KARANA BENEFITS FROM ASIA’S GROWING MEAT-FREE MARKET
Karana, the Singaporean meat-alternative start-up, is expanding into new Asian markets amid near double-digit increases in sales of plant-based-meats on the continent.
The company’s products – which are based on the jackfruit – are now available in restaurants in Hong Kong, just months after it launched in Singapore.
Its expansion comes as other Asian producers of meat alternatives are also seeing sales increase significantly as they expand their product ranges and availability.
At the time of its launch earlier this year, Karana said that its products were minimally processed and offered a realistic meat-like texture.
The jackfruits – which are sourced from smallholder farms in Sri Lanka – are turned into pork-like products through methods that involve “no harsh chemicals, no heavy processing, just innovative mechanical techniques”, the company says.
In a statement released at the time of the brand’s launch in Singapore, earlier this year, Blair Crichton, Karana’s co-founder, said the company saw “a gap in the market for minimally processed plant-based alternatives”.
“We worked with our team of experts to figure out an entirely new way of processing young jackfruit to make it more meat-like and easier to cook with, while keeping the integrity and benefits of the whole plant,” he said
At the same time, Dan Riegler, Karana’s other co-founder, said in a statement that the jackfruit was selected in part because it was a highly sustainable food.
“Jackfruit is an extremely efficient crop with high yields and low water usage making it friendly to smallholder farmers,” he said.
He said that jackfruit was typically grown intercropped, or interspersed with other crops, a strategy that promotes biodiversity. Riegler also said that Karana wanted to cut down on jackfruit farming’s high wastage rate of 60%, describing this as a contributor to global warming.
Karana is now preparing for the release of its first retail products, ready-to-cook dim sum, in the second half of this year.
Growth in popularity of meat-free products in Asia
According to figures from Innova Market Insights reported in specialist media, sales of meat alternatives in Asia reached $1 billion (€828.8m) last year.
Overall sales growth for the period from 2019 to 2022 is reportedly expected to be 9.1% by value and 8.65% by volume.
Other figures from the region suggest far more rapid growth, with reports from April indicating that Deliveroo had seen sales of plant-based meat alternatives jump 160% in Hong Kong.
While increasing fast, sales of meat alternatives in Asia still remain significantly behind those in Europe, where, according to Allied Market Research, the market was worth $1.83 billion in 2019. The European market is forecast to be worth $3.54 billion by 2027.
As technology develops, products are expected to more closely resemble actual meat and this is expected to spark further increases in consumer interest.
As well as Karana, other Asian producers of meat alternatives that are expanding include Next Meats, which is headquartered in Tokyo, and Shanghai-based Haofood.
Next Meats has forged partnerships with restaurants in Singapore to offer its soya-based meat alternatives, which are said to have half as much fat and twice as much protein as actual meat.
The company’s products have also recently gone on sale in some Japanese supermarkets and, notably, are being displayed alongside real meat, rather than among other soya-based products.
Haofood’s peanut-based chicken is available in selected restaurants in Shanghai, offering a new twist on some traditional Chinese and Indonesian dishes.
As well as seeing sales of meat alternatives grow fast, Asia is also experiencing increases in the popularity of plant-based dairy alternatives.
According to reports quoting research from Informa Markets, sales of dairy alternatives are set to reach $5.87 billion in the region this year, and by 2026 are expected to be $15.8 billion.