Organic cloth keeps food fresh, in place of foil, plastic bags

KILAUEA — Melia Foster folded one of her Meli Wraps into an envelope that will hold trail mix for a hike.

“The versatility is one of the best things about these wraps,” she said. “You can use them for just about anything. I’ve even covered a mason jar of juice with one. It’s watertight.”

Meli Wraps are squares of organic cloth coated in a proprietary mixture of beeswax, jojoba oil, coconut oil and other organic ingredients. The final product is a pliable and semi-rigid covering for perishable food that can be fashioned into just about any shape.

“If you’re good with origami, you’ll love these,” Foster said.

Born and raised in Kapaa, Foster now lives in Kilauea and partnered with childhood friend Nicole Galchutt to create the wraps in 2015. The wraps are made in her Kilauea home.

“We got the inspiration from a girls’ trip to Australia,” Foster said. “We saw something similar there and we hadn’t seen anything like it in Hawaii or in the U.S.”

Now, Meli Wraps are in about 25 retails shops in Hawaii including natural food stores across Kauai and on Oahu, and a few gift shops on Kauai. Meli Wraps also sells products on their website. They come in three sizes.

In April, Foster and Galchutt sold 500 Meli Wraps. The wraps sell for about $20 depending on size.

Recently, Galchutt moved to Bend, Oregon, where she is expanding their business in the Pacific Northwest.

Foster said in the past, she’s used plastic wrap and tin foil to cover perishable foods, even in the place of a lid on containers in a pinch. She’s been searching for an alternative for quite some time.

“I can’t tell you how many little plastic baggies I’ve used for my kids’ lunches,” Foster said. “Now, though I use these in lunches and the kids love them. The teachers do too. They’re pretty.”

Besides cutting down on the cost of a continuous supply of plastic baggies, the wraps aren’t as harmful to the environment and plastic is reputed to be.

“In general, plastic is bad for the environment and a lot of it ends up in the ocean,” she said. “Tin foil isn’t that great either.”

Aluminum foil and plastic wrap tend to stick together and rip easily, aren’t conveniently reusable, and pose potential human health hazards in addition to being unhealthy for the environment, she said.

“These are made from all organic materials and I’ve had the same ones for a year,” she said. “Plus they brighten up your refrigerator, they’re stackable, and we’re always experimenting with different prints.”

Meli Wraps can be used on nearly everything, except for meats. Clean the Meli Wraps under cold water with a sponge and dish soap, and hang to dry.Foster said she doesn’t suggest putting the wraps in the microwave or in the dishwasher.

“A lot of people store them in the fridge because it keeps them fresh and they can be put in the freezer – they just get a little bit crispy,” she said.

Now, Foster and her family keep Meli Wraps on them most times and the wraps have even helped out in some minor medical scrapes.

“I was at a soccer game and a kid got hit in the head with the ball, we just put some ice in a Meli Wrap and made it into an ice pack. It worked great because it’s waterproof,” she said.

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