Singapore-Based Start-Up Karana Turns Jackfruit into Asia’s First Whole-Plant-Based Meat Product

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There seems to be no slowing down of the trend towards plant-based meats. “Meatless meats” continue to flood the scene as demand surge with consumers ditching meat for plant-based substitutes. Closer to home, Singapore-headquartered startup Karana has just launched its first plant-based meat product – ‘pork’ made from young jackfruit.

Unlike other meatless options that are lab-made and may contain a lot of ingredients and preservatives, Karana’s ingredients comprise only jackfruit, oil and salt natural flavour. Karana uses jackfruits, which are grown in abundance in Sri Lanka. Naturally high in fibre, vitamins and potassium, jackfruit has a fibrous, stringy texture – akin to pulled pork – that makes it ideal as a meat substitute.

Pot stickers made using the jackfruit-based Karana meat. Photo © Butcher Boy.

In the first phase of the launch, Karana is partnering with six restaurants to showcase its product. The six restaurants are Candlenut, Butcher Boy, Open Farm Community, Morsels, Atout and Grain Traders.

Dan Riegler is co-founder of Karana, Asia’s first whole-plant-based meat brand.

We met up with Karana co-founder Dan Riegler for a chat on Singapore’s first whole-plant-based meat and what sets Karana apart from the rest of the competition.

How do you compare Karana to other vegan meat brands like Impossible Meat and Beyond Meat?

We are a whole plant meat company, meaning our products are made from ingredients that are sustainable and consumers can recognise. This sets us apart from other companies in the plant-based meat space that are by and large relying on commodity crops in heavily processed forms.

Moreover, our focus is on Asian applications – we are starting with pork products because pork is the number one meat consumed in Asia. We are also turning our meat into indulgent ready-to-cook dim sum products such as dumplings and char siew baos, creating the comfort foods that consumers know and love here. We hope this will make it easier for them to eat healthier and reduce their meat consumption without having to compromise or stop eating the foods they – and we – love. There are very few other players with this Asian focus and focus on ready-to-cook products.

Highly processed foods are generally a big no-no for the health-conscious crowd. Yet, vegan meats like Karana are processed foods. How would you convince this group of unconvinced consumers?

This is exactly what differentiates Karana – we are a whole-plant meat company and offer minimally processed alternatives with short ingredient lists.

We do some minimal processing to transform our jackfruit through proprietary know-how that brings out the natural meat-like texture of the jackfruit without requiring harsh chemicals or heavy processing. This mechanical process retains the whole-plant nature of the ingredient allowing us to truly create meat from whole-plants as opposed to texturates, concentrates or isolates used in many products.

The KARANA product does not require the intense processing used in other plant-based proteins to break them down and extrude them into something resembling meat. We love those products and they have done a lot to open the market, but ultimately it is about responding to consumer demands for more choices, healthier options, and transparency in supply chains.

Flavouring added to Karana meat to achieve that umami flavour. What sort of flavouring is used?

The flavouring is a natural flavouring, not artificial. This enables us to set a base line umami flavour to the product, whilst still keeping it light enough to allow creativity in the kitchen and for chefs to add their signature to the dishes we create with our products.

One of our partner chefs Patrick Heuberger of Atout pointed out that he is constantly on the lookout for new innovations, creations and products, sticking to his belief of food from known sources. He highlighted Karana is made out of fresh young Jackfruit, which has so much nutritional value and texture, but most importantly, is minimally processed.

When will the six partner restaurant start featuring Karana meat on their menus?

Karana is already on the menu at Candlenut, Butcher Boy, Atout, Open Farm Community and Grain Traders. It will be on the menu at Morsels from 1 March. The initial group of launch partner restaurants will be exclusive partners until March, after which we will open up to working with a wider range of restaurants in Singapore. We still hope to continue a long-term relationship with all of our launch partners though.

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Katherine Goh is the managing editor and co-founder of Asia 361. On days when she is not writing, she spends her time dreaming of becoming a travel photographer. For editorial matters, she can be reached at email: [email protected]

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