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A business serving the cause of vegetarianism



Sunanda Weerasinghe

VEGETARIANISM: Believing in the mission of catering to vegetarians and adopting the concept that originated from the Buddha's philosophy, she has been top in her own career today dedicating her business to vegetarianism.

She is Sunanda Weerasinghe, Managing Director of Sujan International (Pvt) Ltd providing high protein food products as an alternative for meat. Her competence and commitment were pillars of her success and many organisations have appreciated her contribution to the society.

The Agri-Business Council has granted the gold award recently in appreciation of her performances. The Women's Chamber of and Commerce Industries has also awarded the merit certificate at the Women Entrepreneur of the Year 2006 under the medium investment category.

Sunanda started her career as a teacher in 1973 and has worked in many rural areas for seven years. "I realised most children have alleviated poverty and they were unable to fulfil their basic requirements as well," she said.

She has shared her salary with them by purchasing books and clothes for them.

In 1976 she married Tissa Weerasinghe, a civil engineer by profession.


The family

She gave up her job after her daughter was born. She wanted to start her own business and she has done many trials on various manufacturing. Sunanda had the opportunity go to the UK to follow technology in food processing methods.

She started to manufacture jelly desserts in a small way in her home in 1988.

"From early childhood my religious upbringing encouraged by my father who is a well-known businessman in Galle while love for nature and plants made me look towards in creating vegetarian food and resulted in a growing dislike to depend on animals for food.

My father gave autobiographies of Mahatma Gandhi and it was strongly established in my life, both to create non-violence in human mind and work towards self-dependence which the way India follow for economic prosperity as a country.

Her aim is to develop food products to bring this message to consumers through this concept whilst educating them on health aspects of being a vegetarian to maintain a spiritual mind and a healthy body. She supplied her jelly desserts to the Ceylon Tobacco Trading Company and Sathosa initially.

She has also received extensive training at various seminars in Thailand, Japan, Korea, India and the ITI.


The products

Developing her business, she moved to an Industrial Estate in Homagama in 1997. She has registered her company as a small scale BoI agri-business company to produce 100 percent vegetarian and nutritious food products using local grains and pulses to cater to the health-conscious and growing trend towards vegetarianism in both local and export markets.

She said her dream is to provide food requirements which are needed by vegetarians and health-conscious in taste, nutrition and texture, compensating what they feel, in an animal based diet.

She said that the philosophy of the company is to contribute to the economic growth of the country and general well-being of people through the development of vegetarianism and convenient food products giving the desired nutrition for healthy living without the need of food of animal origin.

These instant products have been categorised as desserts and confectionery, rice cereal based meals, frozen meatless meat and health products.

The right combinations of pulses and grains provide maximum nutrition and products contain high protein, free of fat and cholesterol free whilst including all the nutrition that animal protein provides. Raw materials based on sea weeds and soya beans and cereals, which are health food of China and Japan, and they take them in almost every meal for more than thousand years.

She said that most recent medical findings have found the ability of Soya bean based food consumption lowering LDL cholesterol by 50 percent reducing the risk of plaque formation in the arteries leading to heart problems which makes soya a unique food of the East proving the lower rate of heart disease and cancer.

She has also participated in three major trade fairs in USA and Germany which have helped her to realise many potentials in the export market. She supplies her products to the market under the brand names of Classic and Supersun.

After the three-year research, she has been able to obtain patent rights for soya based meat re-production in 2002. Soya which is called the modern day wonder bean of cholesterol free high protein has almost all the nutrition that an animal diet provides and is the base of her meatless meat range of meat alternatives. She has developed a range of soy sausages, vege ham, vege burghers, vege meatballs.

The best quality local grains and pulses are used to produce hopper mix, thosai mix, dhal thosai mix, idli mix, chappathy mix, kurrakan breakfast mix. The company also manufactures instant vegetarian moss jelly in various flavours and flavoured China moss puddings. She also manufactures soy protein milk, soy milk shakes.

The most recent addition is a healthy soy protein bar. The Women's Chamber of Industries and Commerce has nominated her for an award in New Delhi to appreciate her contribution made to enhance the rural economy in 2002.

She has also won the award at the Foods Awards Excellence 2002. She has been recognised by USAID as a successful small time entrepreneur and has included her company in their report of 50 years in Sri Lanka.

She said that the contribution made by USAID to develop her own business is immense and was grateful for their support.

She currently holds the position of Third Vice President of Sri Lanka Food Processing Association (SLFPA). She has worked as a chairperson of the committee of Cleaner Out Door Dining program, which was the joint workshop of the Public Health Department of Colombo Municipal Council and the SLFPA for the restaurant people on food hygiene.

A pupil of Sangamitta College in Galle, her husband, daughter and son-in-law are supportive in giving her encouragement.

She believes that an entrepreneur's spiritual aims should combine with their material goals when delivering whatever product weather it just a bundle of leafy vegetables or the most sophisticated item.

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