Nizam Betel Nut, SAS Paper Banana Leaf,Poly Glassine Paper
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia—A shortage of banana leaves prompted the owner of Kanna Curry House in Malaysia to turn to paper versions, setting off a debate among restaurateurs and enthusiasts about what the leaves mean to Indian cuisine.

Muthu Kumar finds himself caught between his tradition-bound diners, who refuse to abandon banana leaves, which are used as plates, and an increasingly complex and expensive supply chain that sends machete-wielding workers deep into Malaysia's jungles in search of the coveted leaves.

"There is no point in insisting on keeping the tradition when I can't get fresh leaves," said the 25-year-old Mr. Kumar.

As Indian food has grown in popularity in Malaysia, banana leaves have become tougher for restaurant owners like Mr. Kumar to find. Kuala Lumpur and neighboring Selangor state have up to an estimated 700 banana-leaf restaurants, according to Shalini Shanmugam, the owner of four banana plantations. Fresh leaves can be hard to acquire because many banana plantations were cleared for housing.

The Consumers Association of Penang, a consumer-advocacy group, was so peeved with Mr. Kumar that it dragged the nation's health ministry in to rule whether paper banana leaves are sanitary. The health ministry found that there were no health hazards.

But for die-hards like R. Subramaniam, who is in his 70s, fake banana leaves just won't do.

"You either serve me food on a banana leaf or on a plate. For the price I will be charged for a banana leaf rice meal, I certainly will not eat out of paper," he said.

That viewpoint has resulted in Mr. Kumar losing what he estimates to be 5% of his customers over the past year. It also helps explain why his side business of selling paper leaves hasn't taken off. Only seven other Indian restaurants in Malaysia are buying his paper leaves.

The conflict stems from the unique role banana leaves play in Indian cooking. The leaves function as plates for rice with vegetables, curry and pickles. The leaves aren't eaten, but Indian-food purists insist they instill a distinct flavor and fragrance that is integral to the overall dish. One leaf generally can be made into three "plates."

Mr. Kumar's case also highlights a generational rift, with older Indian diners tending to demand real leaves. But younger diners, like Ravinder Singh, a 25-year-old insurance worker, are often more open to the switch.

"It makes no difference if the food is eaten out of a banana leaf or paper leaf because the taste is in the food," said Mr. Ravinder, who is a customer of Mr. Kumar.

Mr. Kumar says he intends to stick with his paper leaves to supply his seven restaurants, which require a total of 5,000 leaves a day. His largest restaurant, which is in the state of Selangor, next to Kuala Lumpur, needs 800 leaves on weekdays and 1,100 leaves on weekends.

When he started to notice the shortage of fresh leaves last year, he said he rejected buying frozen Cambodia banana leaves out of concern over chemical additives. He said he then weighed buying leaves from banana orchards, but didn't feel he could depend on them.

Finally, he turned to artificial leaves from India. He orders 1 million leaves every three to four months, which are sent to him in containers on a ship. It is a huge savings—6 U.S. cents per paper leaf compared with 12 cents for a fresh leaf. And that is before he adds in labor costs for 12 workers at his six restaurants to clean fresh leaves.

Ironically, the soap opera Mr. Kumar unleashed in Malaysia doesn't seem to have played out in India, where restaurants in the south have for years substituted fake leaves for the pricier originals. Still, real banana leaves are preferred in India, with diners wedded to tradition and flavor.

In Malaysia, restaurant owners battle for available banana leaves at plantations, in the wild and even alongside roads, where the hardy plants thrive in the country's wet and hot climate.

Ms. Shanmugam says her four banana plantations can't supply all her customers, now numbering about 200 restaurants. Each weekday, she sends 16 workers into the jungles for 10 hours a day in search of leaves.

"You have to go deep into the jungles to look for banana trees," said Ms. Shalini.

Jeyacanth Govindarath, whose G. R. Kavitha restaurant is about 18 miles from Kuala Lumpur, uses about 180 leaf pieces a day on weekdays and up to 400 pieces on weekends and public holidays. He fills in shortages by sending out his kitchen staff with machetes to chop banana leaves from trees growing along the road and in villages.

But don't expect him to consider paper leaves to save his staff from the heat and mosquito bites.

"Why call it a banana leaf restaurant when in principle it is a paper leaf?"
Oct. 24, 2013 1:52 p.m. ET

Source :
SAS Paper banana leaves safe, The Star19-MAY-12
PETALING JAYA: The Health Ministry has declared the paper banana leaves used in some Indian restaurants as safe to be used as wrapping material for food.

Director-general Datuk Seri Dr Hasan Abdul Rahman said the green paper used to make the artificial banana leaves is similar to the brown wrappers used to wrap nasi lemak.

It is lined with a thin plastic layer, which complies with the Food Regulations 1985, he said yesterday.

Dr Hasan said the ministry had investigated claims by the Consumers Association of Penang (CAP) last month that the fake banana leaves may contain colouring and ink that could be harmful to health.

Our investigations have found that the banana leaf-shaped paper was imported from India by the restaurant owner and used at the restaurants seven branches in Selangor, he said.

Dr Hasan said the ministry had tested the paper for phthalate, Bisphenol A (BPA) and various colouring agents.

Phthalates and Bisphenol A (BPA), which are used in the production of plastics, have been shown to affect the levels and functions of certain hormones in the human body.

Dr Hasan added that ministry-approved colouring was found in the sample but not phthalate and BPA.

(Those who are responsible for) food wrappers that contain toxic substances can face action under the Food Regulations 1985, which carries a RM5,000 fine or a jail sentence of not more than two years upon conviction, said Dr Hasan.

He urged CAP to forward its test results to the ministry so that it could conduct further investigations in Penang.

In response, CAP president S.M. Mohamed Idris said CAP was willing to submit its results to the ministry.

Meanwhile, some Indian restaurant operators have said that the paper leaves they have been using are Sirim-certified.

They said the change from real banana leaves to the paper alternative was for the sake of hygiene and due to the shortage of banana leaves in the country.




By Kim Boodram
Story Created: Oct 12, 2011 ECT

Story Updated: Oct 12, 2011 at 2:30 AM ECT

Soharee or "so real"?

Most Trinidadians will be familiar with the East Indian tradition of eating on a leaf – usually a soharee and when that is scarce, sometimes a banana leaf. Well, a new practice has come to town, one that is quickly picking up a following in India and other areas where the diaspora has settled – the paper leaf. Formed to resemble the beloved soharee, these 'leaves' are made of food grade paper and are resistant to the hottest choka or the runniest karahi (a type of dhal).

And with the Hindu festival of Divali set for October 26, sales are expected to increase. Thick and featuring a glossy side, this 'leaf' is moisture repellent for the most part of the meal and can be folded and disposed of in the same way as traditional organic leaves. A representative of Caroni-based Chatak Foods, the sole local distributors of Indian-manufactured SAS Paper Banana Leaf, said the modern take is gaining popularity because of its conveniences.

"These are much easier to access that traditional leaves," the representative said. Usually, the host of the Indian function would have to find an area where the soharee grows and have them cut. This is sometimes done by family members but with people becoming busier, this has also become a service for which the host will sometimes pay. With the annual urban sprawl, finding healthy, clean soharee leaves takes longer than in years past.

The leaves then have to be carefully washed and for some, stacked according to size. "This is all eliminated with the SAS leaves," the Chatak Foods representative said. "They are also very affordable, sold in packs of 100 for $50. So far, people really like them. This way, traditionalists do not have to give up eating with their hands for Divali or for prayers, which Indians believe makes the food taste sweeter." Business Express took the liberty of testing the paper leaves and it did indeed stand up to a runny mixture of basmati rice, aloo mutter and dhal makhani. SAS Paper Banana leaves are being sold at all branches of The Little Store and Chatak Foods has assured the public that its stocks can withstand high demand.



Banana Leaf are traditional and customary thing in serving the food for functions such as marriage, ritual ceremonies etc, Banana Leaf may not be available throughout the year and scarce during festive season.

To over come these shortcomings, S A S – from Pudukkottai have come up with Paper Banana Leaf which is eco-friendly and biodegradable. These are available in Groceries and general merchant departmental stores, hotels and motels.

It will be ever green irrespective of the time frame and always looks a fresh new and clean. The CFTRI, Mysore has certified that this product is highly suitable for serving and packing foods.

The house wives will not feel handicapped while entertaining unusual visitors to their home at inconvenient hours if they keep adequate quantity of parcel leaves readily available with them.

To know more details contact S.A.S. & Company

Source  :
SAS is an offbeat brand and is a classic example of innovation. The brand claims to be the first in coming out with Paper Banana Leaf. The brand is owned by SAS Company based in Pudukottai in TamilNadu.

Now for non South Indian Readers, Banana Leaves is.. no was an integral part of one's lunch. With the changed lifestyle, the use of Banana Leaf is now restricted to Marriage Feasts and also during festivals like Onam ,Vishu, Ponkal etc. Banana Leaf is also used in restaurants to serve traditional south Indian meals.
This tradition has taken some serious threats due to the change in the lifestyle and also because of the rapid urbanisation that we see now. The banana leaves are becoming scarce in cities and towns. In the earlier days, every house had Plantain cultivation and getting banana leaves was not an issue. But now in cities where flats and congested living has become a norm, who has the time and space to maintain such plants? Now frantic search for Plantain leaves is common during festive seasons and one has to pay even Rs 2 for a leaf ( which was available free in olden days) which is a stark reality of today.

Catching this need , SAS company has comeout with artificial paper banana leaf which solves the problem of the urban masses. This is an innovative blend of tradition with modernity. Although eating a feast or a sadhya in a artificial leaf will not give the thrill of the original, one should appreciate the logic and smartness behind this innovation.
The brand aims at the following target customers and usage situations:
1. Restaurants who serve traditional sadhya .
2. Hotels who supply parcel meals.
3. Caterers
4. Unexpected guests, functions ( households)
5. Export markets where south indians are more eg. middle east
6. Lunch packs during picnics outings etc.

The Brand faces competition from local unbranded players. But the website of SAS claims the following differentiators: Hygienic, sterilized, withstand high temperature hence ideal for packing,. The brand also claims that it cannot be torn and uniform in size. More than that it is available in all departmental stores and supermarkets. The brand is priced Rs 12 for a pack of dozen. Hence the brand takes advantage of the convenience and ease as its main selling point. The brand also advertises heavily on Television .

I feel that the brand will fare well in the institutional sales at hotels and restaurants. At the consumer end, since the usage of Leaves are limited to specific occasions , one cannot expect steady sales at this front. For that the brand may have to spent lot of money tackling the seasonal issue for this traditional product.One way is to prompt the customers to stock atleast one pack of this product for emergency situations. A campaign in this regard can drive some sales for the short term. Once the customers are comfortable with this product, SAS can be assured of some steady sales at the customer end.
Whether the brand will thrive or not, SAS Paper leaf is a classic innovative marketing story.



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