Unlike other plant-based “meats,” Singapore-based Karana’s faux pork baos and dumplings are made entirely from a single ingredient: the versatile jackfruit.
The following interview is part of the new edition of Climate & Style, an exciting new newsletter exploring climate-focused lifestyle, art and culture.
Karana is Asia’s first whole-plant based meat brand. We had a chance to sit down with Karana co-founders Dan Riegler and Blair Crichton about their experiences setting up their company and their insights into where the market is headed. Both Riegler and Crichton talk here about their goal to make it easier for consumers to reduce their meat consumption — and change the way we think of Asian comfort food.
How did you pick the name “Karana?”
Karana comes from a Sanskrit word that means “doing” and a Balinese phrase that refers to achieving balance with nature as a route to prosperity.
Karana represents our goal to empower and encourage everyone to take action, however small, to bring more balance back to our food systems. It also represents our commitment to blending innovation and tradition, using technology to improve what we already have available, and celebrating food in its natural form.
We choose crops like jackfruit that already have a large bioavailability, are not water or land intensive, and are resistant to many of the climate change issues facing smallholder farmers around the world.
What is different about what you’re doing?
We want to prove that eating in a healthier and more sustainable way doesn’t mean sacrificing or compromising on the food we love. We hope to make it easier for consumers to reduce their meat consumption
To do this, we’re taking ordinary, underappreciated plants and transforming them into meat starting with a whole-plant based pork made from jackfruit.
The first wave of modern plant based products are great and they’ve done a lot to open the market and educate consumers. But they are by-and-large relying on commodity crops in processed forms.
There is often an implicit assumption that these products are healthy just because they’re plant based. While they’re healthier than meat products, many of them are highly processed and not necessarily “health foods.”
With health being the number one incentive for people to reduce their meat intake, we need to offer more choices that are minimally processed and offer the benefits of eating whole plants.
How will this change what others are doing?
Moving away from animal agriculture is a great starting point for a more sustainable food system, but we need to look more deeply at which plant based ingredients we are consuming. For example, soy is second only to beef as a cause of deforestation.
We hope others are inspired to innovate more around the ingredients used in this category. Currently, we only commonly consume 150 of 30,000 edible plant species, and 12 crops make up 75% of what we eat.
What do you wish the market was paying more attention to?
The importance of biodiversity and soil health are becoming more significant topics and rightfully so. We need to dramatically increase the variety of the types of crops we eat and ensure that we are choosing plants that can be grown sustainably.
What’s the most important thing for you to get right in the next year?
Launching our first product: whole-plant “pork” made from jackfruit!
Our focus is on Asian applications. We’re starting with pork products because pork is the number one meat consumed in Asia.
We’ll be starting with restaurants but given the current global situation we are looking to accelerate our retail product launch as well, beginning with a line of dumpling and dim sum products.
In the future, we plan to launch products using other regional ingredients that will enable us to expand beyond pork.
Editors note: Responses in this feature were edited for clarity, brevity and narrative flow.