Karana recently closed US$1.7M seed funding for their jackfruit alternative meat so we were keen to find out about their next steps to develop their alternative meat and how collaborations and partnerships have helped them accelerate their mission. We spoke to Co-Founders Blair Crichton and Dan Riegler to learn more.
Can you tell us a bit more about Karana, and how you are disrupting the food-tech industry?
Karana is Asia’s first whole-plant meat company. For our first ingredient, ‘pork’ made from organic jackfruit, we use a proprietary process to bring out the natural meat-like texture of the jackfruit without requiring harsh chemicals or heavy processing. This mechanical process retains the whole structure of the ingredient allowing us to truly create meat from whole-plants as opposed to concentrates or isolates used in many products.
Our focus is on leveraging what nature has given us and enhancing these amazing biodiverse ingredients to create delicious products. We will be disrupting the existing food-tech and plant-based meat space with a delicious whole-plant product that is minimally processed.
What are your latest innovations in plant-based meat? Why is Karana different to other plant-based companies?
Our whole-plant product made from an organic, sustainable ingredient sets us apart from other companies in the plant-based meat space that are by-and-large relying on commodity crops in processed forms. Moreover, our focus is on Asian applications – we’re starting with pork products because pork is the number 1 meat consumed in Asia. We’re also turning our meat into indulgent ready to cook dim sum products such as dumplings and char siu baos, creating the comfort foods that consumers know and love here, we hope this will make it easier for them to eat healthier and reduce their meat consumption without having to compromise or stop eating the foods they, and we, love. There are very few other players with this Asian focus and focus on ready to cook products.
How have partnerships and collaborations helped you in your mission to combine taste, health and sustainability in plant-based products? Can you give any examples?
We are fortunate to have a lot of great partners in all areas of our business, what we have been able to accomplish as a team of now 5 people is testament to that. We have been part of the Big Idea Ventures Accelerator and worked closely with both their Singapore and US teams, and in general have focused on investors and advisors who bring deep strategic value and support.
We also leverage partnerships in our supply chain and are actively exploring a number of great organisations to work with to expand our farming networks.
What advice would you give to an emerging start-up who has a vision, like you do, to transform the sector? Did you connect with anyone at our summits which has in turn lead to your recent investment and funding raise?
Leverage your passion, if people can see that you really care about the problems you are solving they will generally try and support you, but messaging and networking are definitely critical.
Events like Future Food-Tech and APAC Agri-Food are a great opportunity to connect with others in the food space, especially as the way we are able to travel and interact is quickly changing. We’ve attended the last two years and have made hires and pursued partnerships with some of the people we’ve met.
What could start-ups gain from attending the Future Food-Tech summit or Asia-Pacific Agri-Food Innovation Week?
There are very few events like it in the future food space where you get such a concentration of corporates, investors, and entrepreneurs, especially in Singapore. We loved getting to meet some of the Food-Tech founders we really admire and being featured to pitch Karana gave us quite a lot of exposure.
How do you think the current global pandemic will impact your priority to build a sustainable future through plant-based products? (over the short, medium and long-term)?
The current covid-19 pandemic and recent outbreak of swine flu has resulted in a growing awareness of the problems with the animal agriculture system and has raised concerns over the links between meat and viral diseases, so it has only reinforced the need for a sustainable future through plant-based products. Our priority still remains the same, but you could say that there is more of a sense of urgency to launch and ramp up research efforts into more products now. There has already been a reported surge in demand for plant-based meat substitutes in Asia in 2020, which is expected continue into the long-term future.
What’s next for Karana?
Launching our first product – whole-plant ‘pork’ made from jackfruit – in Singapore! In the future we plan to launch products using other regional ingredients that will enable us to expand beyond pork.
Find out more at eatkarana.com