Are these edible utensils the next wave in sustainable eating?
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Incredible Eats

You know to pair your drink with your food, but how about your utensil? Edible cutlery has been grabbing more and more attention in recent years as people try to limit the amount of disposable plastic they use and toss. According to Habits of Waste, around 40 billion pieces of plastic cutlery including forks, spoons, and knives are thrown away in the United States alone every year. As an alternative, many businesses have tried their hand at a more sustainable approach—whether the utensils be recyclable, compostable, or biodegradable. Edible cutlery is compostable and is usually made with a blend of various flours, water, spices, and other flavorings, making it completely consumable. The New York Times predicts that this year, these environmentally friendly utensils will be the new way people eat in an effort to reduce the use of plasticware.

This trend was first sparked in the 2000s. Narayana Peesapaty, a 50-year-old groundwater researcher based in Hyderabad, India, was disturbed by the amount of plastic that went to waste. Eventually, he developed a prototype for utensils purely made of rice, millet, and wheat flours. He then established a start-up called Bakeys (now out of business) from which he sold his edible cutlery to consumers and businesses around the world. 

Ever since, this game-changing evolution to decrease plastic waste has inspired other companies to try their hand at edible tableware. We found three U.S.-based companies—Edibles by Jack, IncredibleEats, and TwentyFiftyFork—who, like Peesapaty, are striving to limit our ecological footprint through edible utensils. After finding these businesses, we were eager to try some of their products ourselves to see if edible tableware is truly worth the hype. Read on to see what we found.

Edibles by Jack
Credit: Courtesy of Edibles by Jack

Edibles by Jack

Edibles by Jack founder Jack Milan got the idea for the company's edible spoons from the hors d'oeuvres offered at receptions and dinner parties. He watched as guests enjoyed a tasting of a caprese salad served in a plastic soup spoon, but had no idea what to do with the spoon afterwards. He started working with a dough, using small porcelain spoons as molds, and emerged with a spoon that was both sturdy and most importantly, edible. 

Edibles by Jack, now owned by Milan along with Charlton Becker and Kristen Fields, offers  edible spoons designed for serving hors d'oeuvres or little desserts — perfect for catering, hosting dinner parties, or serving amuse bouches or petit fours at a restaurant. The spoons are GMO-free and are made of all-natural ingredients including a variety of fresh herbs, spices, and flavored olive oil imported from Italy. They also come in 18 different flavors, including Parmesan basil, white chocolate, and toasted coconut, giving customers a wide range of options to satisfy any palate.

When I tried them, I liked that the shape of the spoons resemble those you typically see at a cocktail party or use to eat soups, with a small, lightweight size and angled handles. They were also really tasty. I was surprised at how well this company achieved the flavor of each spoon—they're just as described, especially in the case of their coconut curry spoon. It felt like I was biting into the spicy and aromatic dish, but just in the form of a spoon. Texture-wise, these spoons were easy to bite into, with a texture similar to that of a thin cracker.

I would not recommend using these for everyday eating; they would break while serving anything more substantial than a small appetizer. But overall, spoons from Edibles by Jack are a fun, delicious little bonus to the small bites they're served with. I do recommend taking advantage of the array of flavors when pairing spoons with appetizers or desserts. The sesame wasabi flavor would go beautifully with a simple tuna tartare, whereas the gingerbread spoon would be great with crème brûlée or another custard-based dessert

($30.60 for 36 single-flavored spoons, ediblesbyjack.com)

Incredible Eats
Credit: Courtesy of Incredible Eats

IncrEdible Eats

IncrEdible Eats co-founder Dinesh Tadepalli went on Shark Tank and took a $500,000 investment deal when starting the company, but walked away from the deal after seeing a $50,000 revenue bump just two days after the episode aired. The company has a selection of spoons in small and large sizes, as well as sporks, made from a mix of wheat, oats, corn, chickpeas, and brown rice. Each product is offered in two to four flavors, including vanilla, chocolate, and black pepper.

I found that the small spoons work well for eating soft ice cream, desserts, or overnight oats, as long as they are soft. You'll want to let ice cream soften for a few minutes beforehand—I tried eating ice cream straight from my freezer with these and the spoon broke after the second or third scoop. The large spoons and sporks, on the other hand, are great for everyday consumption. I was happily surprised that they held their shape when I used them for hot soups (they did soften a little bit and got more flexible the longer they were exposed to the hot liquid, so I advise eating your soup quickly and keeping the spoon out of the bowl in between bites.) 

These utensils were a bit sturdier than the Edibles by Jack spoons, which makes sense, since these need to be more durable for daily consumption. The texture was a bit tough at first, but it does get easier the longer you chew. And I enjoyed the flavors; my favorite is the oregano-chili spork, with a fresh herbal flavor and spicy little kick. I would highly recommend using these to eat a burrito bowl or a creamy mac n' cheese. (from $8.99 per box, incredibleeats.com) 

TwentyFiftyFork
Credit: Courtesy of TwentyFiftyFork

TwentyFiftyFork 

Zack Kong, a bioengineering alumnus from the University of California in San Diego, founded TwentyFiftyFork in 2017. The company writes on its website that by the year 2050, plastic will outweigh fish in the ocean — a fact that inspired their eco-friendly tableware and #OffTheTable campaign. TwentyFiftyFork's forks and spoons are compostable and biodegradable, made from natural grains and water without any harsh dyes or materials. 

Both the spoons and forks are extremely durable and can be used for hot or cold food. The spoons are wonderful for soups, but I found they did begin to fall apart if left in liquid for a long period of time. The forks are much wider than your typical fork, but I loved using them for pasta since I was able to twirl more noodles around their wide shape. 

Even though these are marketed as edible, I would not recommend eating them; they were extremely hard to bite into. But they can be used to fertilize your plants after use. If you want a more environmentally friendly alternative to traditional disposable cutlery but without the plastic waste, then these are the utensils for you. (from $10 a box, twentyfiftyfork.com)