Creating pork from jackfruit: How this whole-plant start-up is taking on Asia’s multibillion-dollar meat industry

Appetite for various meat is rising throughout the globe.

As the dietary and environmental impacts of meat consumption change into higher recognized, producers and customers wish to totally different sources to handle the continued demand for protein.

One amongst them is Dan Riegler, whose personal evolving relationship with meat impressed him to co-found Karana.

“I was very much a vegan skeptic, a meat-eater for a lot of my life, and I’ve taken a major turn,” Riegler advised CNBC Make It.

A meat various for Asia

Karana is the Singapore meals start-up positioning itself as Asia’s first whole-plant-based meat model. Its flagship product — a pulled pork substitute — is made fully from jackfruit, oil and salt, with out processed elements or preservatives.

Started in 2018 as demand for meat options was rising, Riegler mentioned he noticed a niche available in the market for meat substitutes designed particularly for Asian cuisines.

We noticed an enormous must establish merchandise that had extra native purposes for APAC.

Dan Riegler

co-founder, Karana

“We saw a huge need to identify products that had more local applications for APAC,” mentioned Riegler, now 35, who constructed a profession working in agricultural provide chains throughout Southeast Asia.

“Pork is the number one meat that’s consumed in this region and that’s where we didn’t see a lot of products really addressing a need.”

Asia is accountable for producing and consuming half of the world’s pork.


Indeed, half of the world’s pork is produced and consumed in Asia, with most of that demand coming from China.

So Riegler and his co-founder Blair Crichton, previously of Impossible Foods which additionally produces plant-based meat options, set to work discovering an environmentally-friendly various.

Creating pork from jack all

It wasn’t lengthy earlier than the pair recognized Karana’s first product: a pork substitute made of jackfruit sourced from smallholder farmers in Sri Lanka.

Jackfruit has an extended historical past in South and Southeast Asian cuisines, particularly in vegetarian and vegan dishes. Known for its densely packed, fibrous texture and meat-like qualities, the unripe younger jackfruit is generally utilized in savory meals, whereas the candy ripe jackfruit is eaten uncooked.  

Jackfruit is generally utilized in many South and Southeast Asian dishes.


“Jackfruit, as a crop, does not need irrigation, does not need pesticides, does not need herbicides. So it’s a very hardy tree, and when it yields fruit, it’s very, very prolific,” mentioned Carsten Carstens, Karana’s chief scientific officer and first rent.

In truth, jackfruit is so ample within the area that tons of it go to waste yearly. That is due partly to the complexity of getting ready and cooking it.

We knew that jackfruit was not dwelling as much as its potential.

Dan Riegler

co-founder, Karana

“The formats that it was available in … were just not exciting to us. They were very difficult to work with, they were not yielding interesting textures and end results, and we knew that jackfruit was not living up to its potential,” Riegler mentioned.

So, the founders set to work adapting the fruit for a mass-market — quickly devising a chemical-free, mechanical course of at their manufacturing hub in Singapore to remodel the fruit right into a shredded, meat-like product that is easy for cooks and customers to make use of.  

“Our intention was really to create something that chefs can take and create amazing dishes with,” mentioned Carstens. “For the modern kitchen in a modern (food and beverage) operation, it is just too labor-intense.”

Tapping a rising market

Attracting investor urge for food

The funding group is seeing the advantages of different proteins too. According to The Good Food Institute Asia Pacific, world investments into various proteins rose 300% in 2020 alone.

In July 2020, Karana raised $1.7 million in seed funding from buyers together with Big Idea Ventures, a fund devoted to plant-based meals backed by Singapore’s state funding firm Temasek, and U.S. meat firm Tyson Foods.

Karana’s flagship product is a pulled pork substitute made fully from jackfruit, oil and salt.


The funding fueled the corporate’s 2021 debut in Singapore, the place its whole-plant pork is now accessible at 9 eating places and counting — in dishes from dumplings to “ngoh hiang,” an area pork roll.

Next up will probably be its rollout in Hong Kong, in addition to the launch of a line of ready-to-cook retail merchandise. Meantime, funding in a brand new innovation lab will allow Karana to experiment additional with jackfruit and different whole-plant meat substitutes. 

The extra good merchandise which are on the market, the extra customers will more and more swap to plant-based.

Dan Riegler

co-founder, Karana

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