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Why? I call it a marketing genius. Why would people want to eat in paper that looks like a banana leaf? The very reason we eat in a banana leaf is to help reduce washing and thereby wasting water, and also give back these eco friendly leaves back to the land. There is a healthy aspect to it too. The leaf as such will have its original nature and hence, some medicinal properties (or at least no harmful ones). The paper instead just removes all these positive aspects and just keeps the resemblance (barely) with that of the original.
I remember the SAS paper banana leaf ads back in India. Most of the south Indian weddings use banana leaf for the 'sadya'. So, their ad gave the benefit to the consumer that the use of hassle free paper leaves will save the trouble of cleaning! Watch this ad here and I am sure you will agree that their marketing genius and our needs to associate the auspiciousness of these symbols have changed the real reasons of using a banana leaf. Btw, I am not saying that paper plates are any better :) They are all the same. All these folks did was make the paper plate different in both the material, size, and shape and make it symbolic with the 'auspiciousness' we associate to actual banana leaf. It is like selling 'coke' instead of 'water'. The company is making money and it uses its tactics to help change this as our norm. By the time we realize our foolishness and the shiftiness of business organizations, we end up paying a premium for the very old and original product and idea. Sigh!
Funniest ad : They want the consumer to change to paper banana leaf and they claim that their daughter's proposal (bride seeing ceremony) gets accepted because of this paper leaf! This ad is in Malayalam. I think there was one in Tamil too.