Karana, a whole plant-based meat company, managed to raise US$1.7 million in the seed round and is set to launch plant pork alternative made from the popular Asian fruit, jackfruit.
The seed funding round was led by Big Idea Ventures, Monde Nissin Corp CEO Henry Soesanto, and Germi8, a venture capital firm which invests in agri-food startups.
Also participating in the funding round were angel investors including Hong Kong-based food and beverage entrepreneurs, Kevin Poon and Gerald Li.
The startup plans to use the fresh funding to launch its “pork product” made from jackfruit in restaurants in Asia, and to further its research and development on jackfruit and other plants as meat substitutes.
Jackfruit makes a good alternative ingredient for pork products because it can be cooked and shredded like the real thing. If prepared the right way, it can mimic the textures of pork (or in some cases chicken), which is a key element to get right when it comes to plant-based proteins. The plant is native to India and also grows in Southeast Asia, Mexico, and South America.
Karana’s co-founder and co-CEO, Blair Crichton, told Food Navigator: “The meat market is huge and can fit many players – the objective with these meat alternatives should be to take a share of the market from the meat sector, and not so much compete with other plant-based meat firms.”
According to FoodNavigator Asia, the company believes that sourcing young organic jackfruit and having a minimal processing approach to product innovation will enable it to stand out from the crowd. The article states that Karana is further differentiating itself from other plant-based alternatives by focusing on the ready to cook and ready to eat market, with what it expects to be its signature development; jackfruit based pork Char Siew Bao.
Karana’s co-founder, Dan Riegler said, “Sustainability has never been more important, especially when it comes to food, and our first base ingredient was carefully chosen with this in mind.”
“Jackfruit is an extremely efficient crop with high yields and low water usage making it friendly to smallholder farmers. Sixty per cent of jackfruit is currently being wasted, a contributor to global warming, so at Karana we’ll be reducing that wastage, while working with farmers to support the local economy,” he added.
Karana’s choice of plant-based pork as its first product is a wise bet. Pork is the most widely consumed meat in Asia, but between the aforementioned pandemic-induced problems with meat supply and calls from Asian governments to cut meat consumption, the time is ripe for plant-based alternatives.
The startup is set to launch its whole-plant pork made from jackfruit in mid 2020 in Singapore in collaboration with some of the country’s top restaurants. The products will be available through retail in early 2021.