After reflecting on his career, Blair Crichton knew he wanted to have a positive impact on the planet and make a difference. With an interest in climate change, and having been a long-term vegetarian, he took an interest in the food-tech space, leading him to take up opportunities at Impossible Foods, the Good Food Institute and New Age Meats. Fast forward to now, a cofounder of Karana - a startup focussed on creating delicious and indulgent asian comfort foods using whole plants, starting with pork. How do they do it? Using one of the world's most sustainable crops: Jackfruit.
The pork industry in Asia is booming.
Blair: 'Asia consumes upwards of 60% of the world's pork, with China alone consuming 50% by volume.'
But it doesn't stop there.
Blair: 'We actually consume more pork than we do beef - comparably 120 million tonnes of pork vs 70 million tonnes of beef, and that's only expected to rise by 78% by 2050.'
For some, this may seem like an unsolvable problem. We know that animal agriculture is a primary driver of greenhouse gases, and with our global population increasing, we may see an increase in demand. So what do we do?
Blair: 'It's precisely a reason why we need to develop alternatives that satisfy people and help them transition away from eating pork, without compromising the taste.'
A startup focussed entirely on making deliciously indulgent Asian comfort foods, with health, sustainability and taste in every bite. How do they do it? Using one of the world's most sustainable crops: Jackfruit.
Blair: 'We always knew we wanted to have a whole-plant focus. That's because we see a lot of meat alternatives today that rely on some commodified crops and are quite heavily processed. And don't get me wrong - I love those products, but I don't want to eat them every day and I think that's the case for many consumers. We wanted to give them choice, and we saw the gap in the market of really good whole-plant products that are innovative in their nature.'
So that's exactly what Karana has set out to do. Going quite deep into the supply chain, and having developed their own propriety processing method to present jackfruit in a whole new way, they have set out to provide chefs with raw 'meat' material that will hopefully yield positive consumer experiences.
Blair: 'A lot of jackfruit products currently on the market are processed in a pretty standardised way. I think that's what makes us stand out - we've started with the ingredient from the ground up, and created a technology that enhances the incredible texture of the fruit, in a purely mechanical way.'
And it's fair to say that we're pretty excited for what Karana goes on to achieve over the next 12 months.
But whilst recognising the good, it wouldn't be the Vegan Startup podcast if we didn't talk about the challenges the startup have faced.
Blair: 'Fundraising tends to be the lifeline of startups, and that has certainly been a challenge. We're fortunate enough to have some great, and very supportive investors, but it has been a lot of no's, a lot of meetings that haven't gone well, saying we're too early.'
The second challenge is recruiting.
Blair: 'We have no doubt that there is great talent out there in the market, but it's a matter of convincing that talent to take the risk and join an early-stage startup like ourselves.'
And for others who may be in the same position? Continue pushing the business and achieving your goals as with traction comes interest. Also, remember to search for passionate, like-minded individuals who are aligned with what you want to achieve.
Another key takeaway for those listening who perhaps want to get into the food-tech space? Network network network. You never know where your connections may take you, and in the case of Karana, it's lead to wonderful relationships that have helped propel the business forward. Whether it's a conference, joining a facebook group, or reaching out to people from Linkedin, every opportunity counts.
We hope that you enjoyed listening to this week's episode. If you'd like to follow Karana on their journey then follow them on instagram @eatkarana or head to their website www.eatkarana.com.
p.s. they have some awesome/exciting news coming soon!
That's Kat signing off, have a great week and remember to #biteforwhatsright!