It all started when Pedram Zolgadri, the CEO and co-founder of Leaf Republic, realized that the packaging industry was dominated by companies using plastic, carton and styrofoam and producing large piles of waste and toxic by products.
Naturally, plastics are cheap, light and easily transportable materials. However, polluted water, overexploitation of natural resources and adverse health effects are the downsides of extensive plastic usage.
While researching on alternative packaging material and processing methods, Pedram travelled to India and saw how people traditionally consume their daily food: On Patravali plates that are made from large leaves from local plants, such as the Banyan tree. Pedram wanted to take the basic idea of using compostable and renewable materials and thought about ways to transform the traditional plate into a good looking, mass-producable leaf plate that could be sold to companies operating in the food industry. Using leaves for disposable dishes and food packaging instead of plastic could help to tackle the global waste problem and offered an innovative way to disrupt the packaging industry.
When hearing about this idea at a business plan competition, later co-founder Carolin Fiechter was immediately impressed by the vision to take a traditional product and transform it into a profitable alternative to plastics. Adding legal, business and strategic knowledge to Pedram's habit of ”thinking without borders”, Leaf Republic GmbH was born in 2013.
This combination of skills enabled them to combine the traditional leaf usage with german engineering, and let them gradually build up a supply chain in India and a complete inhouse production site in Munich.
From the beginning their goal was to set up the whole supply chain ethically and to be able to control and understand every step during research, design and production of their products.Several issues came acroos the path.
How could a plate made entirely out of dried leaves ever be waterproof? Instead of giving up on this nearly impossible project, the investor's critique fired up the team’s ambition and made them gain profound knowledge of materials, paper engineering and processing of biological resources.
The result was the waterproof inlay made entirely from leaves that is produced by Leaf Republic at a paper factory. As every young startup, leaf republic had to master challenges as well: Whether it was setting up the subsidiaries in India in cooperation with local GOs and NGOs, filing the patents for their technologies or convincing corporates to partner up with them - leaf republicans always had to come up with creative approaches to be profitable while staying true to their inner conviction of being ethically and environmentally sustainable.
Leaf Republic follows a circular economic principle:natural, bio-degradable, and practical material, to be used for plates and packaging.
During the development phase of the plates they found out that from their leaves, they can also extract large amounts of pulp. Pulp is an organic, cellulose material, that is mainly used in the paper industry for the production of very light packaging material.Car manufacturers for example often use packaging made from pulp to transport their car parts.
Leaf republic now plans to expand their own pulp production and to become a recognized player in this market soon. While achieving a production capacitiy of about 9 mio. pieces per year, Leaf Republic now develops towards a R&D company.