Chanchala Gunewardena founded Kimbula Kithul in 2017 with the vision to create a global, premium opportunity for the long-undervalued, uniquely Lankan product of pure Kithul syrup.
Kithul syrup is a delicious treat Sri Lankans traditionally enjoy with buffalo curd. Locals refer to this pairing as “Kiri-Pani” (milk and honey). Pure Kithul is smoky-sweet, has a low glycaemic index and is vegan. It lends itself to diverse culinary and drink possibilities and is well-aligned with future-forward food health and sustainability concerns.
Sri Lanka’s Kithul syrup industry is centuries old, and the product was once the delicacy of our island’s royalty. However, when businesses looked to broaden market access to Kithul syrup, the investment never came in as it had with industries like tea. Sourcing methods and infrastructure for the product remain relatively the same today as they have always been.
As a result, the commercial, mass-market approach saw businesses and middlemen taking shortcuts to balance the needs of demand and standardization with the challenges of acquiring supply from a primary base of remotely networked smallholder communities. Water dilution and sugar addition occurred to inflate volumes, and the valued properties of the base product and all that made it distinctive was lost.
When Chanchala dreamt up Kimbula Kithul, she envisioned returning Kithul to its pure roots. The company selectively sources for small batch production and work directly with smallholder communities. Kimbula Kithul proudly displays these endeavours on social media.
“We are thrilled that our customers have embraced the small nuances and variations of our blends, knowing they can trust us to deliver a distinctly exciting syrup,” says Chanchala.
Today, Kimbula is also looking beyond Kithul – building a Kimbula Kitchen of products united by their distinctly Lankan flavours, sustainably harvested, all while keeping farmer visibility, dignity and fair trade at the center of all their offerings.
She continues, “Since launching as a home-based pop-up in December 2017, we have been able to grow to export to Singapore, UK, USA, Australia, and the Maldives as of 2021.”
Chanchala credits Kimbula Kithul’s international success to it being championed by the heavy hitters in the culinary world. Michelin Award winner Rishi Naleendra, World’s Best awardees Mr Lyan of Lyan Bars, Karan Gokani & the JKS Restaurants team (Hoppers and Bibi London), Dom Fernando of Paradise London, Cynthia Shanmugalingam, and Michelin starred chef Rene Frank of CODA Berlin are just a few of the superstar chefs supporting Kimbula Kithul.
This international acceptance, paired with press features such as one that appeared in the Washington Post, indeed sets Kimbula Kithul on an exciting trajectory.
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