When she was 12, Kavita Shukla accidentally drank some unfiltered tap water. Her grandmother gave her a homemade mixture of spices as a remedy. She didn’t get sick. The experience sparked her curiosity, so back home in Maryland, Shukla tinkered around in her garage with jars of dirty pond water and spices. She eventually discovered some of the spices seemed to slow the growth of fungus.
That invention became FreshPaper, a sheet of paper infused with organic spices (the spice blend is proprietary). It’s been described as a dryer sheet for produce.
Drop a sheet in your refrigerator’s crisper drawer or in a container of fruits or veggies. The recyclable, biodegradable and compostable product helps keep produce fresh 2-4 times longer because its organic ingredients prevent bacterial and fungal growth, as well as enzymes that cause produce to over-ripen.
“Food waste is actually a massive global challenge,” says Shukla, noting over a third of the world’s food supply is lost to spoilage, and 800 million people go hungry every day.
She originally designed FreshPaper for the developing world, but now it’s used globally, including in the United States.
“Our mission is ‘Fresh for All,’ and we’re working to make fresh, healthy food more affordable and accessible across the globe,” says Shukla, the founder and CEO of the FRESHGLOW Co., a social enterprise tackling food waste and creating simple innovations to keep food fresh.
The first step
The Harvard grad credits three people with helping her on her journey: her high school science teacher, who convinced her FreshPaper was more than a science project; Tony Russo, a Boston farm-stand owner who sold FreshPaper in his store; and Tina Brown, who put Shukla on stage at Lincoln Center for the Women in the World Summit.
That summit was a game-changer. Shukla, who holds four patents, went from making FreshPaper in her kitchen to manufacturing millions of sheets and partnering with retailers worldwide.
She was the youngest woman ever to receive the INDEX Design to Improve Life Award, the world’s largest design prize. The Crown Princess of Denmark presented that award, recognizing FreshPaper’s potential to change the global food system.
Shukla was named in Forbes’ “30 Under 30” and Fast Company’s “7 Entrepreneurs Changing the World.”
She mentors young entrepreneurs and advises them to get started: “The simple act of taking a step forward can open up possibilities you can’t even imagine.”