Appetite for alternative meat is rising throughout the globe.
As the dietary and environmental impacts of meat consumption grow to be higher identified, producers and customers want to completely different sources to handle the continued demand for protein.
One amongst them is Dan Riegler, whose personal evolving relationship with meat impressed him to co-found Karana.
“I was very much a vegan skeptic, a meat-eater for a lot of my life, and I’ve taken a major turn,” Riegler informed CNBC Make It.
Karana is the Singapore meals start-up positioning itself as Asia’s first whole-plant-based meat brand. Its flagship product — a pulled pork substitute — is made completely from jackfruit, oil and salt, with out processed components or preservatives.
Started in 2018 as demand for meat alternate options was rising, Riegler stated he noticed a spot available in the market for meat substitutes designed particularly for Asian cuisines.
“We saw a huge need to identify products that had more local applications for APAC,” stated Riegler, now 35, who constructed a profession working in agricultural provide chains throughout Southeast Asia.
“Pork is the number one meat that’s consumed in this region and that’s where we didn’t see a lot of products really addressing a need.”
So Riegler and his co-founder Blair Crichton, previously of Impossible Foods which additionally produces plant-based meat alternate options, set to work discovering an environmentally-friendly alternative.
It wasn’t lengthy earlier than the pair recognized Karana’s first product: a pork substitute made of jackfruit sourced from smallholder farmers in Sri Lanka.
Jackfruit has an extended historical past in South and Southeast Asian cuisines, particularly in vegetarian and vegan dishes. Known for its densely packed, fibrous texture and meat-like qualities, the unripe younger jackfruit is often utilized in savory meals, whereas the candy ripe jackfruit is eaten uncooked.
“Jackfruit, as a crop, does not need irrigation, does not need pesticides, does not need herbicides. So it’s a very hardy tree, and when it yields fruit, it’s very, very prolific,” stated Carsten Carstens, Karana’s chief scientific officer and first rent.
In reality, jackfruit is so considerable within the area that tons of it go to waste every year. That is due partially to the complexity of getting ready and cooking it.
“The formats that it was available in … were just not exciting to us. They were very difficult to work with, they were not yielding interesting textures and end results, and we knew that jackfruit was not living up to its potential,” Riegler stated.
So, the founders set to work adapting the fruit for a mass-market — quickly devising a chemical-free, mechanical course of at their manufacturing hub in Singapore to rework the fruit right into a shredded, meat-like product that is easy for cooks and customers to make use of.
“Our intention was really to create something that chefs can take and create amazing dishes with,” stated Carstens. “For the modern kitchen in a modern (food and beverage) operation, it is just too labor-intense.”
Karana’s invention comes as an urge for food for extra moral and sustainable meals grows throughout Asia and past.
Even earlier than the pandemic, the alternative meat market was estimated to hit $140 billion — or 10% of the worldwide meat trade — inside a decade.
Mirte Gosker, performing managing director at The Good Food Institute Asia Pacific, stated that demand for meat substitutes is growing in Asia as consciousness of meals security and diet grows.
“Here in Asia, we see a real demand for healthy products with high nutritious value,” stated Gosker. “And specifically in China, one of the reasons for people to buy plant-based meat, actually the biggest reason, is the wish to lose weight.”
Moreover, she stated, the environmental results of conventional animal agriculture have gotten unsustainable.
“Animal agriculture is the top two or three contributors to the most pressing environmental challenges on our planet right now. That includes air pollution, water pollution, water shortages, and loss of biodiversity,” stated Gosker.
“If we would not use those fields to grow feed for animals, we could actually use those fields to reforest, to create larger biodiversity, or use, for example, for renewable energy,” she added.
The funding neighborhood is seeing the advantages of alternative proteins too. According to The Good Food Institute Asia Pacific, international investments into alternative proteins rose 300% in 2020 alone.
In July 2020, Karana raised $1.7 million in seed funding from traders together with Big Idea Ventures, a fund devoted to plant-based meals backed by Singapore’s state funding firm Temasek, and U.S. meat firm Tyson Foods.
The funding fueled the corporate’s 2021 debut in Singapore, the place its whole-plant pork is now available at nine restaurants and counting — in dishes from dumplings to “ngoh hiang,” a neighborhood pork roll.
Next up shall be its rollout in Hong Kong, in addition to the launch of a line of ready-to-cook retail merchandise. Meantime, funding in a brand new innovation lab will allow Karana to experiment additional with jackfruit and different whole-plant meat substitutes.