat the world hunger problem. The goat could be reared in any weather from the Himalayas to the sub Saharan Africa and the goat does not need the pasture required for the beef meat and the food grain for the pork meat. The goat is always considered as a poor man’s cow and it is high time we bring it to the mainstream.

Indian food comes with a 5000 years of the culture and the traditions. ‘Gita’ and ‘Yoga’ are 2 integral parts of Indian culture and the exposure of these to our patrons would bring the mental and spiritual well being along with the good physical health.

In a nutshell, the disruptive eating addresses 2 most glaring issues of our generation ~ the social inequality and the climate change. And 500+ Nirmals in the US can make a huge global impact. Please read other posts here to get an idea about our thought process.
We are in the process of publishing a video game or app and a book on the ‘disruptive eating’ to bring our concept to the masses in the US and beyond.

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