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Singapore food tech Karana is launching its first product, a whole food plant-based pork alternative made from young jackfruit, across six restaurants in Singapore. Unlike many plant-based meat brands on the market, the startup uses natural whole food ingredients and blends them with novel food technologies to enhance “meat-like” textures, making it stand out as one of the most minimally-processed vegan analogues available.
Announced on Thursday (January 28), Karana is launching its sustainable plant-based pork analogue made from young jackfruit, marking Asia’s first brand of its kind that is made from whole food plant ingredients. Six leading restaurants in Singapore will debut the product in a range of creative dishes, from potstickers to colourful bowls, in what the startup describes as its “first phase” in its foodservice roll-out. Participating restaurants include Candlenut, Butcher Boy, Open Farm Community, Morsels, Atout and Grain Traders.
Unlike other well-known vegan meat brands on the market, whose labels usually contain a long lists of ingredients and preservatives, Karana uses its innovative technology to minimally process, optimise and enhance its responsibly sourced young jackfruit, a fruit native to and abundant in Asia, into a natural meat-like ingredient that’s easy to cook and prepare.
We chose to launch in Singapore as it has such a high concentration of talented chefs and it’s a global leader in food tech innovation.Blair Crinchton, Co-Founder, Karana
The news comes after the food tech closed its US$1.7 million seed round in the summer of last year, which drew participation from notable players like Temasek, Tyson Foods and the CEO of Monde Nissin Corp Henry Soesanto.
“We chose to launch in Singapore as it has such a high concentration of talented chefs and it’s a global leader in food tech innovation,” said Karana co-founder Blair Crinchton, who grew up in Hong Kong. “We wanted to bring to market a plant-based ingredient that cooked and presented as a meat, taking jackfruit to the next level for restaurants.”
The launch is likely to be welcome news for Singapore residents, many of whom have been turning to plant-based alternatives in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, which has set off alarm bells over the safety and vulnerability of the meat supply chain.
Michelin-starred restaurant Candlenut, known for its award-winning Peranakan cuisine, will be on the list for many of the island’s foodies, herbivores, flexitarians and omnivores alike. The restaurant is slated to serve up Karana’s jackfruit meat in a ngoh hiang dish.
We’re looking forward to introducing our new Karana dish to diners, to offer them all the texture and flavour, without any processing.Malcolm Lee, Chef-Owner, Candlenut
“At Candlenut we believe in using the best possible ingredients and keeping things simple, which is why we’re thrilled to be a launch partner for Asia’s first whole-plant meat substitute,” said Malcolm Lee, chief and owner of Candlenut. “We’re looking forward to introducing our new Karana dish to diners, to offer them all the texture and flavour, without any processing.”
Karana co-founder Dan Riegler, who spent years working with agricultural supply chains across Southeast Asia, says that on top of its minimally-processed clean plant-based whole food qualities, its “pork” product stands out because of its sustainability credentials.
60% of jackfruit is currently being wasted, a contributor to global warming, so with Karana we’ll be reducing that wastage, while working with farmers to support the local economy.Dan Riegler, Co-Founder, Karana
“Sustainability has never been more important, especially when it comes to food, and our first base ingredient was carefully chosen with this in mind. Jackfruit is an extremely efficient crop with high yields and low water usage making it friendly to smallholder farmers,” explains Riegler, who adds that currently, the brand sources from Sri Lanka.
“It is typically grown intercropped, promoting biodiversity. 60% of jackfruit is currently being wasted, a contributor to global warming, so with Karana we’ll be reducing that wastage, while working with farmers to support the local economy.”
While the startup has yet to disclose further details on whether its jackfruit pork will launch elsewhere in the near future, there’s little doubt that the demand is there in Singapore and across the region and businesses are quickly gearing up to tap into the fast-growing market.
Singapore recently welcomed its first Green Common branch, the plant-based café and grocery concept operated by Hong Kong-based Green Monday, as well as other foreign brands like vegan milk giant Oatly entering the market and Impossible Foods doubling down its presence. The city’s frozen foods giant TYJ has also made its foray into plant-based with its new brand ALTN to offer a wide range of frozen meatless meals, snacks and convenience foods.
All images courtesy of Karana.