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  • Have you ever tasted one of these?

  • It's troublesome.

  • This little thing?

  • Why?

  • It will grow bigger, right?

  • And it's very, very sturdy, so you definitely need a sharp knife and a strong arm to cut it.

  • And it releases a lot of very sticky latex, so everything gets very, very messy.

  • How about one of these?

  • You can really see how this product has like a fibrous texture that very much resembles

  • pulled pork or like a pulled meat muscle.

  • Now, they're available as one as the co-founders of Karana attempt to take a bite of Asia's

  • alternative meat market with their jackfruit-based pulled pork substitute.

  • I was very much a vegan-skeptic, a meat-eater for a lot of my life,

  • and I've taken a major turn.

  • Karana is the Singapore food start-up behind the meat substitute

  • made entirely from jackfruit, oil and salt,

  • which it callswhole-plantmeat.

  • This is unlike other products that may contain processed ingredients and preservatives.

  • Started in 2018 amid growing demand for meat alternatives,

  • the business produces sustainable, minimally processed meat substitutes

  • designed specifically for Asian cuisines.

  • We really focus on using whole plants, that's the main differentiator for us.

  • Co-founder Dan Riegler, who built a career working in

  • agricultural supply chains across Southeast Asia, told me more.

  • We saw a huge need to identify products that had more local applications,

  • you know, for APAC.

  • 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.

  • Half of the world's pork is produced and consumed in Asia,

  • with most of that demand coming from China.

  • So in 2018, Dan and his co-founder Blair Crichton, formerly of Impossible Foods,

  • set to work finding an environmentally-friendly alternative.

  • There's about 150,000 edible plant species and we consume about 150.

  • It wasn't long before the pair identified Karana's flagship product:

  • a pork substitute made of jackfruit sourced from smallholder farmers in Sri Lanka.

  • Jackfruit has a long history in South and Southeast Asian cuisines,

  • especially in vegetarian and vegan dishes.

  • Known for its densely packed, fibrous texture and meat-like qualities,

  • the unripe young jackfruit is commonly used in savory foods,

  • while the sweet, ripe jackfruit is eaten raw.

  • In Sri Lanka, the jackfruit tree is such a national treasure,

  • it is known as bath gasa or 'rice tree.'

  • In Sri Lanka, it's actually illegal to cut down a jackfruit tree,

  • because it's considered such a national treasure.

  • Carsten Carstens, Karana's chief science officer and first hire,

  • shared more about jackfruit's natural properties.

  • 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.

  • Jackfruit is so abundant in the region that tons of it goes to waste every year.

  • That is due in part to the complexity of processing and cooking it.

  • That's income that's not getting into the hands of farmers,

  • that's crops that's going to waste.

  • The founders thought jackfruit was ripe for mass consumption.

  • The formats that it was available in, we saw, 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.

  • So, they set to work experimenting, eventually devising a chemical-free, mechanical process

  • at their manufacturing hub in Singapore that would transform the fruit into a shredded,

  • meat-like product that's simple for chefs and consumers to use.

  • Our intention was really to create something that chefs can take

  • and create amazing dishes with.

  • The unique qualities of the fruit such as its stickiness

  • meant that preparing it would be a challenge.

  • Even in the countries where jackfruit is grown,

  • you need to have a lot of knowledge on how to best process it.

  • And for the modern kitchen in a modern F&B operation,

  • it is just too labor-intense for most chefs to even dare working with it.

  • Karana's invention comes as demand for more ethical and sustainable food

  • grows across Asia and beyond.

  • Even before the pandemic, the alternative meat market was estimated to hit $140 billion

  • or 10% of the global meat industrywithin a decade.

  • Mirte Gosker, acting managing director at The Good Food Institute Asia Pacific,

  • says that demand for meat substitutes is increasing in Asia

  • as awareness of food safety and nutrition grows.

  • First of all, we see sustainability picking up as a consumer trend,

  • and I think that blew over from the West to Asia.

  • But what is more interesting is that here in Asia we see a real demand for healthy products

  • with high nutritious value.

  • And specifically in China, one of the reasons for people to buy plant-based meat, actually

  • the biggest reason, is the wish to lose weight.

  • Current farming methods and large-scale industrial farming practices are not sustainable, says Mirte.

  • The Food Agriculture Organization has declared that animal agriculture

  • is the top two or three contributors to the most pressing environmental challenges

  • on our planet right now.

  • So that includes air pollution, water pollution, water shortages,

  • and loss of biodiversity, for example.

  • And if you look at the animal agriculture,

  • it's just a highly inefficient way of creating meat.

  • We really need to rethink, you know, how we're producing food from the ground up.

  • We rely way too much on a very small number of crops and animals

  • that are extremely destructive to the environment.

  • If we don't do it by choice now, we will be forced to.

  • By 2050, I mean, we see it in weather patterns

  • and the implications for the farmers we work with.

  • We see it in the pressure that is building on our current food supply chain systems.

  • We've seen it with Covid, with Swine Flu in China.

  • It's not up to us.

  • Investors are recognizing the potential of the alternative meat sector too.

  • Demand for plant-based meat is skyrocketing.

  • We have seen in 2020 a 300% increase globally on investments in this specific space,

  • and here in Asia Pacific, we actually saw a sixfold rise in investments in alternative proteins.

  • In July 2020, Karana raised $1.7 million inseed funding

  • from investors, including Big Idea Ventures,

  • a fund dedicated to plant-based foods backed by Singapore's Temasek

  • and US meat company Tyson Foods.

  • The investment fueled the company's 2021 debut in Singapore,

  • where its plant-based pork is now available in nine restaurants and counting,

  • in local dishes from dumplings to local pork rolls.

  • Next up will be its rollout in Hong Kong,

  • as well as the launch of a line of Karana retail products.

  • We're focusing on very convenience-focused, very iconic ready-to-cook products starting

  • with frozen dim sum.

  • So frozen dumplings, frozen bao.

  • The company is also investing in a new innovation lab

  • to experiment further with jackfruit and other whole-plant meat substitutes.

  • We also have a number of crops in our pipeline that have a similar approach, where there's

  • a lot of it available, a lot of waste happening and a lot that we can do to bring these new,

  • king of less thought about, less familiar ingredients to market.

  • All that comes as the alternative meat space becomes increasingly crowded.

  • It won't be easy winning market share, but Dan says he welcomes the competition.

  • There's a lot of buzz and this is a very hot space, but it's still so early, there's

  • such a massive market opportunity.

  • The more good products that are out there,

  • the more consumers will increasingly switch to plant-based.

  • So I think the more innovation, the better.

Have you ever tasted one of these?

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B1 meat asia pork plant plant based alternative

Creating pork from jackfruit: The whole-plant start-up taking on Asia’s meat industry | CNBC Make It

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    Summer posted on 2021/04/06
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