Singapore-based Karana announced today it has closed a $1.7 million seed round to further develop its plant-based meat products, the first of which are derived from jackfruit. The round was led by Big Idea Ventures, Monde Nissin Corp CEO Henry Soesanto, and Germi8, along with angel investors Kevin Poon and Gerald Li.
Karana says it will use the funding to launch its pork product made from jackfruit in restaurants in Asia, and to further its research and development around jackfruit and other plants as meat substitutes.
Jackfruit makes a good alternative ingredient for pork products because it can be cooked and shredded like the real thing. If prepared the right way, it can mimic the textures of pork (or in some cases chicken), which is a key element to get right when it comes to plant-based proteins. The plant is native to India and also grows in Southeast Asia, Mexico, and South America.
Karana says it uses a proprietary “innovative mechanical technique” to process the fruit, while retaining its nutritional profile and other health benefits. In other words, Karana’s products aren’t as highly processed as, say Impossible’s “bleeding” burgers or Beyond’s patties.
Karana cofounder Blair Crichton made mention of that point to AgFunder today, saying, “There are plenty of consumers — myself included — that really like those other products on the market, but don’t want to eat a heavily processed burger or sausage every day.” Substitutes derived from jackfruit are one possible alternative.
Karana’s funding announcement lands in what’s been a very busy week for alternative proteins. Since Tuesday of this week, cell-based meat companies IntegriCulture and Shiok Meats announced a new partnership, Motif FoodWorks said it is doubling down on its quest to find the perfect alt-meat texture, and fake chicken company NUGGS raised $4.1 million. In the alt-dairy space, Perfect Day made its own funding announcement, the expansion of its Series C round to $300 million. Meanwhile, sales of plant-based meat in general have gone up since the start of the pandemic, thanks in no small part to meat shortage scares and panic shopping sprees.
Karana’s choice of plant-based pork as its first product is a wise bet. Pork is the most widely consumed meat in Asia, but between the aforementioned pandemic-induced problems with meat supply and calls from Asian governments to cut meat consumption, the time is ripe for plant-based alternatives.