Food & Drinks

Changing taste: In-flight organic menu as carrier goes green


Jambo Jet flight attendant serves Organic Chicken and Tuna Sandwiches aboard the Bombardier Q400 flight from Nairobi to Mombasa on May 26, 2023. PHOTO | SINDA MATIKO | NMG

When was the last time you boiled maize, and baked sweet potatoes on a plane? Sounds weird, right?

This is exactly what Jambojet is trying to do with its latest menu.

In an attempt to cut its carbon footprint as part of the global emissions goal, the local carrier is in the coming days set to launch a rather unconventional menu to its clientele, an organic menu.

A few days ago, playing out as somewhat a dry run test, the airline treated passengers of one of its routes Nairobi–Mombasa to this rather odd menu.

Breaking from its taboo, what was on offer on the Bombardier Q400 maiden organic menu trip was typically what you get served on your visit to the countryside, albeit a little twinkle of some modern cuisines.

The muffins and cupcakes all in brown biodegradable doum palm wrappers were made out of banana flour instead of the gluten-loaded wheat.

You could choose between almond muffins, cranberry or banana muffins. The costly kienyeji (fertilised) eggs also formed part of this pastry.

Gourmet sandwiches that I tried parked lots of avocado and fresh lettuce salad layers stashed in between the bread that was made from whole wheat.

On this day’s menu, there was also a chicken sandwich and tuna.

Tuna boasted of an amalgamation of curried potato ciabatta cucumber slices, tomato slices and lettuce while the former consisted of organic spinach, pesto ciabatta, cucumber and kuku kienyeji slices.

In this new menu that is currently under development, there is also an intention by the carrier to use the relatively expensive olive oil or plant-based margarine as opposed to animal butter in processing or custom refined vegetable oil.

“With the world changing, the majority of Kenyans are becoming health conscious. It’s for this reason that together with our partners Jambojet, we are launching a sustainability menu that was synonymous with our forefathers,” chef Dennis Kaleli offers.

The chef is part of Nas Servair catering services that runs multiple restaurants at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport as well as serves major airlines.

Kaleli says, to ensure the sustainability of the initiative, they have developed a mechanism they source directly from local farmers.

“For our organic menu, we have gone down to trace our suppliers to ensure what we get is 100 percent organic. One of our biggest organic suppliers is Mo Farm. The products delivered to us are free from pesticides or grown by the use of harmful chemicals. Neither are they genetically modified,” he says.

One thing that comes out is the organic menu this will be a relatively expensive affair.

For instance, Kaleli uses one kienyeji egg that retails at Sh30 — twice the price of the grade eggs. A kienyeji chicken is also twice the price of a broiler.

However, for Karanja Ndegwa, Jambo Jet CEO, the introduction of an organic menu if successful, will aid the carrier attain its sustainability mission of carbon offsetting and optimise operation for business, which would lead the airline to be more affordable.


Banana muffins on Display at Jambo Jet customer care stand. FILE PHOTO | SINDA MATIKO | NMG

“The thing is how do we move away from processed foods that play a role in carbon emission during processing to organic foods, which are much healthier and with less emission? Yes it is relatedly expensive but people are willing to pay for it,” he says.

This idea was born out of the aviation industry’s carbon emission targets focused on delivering maximum reduction to net zero by 2050 through the use of sustainable aviation fuels.

These include innovative propulsion technologies and other improvements.

“We are part of the Sky Team and the group’s view is to reduce the carbon emission of fuel consumption by 50 percent by 2030. We have started by reviewing our internal operations and one of the steps we are undertaking is introducing the organic menu,” said Ndegwa.

He says the implementation will be costly, especially labour, but one that will come to pay dividends later on.

“To paint you a picture, for example, this plane that has flown to Mombasa from Nairobi, going and coming back, we burn 1,950 kilowatts of Jet A1 fuel. That’s about 6,000 kilos of carbon emission. Working with manufacturers looking for different ways of sustainability flying that we are implementing to lowers carbon emission, with that flight, we will have saved between 300-500 carbon emission,” says Ndegwa.

With that kind of carbon reduction, which translates to about seven percent, he offers that the impact will be huge.

Ndegwa projects in the next seven years that the carbon emission will have been reduced with Jambojet burning about 1,000 kilowatts.

“First you will have reduced carbon emission. It will also have an impact on our cost of operations, 25 percent of our costs goes to fuel.

“Our target this year is to hit Sh10 billion, and Sh2.5 billion of that will go to fuel. By reducing that by seven percent we will be saving almost half a billion. So as you lower your cost you can pass it on to the client,” he says.

Sky Team is a group of 22 friendly airlines across the world that launched a sustainability challenge among themselves last year gearing towards net zero in 2050.

Each airline has four or five areas they are working on, says Ndegwa.

Recycling of aircraft seats

Besides the organic menu, another area of innovation Jambo Jet is implementing towards the sustainability agenda is the use of modern electric buses to ferry passengers from and within the airport.

Jambojet recycles old seats and covers into fleece jackets, fleece bags, laptop bags and backpacks then gifted to schoolchildren.

“Besides finding innovation in moving away from anything that is emitting carbon we are cognizant of recycling, the circular economy. Whenever we are changing seats, rather than throw them away we are converting them to bags and giving them to schools that we support majorly in the slums like Mukuru,” says Ndegwa.

Jambojet also recycles billboard materials the carrier uses for advertisements into bags. Worn-out staff uniforms are also recycled to make toys for school children at less privileged schools.

Plantable papers

Another area of innovation by Jambojet that would perhaps leave you in awe is the recycled plantable papers and pencils.


Jambo Jet CEO Karanja Ndegwa during an interview on May 26, 2023, at Jomo Kenyatta Airport. PHOTO | SINDA MATIKO | NMG

“Our two pillars of sustainability are education and environment. In that regard we work with several suppliers to achieve this. Some of the items we get from our suppliers for the ECD schools we support are plantable pencils. Once the pencils is used at the tip there is a cap stashed with seeds of be it merry gold, sunflower, okra or chilli that can be planted on flower gardens or pots,” says the Jambojet boss.

For any physical documentation, Jambojet has resolved to use recycled paper that are as well laced with seeds.

“We are currently using biodegradable planted papers, which we also sometimes use to make notebooks. The paper is seeded so once used, it can be placed in a garden and the seeds will grow once the paper biodegrades,” he says.

For now, the innovations are in the pilot stage with implementation to come in the next few months.

Ndegwa maintains the mission is to drive a greener future for air travel by ensuring there is reduced carbon emission in Jambojet operations, create a healthier environment for the client, promote a circular economy in the process and ensure sustainability in food production despite the high-cost implication at the beginning.

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