Meet The Founder Creating Asia’s First Plant-Based Meat Alternative Using Jackfruit
Karana founders Blair Crichton and Dan Riegler reveal what's next for the jackfruit-based pork alternative protein company
The alternative protein industry has exploded over the last few years, spurring a movement to change the way we eat. The products may be different, but they share a common goal: to achieve a more sustainable future by reducing global meat consumption and replacing them with other protein-rich and tasty solutions.
One company helping to lead the way is Karana, which was founded in Singapore in 2018 by co-CEOs, and Gen.T honourees, Blair Crichton and Daniel Riegler. Karana claims to be Asia’s first wholly plant-based meat brand. Its first product is plant-based "pork" made from organic young jackfruit sourced from Sri Lanka. The company uses proprietary processing technology to create “meat” from whole plants, enhancing the texture of the ingredients without any chemicals or heavy processing.
“Jackfruit is one of the most sustainable crops in the world," says Riegler. "It's a very friendly crop for smallholder farmers. It can offer significant income generation potential while requiring minimal inputs and maintenance. It is mostly grown intercropped—crops grown among other plants, usually in alternating rows or sections—on mixed farms, which is much better for soil health and provides diversification for farmers.
“[It was chosen] based on its sustainability profile and potential for various product applications—and we apply a similar framework to other ingredients we are exploring. We have exciting things in the pipeline, but there is still a lot more we can do with jackfruit.”
The co-founders considered a number of countries to base their operations, before finally landing on Singapore. “Singapore is very well-positioned geographically, and as a logistics hub, to be a centre for innovation in food and agriculture for the region," says Riegler. "Given the level of intellectual property protection, business climate, and addressable market in APAC, Singapore should become a major player, especially as larger food companies continue to invest here and the resources available to startups increase.”
Today, Karana’s jackfruit-based pork is available in shredded and minced forms to the restaurant and food service sector. The company also hopes to expand to retail product lines in Singapore. Earlier this year, the brand also launched in Hong Kong, which it expects to be the first of many new markets.
Says Riegler: “We will be launching our ready-to-cook dim sum line and developing a whole range of convenience-focused whole plant-based products, as well as working with new ingredients and types of ‘meat'.”