Karana has set itself the task of changing the palate of meat eaters by creating deceptively delicious vegetable substitutes.
The Singapore-based food tech startup is Asia's first plant-based meat company to produce pulled pork replacement products from an unlikely source: jackfruit.
Karana pork with whole plants is available chopped or chopped and also offers Asian recipes.
The minced meat is suitable for dumplings, pasta or rice dishes, while the shredded product is suitable for baos, banh mis and pan dishes.
Their version of pork is so close to the real one that people find it difficult to tell the difference.
"Our dumplings are known to fool a Chinese grandma," boast Blair Crichton and Dan Riegler, co-founders of Karana.
From Asian food fans to Asian food developers
Both Blair and Dan were motivated by “a shared passion for sustainability, delicious Asian cuisine” and the realization that there are few vegetable alternatives to meat for Asian recipes in Asia.
Blair was born in Hong Kong and grew up there. He has worked for meat replacement startups such as Impossible Foods, New Age Meats and the Good Foods Institute in Silicon Valley.
Dan, on the other hand, has worked in agriculture, food technology and fintech industry in Southeast Asia for years. He was only personally invested in sustainability when he was working on a social enterprise project in Cambodia.
A combination of the founders' love of Asian food and expertise in food technology led to their idea: Karana, a company that produces pork substitutes from jackfruit.
The market timing was right. According to the duo, more than 60 percent of people in Asia are looking for healthier nutritional alternatives.
Since pork was the number one meat in Asia, Karana decided to create a product that would please the local palate.
"We also both missed eating delicious dumplings when we switched to vegan diets."
Make really healthy meat based on plants
In an interview with Vulcan Post, Blair and Dan stated that the goal is to replicate Asian home cooking without compensating for health, price, or taste.
"We hope this will help people (living in Asia) to eat healthier and reduce their meat consumption without having to compromise or stop eating the food they and we love."
Herbal products have come under fire recently because they are unhealthy, highly processed products from food industry executives and health professionals.
“We love these products and they have done a lot to open up the market. Ultimately, however, it is about responding to consumer demand for more choices, healthier options and transparency in the supply chain, ”said the co-founders.
But why did you choose jackfruit from all available dishes?
According to Karana, jackfruit was chosen for its naturally fleshy texture. Young jackfruits are also high in nutrients and fiber, low in calories and low in cholesterol with a low glycemic index.
Unlike other vegetable meat producers, Karana's processing methods contain neither concentrate nor isolates.
Instead of using harsh chemicals or heavy processing, a mechanical process is used to "improve the texture of the naturally meat-like ingredient" while maintaining its nutritional components, the co-founders say.
Jackfruit is also very sustainable compared to raw material crops such as soy, peas or wheat. The plant is grown interculturally (mixed with other plants) and used to shade smaller, more sensitive plants.
Jackfruit trees have also been growing for hundreds of years, producing tons of fruit and requiring minimal effort or watering. This makes it incredibly easy for small farmers to cultivate.
Currently over 60 percent of jackfruit products are wasted. However, Karana reduces waste by using all edible, compostable components, creating additional sources of income for fathers.
Covid-19 An opportunity for growth
The meat replacement trend is nothing new. Since the outbreak of the Covid 19 crisis, interest in food science has skyrocketed as supply lines around the world are threatened by social distancing measures.
Enterprise Singapore announced on June 26 that more than S $ 55 million has been allocated to local agriculture and aquaculture companies to "build new skills and promote growth".
Karana recently raised its first $ 1.7 million in seed funds. The startup was supported by Monde Nissin Corp, Big Idea Ventures and Germi8, among others.
Karana will use the funds to launch its first line of products and accelerate its research and development (R&D) capabilities. The funds will also be used to build a regional food tech team.
In the first phase, the startup will bring its entire vegetable pork product to the market with leading restaurant partners and develop a range of ready-to-cook products that focus on dim sum. Karana's partners remain secret.
Blair and Dan assure that the line will be expanded to include other products that are used in other Asian cultures and recipes. Karana products will be available in retail stores by 2021.
Revolutionizing the food industry
Karana's founders remain cautiously optimistic.
There is still a long way to go to raise consumer awareness. We have also seen a sharp increase in meat consumption as countries become wealthier. "
"(But) with the increasing awareness of health and wellness, we are seeing a change in consumer behavior."
Karana may be a profit-making company, but both Blair and Dan are committed to their mission to deliver healthy, sustainable meat replacement products.
"We currently only consume 30 out of 150 edible plant species, and 12 plants make up 75 percent of our diet."
"We want to be leaders in the new generation of herbal products and show that we can use undervalued and extremely sustainable ingredients to make great products."
"We hope to make it easier for consumers to reduce their meat consumption and end the destruction of animal husbandry."
Selected image source: Brent Hofacker via Alamy Stock Photo / Karana