What’s in a colour? A laddu without colour would taste as sweet (apologies to Shakespeare’s Juliet). Come next New Year’s Day, ‘bakeries’ across Kerala will make and sell only colourless laddus and jalebis.
The Bakers Association-Kerala (BAKE), which in 2008 ran a successful campaign against the use of artificial colours in Kerala’s famous banana chips, has asked its 15,000 members not to use any colouring agent in laddus and jalebis from January 1.
A store keeper displaying laddus and jalebis without added artificial colours on sale at a bakery at Thrissur.
Some bakers have, without waiting for the New Year’s Day deadline, already started making the colourless ones. “This is a paradigm shift in our trade,” PM Shankaran, president of BAKE, toldBusinessLine.
“We decided not to use colours in two of the most popular sweets, though approved colours upto 100 ppm are allowed by the law.” Colour has only a cosmetic role in laddus and jalebis, but most customers prefer the coloured ones. Kerala’s growing concern about the quality of the food it eats and the stringent measures of the Food Safety Authority are factors that have contributed to the BAKE decision.
Shankaran said they had taken note of the criticism from health experts that sweets with artificial colouring was one of the causes for the increasing incidence of cancer in the State.
“We don’t want to look like we’re serving food that is harmful to our customers’ health.” He noted that the motto of BAKE was ‘better taste through better hygiene’ and the industry had in the recent years undergone a makeover by setting up modern, hygienic shops and manufacturing units. BAKE had some six years back launched a ‘Say Goodbye to Colour’ drive. There are an estimated 20,000 bakeries in Kerala, though the concept of a bakery is slightly different here.
Coloured laddus and jalebis
Fast growing Industry
They sell not just bread and cakes, but a variety of sweets, packaged and non-packaged food items, snacks, soft drinks and sometimes tea too.
Most bakeries look chic with modern interiors and tidy ambiences. In recent times, bakeries have sprouted across the State and the annual combined turnover is an estimated ₹1,000 crore. The new bakeries have given a boost to the home-based catering business and a sizeable chunk of the bakeries’ supplies comes from these tiny units. They have also helped save a number of traditional sweets and ethnic dishes.
“We are starting the ‘colourless’ campaign with two sweets now, but we will expand it to other sweets,” Shankaran says. “But, it all depends on customers’ response and the practical difficulties we face.”