The Singapore-based food tech startup Karana Foods is working to support biodiversity and benefit farmers, consumers, and chefs, through a meat alternative made from jackfruit. After working for two years in Singapore and Hong Kong, Karana is bringing its products to the United States.
“We focus on finding plant-based ingredients for our products that promote the value of the intersection of health, sustainability, and equity for farmers,” Ania Madalinska, the Head Sustainability Advisor at Karana, Foods tells Food Tank.
Karana sells their products through food service providers in Hong Kong and Singapore. In 2020, Karana received over US$1.7 million from the Tyson Foods-backed Big Idea Ventures to invest in their brand. The company now hopes to build on its success and expand into the U.S. market, starting with San Francisco restaurants
Karana believes that restaurants offer an important entry point for consumers. “Our original goal was always to have people taste Karana through chefs first,” Karana’s Co-founder, Blair Crichton states. “It’s the ultimate way to experience a new ingredient and in line with our goal of making every customer interaction with a Karana product an incredible culinary experience.”
Madalinska tells Food Tank, “For us, it’s not just about bringing people a really delicious plant-based option when they go to restaurants, but we also want to educate them on the story behind our products.”
As a perennial crop, jackfruit provides multiple harvests without needing to be replanted. The fruit’s trees also help improve ecosystem health by providing habitat for wildlife and pollinators and reducing air pollutants. And the plants can be resistant to drought, pests, disease, and high temperatures.
“We’re committed to using ingredients that add value to the supply chain from a people and plant perspective,” Madalinska tells Food Tank.
To produce their products, Karana partners with farmers in Sri Lanka where, according to Madalinska, 60 percent of jackfruit goes to waste. By creating a market for jackfruit, Karana hopes to support biodiversity and provide an additional income source to farmers.
“Karana is providing ways to optimize supply chains to deliver more value directly to farmers,” Madalinska explains. “We’re helping them capture more consistent income out of jackfruit, a crop that is often wasted. And we’re also supporting them with how to incorporate data and visibility into their practices to help them maximize yields and reduce risk.”
“We’re bringing something really unique to the market, combining the use of biodiverse ingredients, an amazing textural and flavor experience, and in the form of an incredibly versatile ingredient, while maintaining a short ingredient list,” says Dan Riegler, Karana’s co-founder.
Madalinska says that as the alternative protein market becomes increasingly crowded, Karana aims to maintain a competitive edge by committing to health, taste, and biodiversity—what the company calls their “triple threat.”
The flavor and versatility of jackfruit also makes Karana’s products unique, Madalinska says. Chefs are being creative, incorporating jackfruit into unlikely dishes that surprise and educate consumers.
“When consumers go to restaurants they will have another meat alternative,” Madalinska tells Food Tank, “one that gets them thinking about what they’re eating and where it’s from.”