How Jack & Annie’s uses jackfruit to shake up plant-based meat


The first time Annie Ryu had jackfruit as a meat substitute, she was in India and a farmer had prepared a jackfruit burger for her.

It wasn’t necessarily how the farmer or his family usually ate the massive tropical fruit. But, Ryu said, he had thought that since she was from the U.S., she might like something that looked like the food she was used to at home.

Ryu, who was traveling in the subcontinent with her brother, recalls she found herself blown away by the offering.

“What jackfruit has is that sinuous nature of muscle. And then, you’re basically able to — with a blank slate on flavor — mimic all of these different foods” that come from animals, Ryu said.

The jackfruit burger set Ryu on a path to a new career in food. She’s now the CEO of two plant-based brands that put jackfruit in the center of the plate. The Jackfruit Company was founded in 2015 to present jackfruit-based main dishes. Ryu said this brand mainly targets vegetarians.

The other, Jack & Annie’s, uses jackfruit to make meat analogs including chicken-like nuggets, patties and tenders; sausages and meatballs. Launched in 2020, it targets omnivores who are interested in making plant-based choices. Today, Ryu said, Jack & Annie’s is in more than 6,000 points of distribution in the U.S. It received $23 million in a Series B funding round last year to help with its expansion.

Jack & Annie’s was developed to bring jackfruit to a wider consumer audience, Ryu said. Because jackfruit is naturally meat-like, it requires less work to turn it into a meat analog than other plant-based proteins, including pea or soy.

“We’re able to prepare foods that are delicious and that have the taste, texture and eating experience of meat — but are also less processed than the competition,” Ryu said. It also has “a simpler ingredient deck because again, our starting material is similar to meat, just the way it grows.”

You don’t know jackfruit

Jackfruit isn’t exactly the kind of thing that comes to mind for most people in the U.S. when they think of fruit.

While it grows on trees in tropical climate regions, most of the fruit comes from the plant’s native India. The spiky green fruits can be huge, weighing up to 100 lbs.

When jackfruit is cultivated at an unripe stage — like it is for the products made by The Jackfruit Company and Jack & Annie’s — it isn’t sweet. It has a meaty texture and a fairly neutral taste. (It is sweet and fruity tasting when ripe, with a flavor many have said is similar to Juicy Fruit gum.) 

Compared to other fruits, jackfruit is high in protein, with 3 grams in a cup. And because it is a fruit, it has a wealth of antioxidants. A cup of jackfruit has 18% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C and 10% of vitamin A.

Three people in a group are holding large yellow pieces of cut-open jackfruit, with one showing it to Jack & Annie's CEO Annie Ryu.

A group of farmers shows chunks of cut-open jackfruit to Jack & Annie’s founder and CEO Annie Ryu, at center right.

Courtesy of Jack & Annie’s



But jackfruit doesn’t just have positive nutritional attributes. It’s also highly sustainable. It’s a fairly drought-resistant crop. And it’s naturally disease and pest resistant.

Health and sustainability benefits aside, jackfruit has traditionally been consumed in South India. Since many traditional Indian dishes are vegetarian, Ryu said the traditional use of jackfruit is as a substitute for meat in dishes like curries. Jack & Annie’s has taken it a step further.

“We’ve pioneered the product development, the R&D, for the fruit varietals but also for how to … best make beef, pork, chicken, seafood,” Ryu said. 

Making jackfruit more approachable

Ryu’s companies take a tropical fruit that is obscure to many people and turns it into plant-based food that is recognizable to any consumer in the U.S.

While jackfruit naturally has a meaty texture and neutral taste, Ryu said it’s still taken work to transform it into conventional food products. There are things food scientists and product formulators for Jack & Annie’s learned how to contend with. Since jackfruit is a fruit, Ryu said, it has more natural moisture than the often processed and extruded plant-based ingredients common in meat analogs. 


Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *