The jack of all trades: is there anything jackfruit can’t do?

The jack of all trades: is there anything jackfruit can’t do?

By
Louise Burfitt
October 6, 2020

The jack of all trades: is there anything jackfruit can’t do?

In the last decade we’ve seen plant-based meats like tofu, quorn, tempeh and more experience massive growth in their popularity. And unless you’ve been avoiding vegans, you won’t have missed jackfruit: a tropical crop that shot to almost overnight fame as a substitute for pulled pork and other meats. It’s found favour in savoury dishes like curry and patties and, increasingly, is branching out from its ‘meat substitute’ status for use as a convenient snack.

While jackfruit has long been loved in Asia, five years ago almost no jackfruit was imported to the US and Europe. By the end of 2019, however, exports from India alone had climbed to 800 tonnes. The global plant-based meat market size is expected to grow to $35.4 billion by 2027 and consumption of jackfruit specifically is growing at an annual rate of 20.17%. Over 300 chefs hailed it as the one to watch earlier this year. So let’s find out what exactly is making this spiky, sweet specialty the darling of the plant-based population...

What is jackfruit?

Jackfruit hails from southwest India and is the largest tree-borne fruit in the world. With waxy yellow flesh beneath spiky green skin, a single jackfruit can weigh 50kg and is a source of vitamin C and fibre. The tree grows in abundance in the East Indies and Southeast Asia – so much so it has historically been an invasive weed. Jackfruit has long been a dietary staple there where it is eaten ripe or added to baked goods. Unripe jackfruit is often sautéed or fried.

In the past decade western societies have discovered jackfruit primarily as a plant-based meat substitute, particularly for pulled pork or taco meat when shredded due to its stringy texture and neutral flavour. Now it’s been voted the 2020 Taste of the Year by tastecard and jackfruit products are becoming a familiar sight on supermarket shelves in Europe, not just as a meat substitute but also in other innovative ways we’ll explore below.


Trend drivers: plant-based and environmental appeal plus coronavirus concerns

As a meat substitute jackfruit excels due to its texture and a flavour that takes well to all kinds of seasonings and marinades. That it can imitate meat so well means it appeals to flexitarians as well as card-carrying vegans – and those who might not consider other less meat-mimicking options like tofu. An increasing number of consumers are in the market for meat alternatives as some 40% of Europeans have either cut down on their consumption or given up red meat wholesale. This even holds true in countries where meat is traditionally a staple part of the national cuisine, like Germany or Poland.

Coronavirus is also thought to be driving the push to plant-based diets – and, as a consequence, jackfruit sales. The pandemic, which is likely to have started at a live animal market and has spread rapidly in meat plants, has pushed consumers to reconsider their consumption of animal products, with some 25% of millennials agreeing that the COVID-19 pandemic has made a vegan diet more appealing.

Jackfruit’s environmental street cred makes it yet more attractive: the fruit is simple to grow, requires little water to thrive and - as we know from its weed-adjacent status in Asia - is pretty resistant to pests and disease. With crops like soy and wheat (used in tofu and seitan respectively) struggling due to climate change-related fluctuations, jackfruit’s reliability is a major plus for retailers and producers and also makes it a good sell with environmentally conscious customers (of which there are a growing number).

Products: burgers, balls and biryani plus chips and jerky

Jackfruit’s trump card over other plant-based meats is its incredible versatility. Accordingly, many are focusing on jackfruit’s potential to top the vegan charts with an impressive diversity of products. Dutch firm Meet Jack makes balls, burgers, gyros and croquettes while Jack & Bry sell burgers, mince, pepperoni, sausages and chorizo straight from the flesh of the jackfruit.

Others are banking on consumers’ desire for convenience and the soaring growth of ready-to-eat vegan meals. Meal delivery company Allplants won a Great Taste Award for their meal delivery kit Fiery Jackfruit and The Jackfruit Company sells both pre-seasoned jackfruit meal starters and fully prepared meals including curries and stews. Supermarkets and restaurants are getting on board too: in the UK, Sainsbury’s, Aldi and Waitrose have all launched their own ranges of vegan ready meals including jackfruit biryani and chilli and Pizza Hut has launched a BBQ jackfruit pizza.

A handful of companies are capitalising on the growth of the ‘healthy’ snacking market: Chakka Chips are naturally sweet chips made from jackfruit while Jack & Friends have developed a protein-filled plant-based jerky made from jackfruit and pea protein. Jackfruit seeds also represent a potential growth opportunity: normally a wasted byproduct, they can be ground into flour but this is not yet available outside of India.

Jumping for jackfruit: Karana and Jacked

Singapore startup Karana are tapping into the demand for ready-made comfort foods, developing Asian classics with a plant-based twist. They raised $1.7 million in first round seed funding this year to develop their range, which includes gyoza, dumplings and bao buns. By using jackfruit, they can trumpet the health benefits compared to conventional meat versions: their products are high in fibre, cholesterol-free and minimally processed - something consumers are increasingly hunting for. They’re now focusing on expanding distribution to chefs and restaurants, providing chances for eateries to branch out from the standard veggie burger.

Back in Europe, UK-based startup Jacked are shaking up the dried food sector with their 100% natural dried jackfruit that tastes similar to mango. The company was founded with the mission of improving the livelihoods of Ugandan farmers, so the startup pays pre-agreed prices to reduce the impact of market fluctuations on incomes. The fruit is dried before it is exported, increasing margins for local producers and making it more practical to transport the products across continents. Their next goal is to achieve fair trade and organic certification.

Solving supply chain setbacks and standing out

One hefty issue is the jackfruit’s sheer size, which is a hindrance to hassle-free harvesting. Once picked, cutting into a raw jackfruit also reveals a thick gum that stains tools and machinery. This means jackfruit needs to be picked, cleaned and packaged by hand, and transportation can be costly and difficult. Startups like Jacked are getting around this problem by exporting products processed on site, but all companies will need to minimise costs and create a feasible value chain for jackfruit products to be worth the labour and investment. Thankfully, the fruit’s popularity shows that this is entirely doable – and those who manage it have plenty to gain.

Existing competition from tofu, quorn and the like mean that it’s essential for jackfruit brands to stand out with unique selling points and persuasive marketing. What’s more, competition even within the jackfruit market is fierce. In the long term, companies will need to increase consumer knowledge and expand their core base beyond the current ‘vegan millennial’ demographic with irresistible products and further applications in the snacking category. Jackfruit’s versatility means it has one up on other one-use meat substitutes and the companies that can utilise its adaptability are well-placed to win big.


30 second pitch: Jackfruit


🔍 What

  • Jackfruit is a fruit native to southwest India with edible, yellow flesh, most commonly sold before fully ripe as a meat alternative. Ripe jackfruit is traditionally eaten raw or used in bakes, juices and ice cream.


🤷‍♂️ Why

  • Jackfruit is a natural, plant-based ingredient high in vitamin C and an agreeable flavour with wide application as a meat substitute and in sweet and savoury dishes.


🥘 How

  • As a ready-to-cook meat alternative (blocks, burgers, bites, balls)
  • In vegan ready meals (curries, chillies, stews, pizza)
  • As a ready-to-eat product (dried fruit, chips, jerky)
  • As a ready-to-eat fruit and in fruit juices and ice creams


👀 Who


👍 The good

  • Jackfruit is already widely available in European supermarkets, particularly the UK, so consumers are likely to already have some awareness of the product.
  • There are still opportunities for product development in the ready-to-eat sector and healthy snacking categories.
  • Jackfruit is a versatile ingredient: it can be added to baked goods or drinks, or included on the menu in plant-based restaurants to tempt more customers with a new vegan meat substitute.


👎 The bad

  • Existing competition from other alternative meat products like tofu, seitan, tempeh and quorn mean that it’s essential for jackfruit brands to stand out with clear messaging and attractive brand identities.
  • Competition within the jackfruit market itself is strong: many companies worldwide are already processing jackfruit into meat alternatives and supermarkets are also launching their own in-house lines.


💡 The bottom line

  • For those with strong USPs and unique brand identities, jackfruit could be a promising product for food retailers, manufacturers and eateries keen to win over customers interested in plant-based products who aren’t sold on the other options on offer.

Written by
Louise Burfitt

Louise is an editor and writer based in Oxfordshire. When her nose isn’t buried in a dictionary, you’re most likely to find her taking long weekend walks or nurturing herbs and vegetables in her container garden.

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  • Read Unlimited Articles
  • Access Member Directory
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The jack of all trades: is there anything jackfruit can’t do?

In the last decade we’ve seen plant-based meats like tofu, quorn, tempeh and more experience massive growth in their popularity. And unless you’ve been avoiding vegans, you won’t have missed jackfruit: a tropical crop that shot to almost overnight fame as a substitute for pulled pork and other meats. It’s found favour in savoury dishes like curry and patties and, increasingly, is branching out from its ‘meat substitute’ status for use as a convenient snack.

While jackfruit has long been loved in Asia, five years ago almost no jackfruit was imported to the US and Europe. By the end of 2019, however, exports from India alone had climbed to 800 tonnes. The global plant-based meat market size is expected to grow to $35.4 billion by 2027 and consumption of jackfruit specifically is growing at an annual rate of 20.17%. Over 300 chefs hailed it as the one to watch earlier this year. So let’s find out what exactly is making this spiky, sweet specialty the darling of the plant-based population...

What is jackfruit?

Jackfruit hails from southwest India and is the largest tree-borne fruit in the world. With waxy yellow flesh beneath spiky green skin, a single jackfruit can weigh 50kg and is a source of vitamin C and fibre. The tree grows in abundance in the East Indies and Southeast Asia – so much so it has historically been an invasive weed. Jackfruit has long been a dietary staple there where it is eaten ripe or added to baked goods. Unripe jackfruit is often sautéed or fried.

In the past decade western societies have discovered jackfruit primarily as a plant-based meat substitute, particularly for pulled pork or taco meat when shredded due to its stringy texture and neutral flavour. Now it’s been voted the 2020 Taste of the Year by tastecard and jackfruit products are becoming a familiar sight on supermarket shelves in Europe, not just as a meat substitute but also in other innovative ways we’ll explore below.


Trend drivers: plant-based and environmental appeal plus coronavirus concerns

As a meat substitute jackfruit excels due to its texture and a flavour that takes well to all kinds of seasonings and marinades. That it can imitate meat so well means it appeals to flexitarians as well as card-carrying vegans – and those who might not consider other less meat-mimicking options like tofu. An increasing number of consumers are in the market for meat alternatives as some 40% of Europeans have either cut down on their consumption or given up red meat wholesale. This even holds true in countries where meat is traditionally a staple part of the national cuisine, like Germany or Poland.

Coronavirus is also thought to be driving the push to plant-based diets – and, as a consequence, jackfruit sales. The pandemic, which is likely to have started at a live animal market and has spread rapidly in meat plants, has pushed consumers to reconsider their consumption of animal products, with some 25% of millennials agreeing that the COVID-19 pandemic has made a vegan diet more appealing.

Jackfruit’s environmental street cred makes it yet more attractive: the fruit is simple to grow, requires little water to thrive and - as we know from its weed-adjacent status in Asia - is pretty resistant to pests and disease. With crops like soy and wheat (used in tofu and seitan respectively) struggling due to climate change-related fluctuations, jackfruit’s reliability is a major plus for retailers and producers and also makes it a good sell with environmentally conscious customers (of which there are a growing number).

Products: burgers, balls and biryani plus chips and jerky

Jackfruit’s trump card over other plant-based meats is its incredible versatility. Accordingly, many are focusing on jackfruit’s potential to top the vegan charts with an impressive diversity of products. Dutch firm Meet Jack makes balls, burgers, gyros and croquettes while Jack & Bry sell burgers, mince, pepperoni, sausages and chorizo straight from the flesh of the jackfruit.

Others are banking on consumers’ desire for convenience and the soaring growth of ready-to-eat vegan meals. Meal delivery company Allplants won a Great Taste Award for their meal delivery kit Fiery Jackfruit and The Jackfruit Company sells both pre-seasoned jackfruit meal starters and fully prepared meals including curries and stews. Supermarkets and restaurants are getting on board too: in the UK, Sainsbury’s, Aldi and Waitrose have all launched their own ranges of vegan ready meals including jackfruit biryani and chilli and Pizza Hut has launched a BBQ jackfruit pizza.

A handful of companies are capitalising on the growth of the ‘healthy’ snacking market: Chakka Chips are naturally sweet chips made from jackfruit while Jack & Friends have developed a protein-filled plant-based jerky made from jackfruit and pea protein. Jackfruit seeds also represent a potential growth opportunity: normally a wasted byproduct, they can be ground into flour but this is not yet available outside of India.

Jumping for jackfruit: Karana and Jacked

Singapore startup Karana are tapping into the demand for ready-made comfort foods, developing Asian classics with a plant-based twist. They raised $1.7 million in first round seed funding this year to develop their range, which includes gyoza, dumplings and bao buns. By using jackfruit, they can trumpet the health benefits compared to conventional meat versions: their products are high in fibre, cholesterol-free and minimally processed - something consumers are increasingly hunting for. They’re now focusing on expanding distribution to chefs and restaurants, providing chances for eateries to branch out from the standard veggie burger.

Back in Europe, UK-based startup Jacked are shaking up the dried food sector with their 100% natural dried jackfruit that tastes similar to mango. The company was founded with the mission of improving the livelihoods of Ugandan farmers, so the startup pays pre-agreed prices to reduce the impact of market fluctuations on incomes. The fruit is dried before it is exported, increasing margins for local producers and making it more practical to transport the products across continents. Their next goal is to achieve fair trade and organic certification.

Solving supply chain setbacks and standing out

One hefty issue is the jackfruit’s sheer size, which is a hindrance to hassle-free harvesting. Once picked, cutting into a raw jackfruit also reveals a thick gum that stains tools and machinery. This means jackfruit needs to be picked, cleaned and packaged by hand, and transportation can be costly and difficult. Startups like Jacked are getting around this problem by exporting products processed on site, but all companies will need to minimise costs and create a feasible value chain for jackfruit products to be worth the labour and investment. Thankfully, the fruit’s popularity shows that this is entirely doable – and those who manage it have plenty to gain.

Existing competition from tofu, quorn and the like mean that it’s essential for jackfruit brands to stand out with unique selling points and persuasive marketing. What’s more, competition even within the jackfruit market is fierce. In the long term, companies will need to increase consumer knowledge and expand their core base beyond the current ‘vegan millennial’ demographic with irresistible products and further applications in the snacking category. Jackfruit’s versatility means it has one up on other one-use meat substitutes and the companies that can utilise its adaptability are well-placed to win big.


30 second pitch: Jackfruit


🔍 What

  • Jackfruit is a fruit native to southwest India with edible, yellow flesh, most commonly sold before fully ripe as a meat alternative. Ripe jackfruit is traditionally eaten raw or used in bakes, juices and ice cream.


🤷‍♂️ Why

  • Jackfruit is a natural, plant-based ingredient high in vitamin C and an agreeable flavour with wide application as a meat substitute and in sweet and savoury dishes.


🥘 How

  • As a ready-to-cook meat alternative (blocks, burgers, bites, balls)
  • In vegan ready meals (curries, chillies, stews, pizza)
  • As a ready-to-eat product (dried fruit, chips, jerky)
  • As a ready-to-eat fruit and in fruit juices and ice creams


👀 Who


👍 The good

  • Jackfruit is already widely available in European supermarkets, particularly the UK, so consumers are likely to already have some awareness of the product.
  • There are still opportunities for product development in the ready-to-eat sector and healthy snacking categories.
  • Jackfruit is a versatile ingredient: it can be added to baked goods or drinks, or included on the menu in plant-based restaurants to tempt more customers with a new vegan meat substitute.


👎 The bad

  • Existing competition from other alternative meat products like tofu, seitan, tempeh and quorn mean that it’s essential for jackfruit brands to stand out with clear messaging and attractive brand identities.
  • Competition within the jackfruit market itself is strong: many companies worldwide are already processing jackfruit into meat alternatives and supermarkets are also launching their own in-house lines.


💡 The bottom line

  • For those with strong USPs and unique brand identities, jackfruit could be a promising product for food retailers, manufacturers and eateries keen to win over customers interested in plant-based products who aren’t sold on the other options on offer.

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  • Read Unlimited Articles
  • Access Member Directory
  • Join a Global Community
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The jack of all trades: is there anything jackfruit can’t do?

In the last decade we’ve seen plant-based meats like tofu, quorn, tempeh and more experience massive growth in their popularity. And unless you’ve been avoiding vegans, you won’t have missed jackfruit: a tropical crop that shot to almost overnight fame as a substitute for pulled pork and other meats. It’s found favour in savoury dishes like curry and patties and, increasingly, is branching out from its ‘meat substitute’ status for use as a convenient snack.

While jackfruit has long been loved in Asia, five years ago almost no jackfruit was imported to the US and Europe. By the end of 2019, however, exports from India alone had climbed to 800 tonnes. The global plant-based meat market size is expected to grow to $35.4 billion by 2027 and consumption of jackfruit specifically is growing at an annual rate of 20.17%. Over 300 chefs hailed it as the one to watch earlier this year. So let’s find out what exactly is making this spiky, sweet specialty the darling of the plant-based population...

What is jackfruit?

Jackfruit hails from southwest India and is the largest tree-borne fruit in the world. With waxy yellow flesh beneath spiky green skin, a single jackfruit can weigh 50kg and is a source of vitamin C and fibre. The tree grows in abundance in the East Indies and Southeast Asia – so much so it has historically been an invasive weed. Jackfruit has long been a dietary staple there where it is eaten ripe or added to baked goods. Unripe jackfruit is often sautéed or fried.

In the past decade western societies have discovered jackfruit primarily as a plant-based meat substitute, particularly for pulled pork or taco meat when shredded due to its stringy texture and neutral flavour. Now it’s been voted the 2020 Taste of the Year by tastecard and jackfruit products are becoming a familiar sight on supermarket shelves in Europe, not just as a meat substitute but also in other innovative ways we’ll explore below.


Trend drivers: plant-based and environmental appeal plus coronavirus concerns

As a meat substitute jackfruit excels due to its texture and a flavour that takes well to all kinds of seasonings and marinades. That it can imitate meat so well means it appeals to flexitarians as well as card-carrying vegans – and those who might not consider other less meat-mimicking options like tofu. An increasing number of consumers are in the market for meat alternatives as some 40% of Europeans have either cut down on their consumption or given up red meat wholesale. This even holds true in countries where meat is traditionally a staple part of the national cuisine, like Germany or Poland.

Coronavirus is also thought to be driving the push to plant-based diets – and, as a consequence, jackfruit sales. The pandemic, which is likely to have started at a live animal market and has spread rapidly in meat plants, has pushed consumers to reconsider their consumption of animal products, with some 25% of millennials agreeing that the COVID-19 pandemic has made a vegan diet more appealing.

Jackfruit’s environmental street cred makes it yet more attractive: the fruit is simple to grow, requires little water to thrive and - as we know from its weed-adjacent status in Asia - is pretty resistant to pests and disease. With crops like soy and wheat (used in tofu and seitan respectively) struggling due to climate change-related fluctuations, jackfruit’s reliability is a major plus for retailers and producers and also makes it a good sell with environmentally conscious customers (of which there are a growing number).

Products: burgers, balls and biryani plus chips and jerky

Jackfruit’s trump card over other plant-based meats is its incredible versatility. Accordingly, many are focusing on jackfruit’s potential to top the vegan charts with an impressive diversity of products. Dutch firm Meet Jack makes balls, burgers, gyros and croquettes while Jack & Bry sell burgers, mince, pepperoni, sausages and chorizo straight from the flesh of the jackfruit.

Others are banking on consumers’ desire for convenience and the soaring growth of ready-to-eat vegan meals. Meal delivery company Allplants won a Great Taste Award for their meal delivery kit Fiery Jackfruit and The Jackfruit Company sells both pre-seasoned jackfruit meal starters and fully prepared meals including curries and stews. Supermarkets and restaurants are getting on board too: in the UK, Sainsbury’s, Aldi and Waitrose have all launched their own ranges of vegan ready meals including jackfruit biryani and chilli and Pizza Hut has launched a BBQ jackfruit pizza.

A handful of companies are capitalising on the growth of the ‘healthy’ snacking market: Chakka Chips are naturally sweet chips made from jackfruit while Jack & Friends have developed a protein-filled plant-based jerky made from jackfruit and pea protein. Jackfruit seeds also represent a potential growth opportunity: normally a wasted byproduct, they can be ground into flour but this is not yet available outside of India.

Jumping for jackfruit: Karana and Jacked

Singapore startup Karana are tapping into the demand for ready-made comfort foods, developing Asian classics with a plant-based twist. They raised $1.7 million in first round seed funding this year to develop their range, which includes gyoza, dumplings and bao buns. By using jackfruit, they can trumpet the health benefits compared to conventional meat versions: their products are high in fibre, cholesterol-free and minimally processed - something consumers are increasingly hunting for. They’re now focusing on expanding distribution to chefs and restaurants, providing chances for eateries to branch out from the standard veggie burger.

Back in Europe, UK-based startup Jacked are shaking up the dried food sector with their 100% natural dried jackfruit that tastes similar to mango. The company was founded with the mission of improving the livelihoods of Ugandan farmers, so the startup pays pre-agreed prices to reduce the impact of market fluctuations on incomes. The fruit is dried before it is exported, increasing margins for local producers and making it more practical to transport the products across continents. Their next goal is to achieve fair trade and organic certification.

Solving supply chain setbacks and standing out

One hefty issue is the jackfruit’s sheer size, which is a hindrance to hassle-free harvesting. Once picked, cutting into a raw jackfruit also reveals a thick gum that stains tools and machinery. This means jackfruit needs to be picked, cleaned and packaged by hand, and transportation can be costly and difficult. Startups like Jacked are getting around this problem by exporting products processed on site, but all companies will need to minimise costs and create a feasible value chain for jackfruit products to be worth the labour and investment. Thankfully, the fruit’s popularity shows that this is entirely doable – and those who manage it have plenty to gain.

Existing competition from tofu, quorn and the like mean that it’s essential for jackfruit brands to stand out with unique selling points and persuasive marketing. What’s more, competition even within the jackfruit market is fierce. In the long term, companies will need to increase consumer knowledge and expand their core base beyond the current ‘vegan millennial’ demographic with irresistible products and further applications in the snacking category. Jackfruit’s versatility means it has one up on other one-use meat substitutes and the companies that can utilise its adaptability are well-placed to win big.


30 second pitch: Jackfruit


🔍 What

  • Jackfruit is a fruit native to southwest India with edible, yellow flesh, most commonly sold before fully ripe as a meat alternative. Ripe jackfruit is traditionally eaten raw or used in bakes, juices and ice cream.


🤷‍♂️ Why

  • Jackfruit is a natural, plant-based ingredient high in vitamin C and an agreeable flavour with wide application as a meat substitute and in sweet and savoury dishes.


🥘 How

  • As a ready-to-cook meat alternative (blocks, burgers, bites, balls)
  • In vegan ready meals (curries, chillies, stews, pizza)
  • As a ready-to-eat product (dried fruit, chips, jerky)
  • As a ready-to-eat fruit and in fruit juices and ice creams


👀 Who


👍 The good

  • Jackfruit is already widely available in European supermarkets, particularly the UK, so consumers are likely to already have some awareness of the product.
  • There are still opportunities for product development in the ready-to-eat sector and healthy snacking categories.
  • Jackfruit is a versatile ingredient: it can be added to baked goods or drinks, or included on the menu in plant-based restaurants to tempt more customers with a new vegan meat substitute.


👎 The bad

  • Existing competition from other alternative meat products like tofu, seitan, tempeh and quorn mean that it’s essential for jackfruit brands to stand out with clear messaging and attractive brand identities.
  • Competition within the jackfruit market itself is strong: many companies worldwide are already processing jackfruit into meat alternatives and supermarkets are also launching their own in-house lines.


💡 The bottom line

  • For those with strong USPs and unique brand identities, jackfruit could be a promising product for food retailers, manufacturers and eateries keen to win over customers interested in plant-based products who aren’t sold on the other options on offer.

The jack of all trades: is there anything jackfruit can’t do?

In the last decade we’ve seen plant-based meats like tofu, quorn, tempeh and more experience massive growth in their popularity. And unless you’ve been avoiding vegans, you won’t have missed jackfruit: a tropical crop that shot to almost overnight fame as a substitute for pulled pork and other meats. It’s found favour in savoury dishes like curry and patties and, increasingly, is branching out from its ‘meat substitute’ status for use as a convenient snack.

While jackfruit has long been loved in Asia, five years ago almost no jackfruit was imported to the US and Europe. By the end of 2019, however, exports from India alone had climbed to 800 tonnes. The global plant-based meat market size is expected to grow to $35.4 billion by 2027 and consumption of jackfruit specifically is growing at an annual rate of 20.17%. Over 300 chefs hailed it as the one to watch earlier this year. So let’s find out what exactly is making this spiky, sweet specialty the darling of the plant-based population...

What is jackfruit?

Jackfruit hails from southwest India and is the largest tree-borne fruit in the world. With waxy yellow flesh beneath spiky green skin, a single jackfruit can weigh 50kg and is a source of vitamin C and fibre. The tree grows in abundance in the East Indies and Southeast Asia – so much so it has historically been an invasive weed. Jackfruit has long been a dietary staple there where it is eaten ripe or added to baked goods. Unripe jackfruit is often sautéed or fried.

In the past decade western societies have discovered jackfruit primarily as a plant-based meat substitute, particularly for pulled pork or taco meat when shredded due to its stringy texture and neutral flavour. Now it’s been voted the 2020 Taste of the Year by tastecard and jackfruit products are becoming a familiar sight on supermarket shelves in Europe, not just as a meat substitute but also in other innovative ways we’ll explore below.


Trend drivers: plant-based and environmental appeal plus coronavirus concerns

As a meat substitute jackfruit excels due to its texture and a flavour that takes well to all kinds of seasonings and marinades. That it can imitate meat so well means it appeals to flexitarians as well as card-carrying vegans – and those who might not consider other less meat-mimicking options like tofu. An increasing number of consumers are in the market for meat alternatives as some 40% of Europeans have either cut down on their consumption or given up red meat wholesale. This even holds true in countries where meat is traditionally a staple part of the national cuisine, like Germany or Poland.

Coronavirus is also thought to be driving the push to plant-based diets – and, as a consequence, jackfruit sales. The pandemic, which is likely to have started at a live animal market and has spread rapidly in meat plants, has pushed consumers to reconsider their consumption of animal products, with some 25% of millennials agreeing that the COVID-19 pandemic has made a vegan diet more appealing.

Jackfruit’s environmental street cred makes it yet more attractive: the fruit is simple to grow, requires little water to thrive and - as we know from its weed-adjacent status in Asia - is pretty resistant to pests and disease. With crops like soy and wheat (used in tofu and seitan respectively) struggling due to climate change-related fluctuations, jackfruit’s reliability is a major plus for retailers and producers and also makes it a good sell with environmentally conscious customers (of which there are a growing number).

Products: burgers, balls and biryani plus chips and jerky

Jackfruit’s trump card over other plant-based meats is its incredible versatility. Accordingly, many are focusing on jackfruit’s potential to top the vegan charts with an impressive diversity of products. Dutch firm Meet Jack makes balls, burgers, gyros and croquettes while Jack & Bry sell burgers, mince, pepperoni, sausages and chorizo straight from the flesh of the jackfruit.

Others are banking on consumers’ desire for convenience and the soaring growth of ready-to-eat vegan meals. Meal delivery company Allplants won a Great Taste Award for their meal delivery kit Fiery Jackfruit and The Jackfruit Company sells both pre-seasoned jackfruit meal starters and fully prepared meals including curries and stews. Supermarkets and restaurants are getting on board too: in the UK, Sainsbury’s, Aldi and Waitrose have all launched their own ranges of vegan ready meals including jackfruit biryani and chilli and Pizza Hut has launched a BBQ jackfruit pizza.

A handful of companies are capitalising on the growth of the ‘healthy’ snacking market: Chakka Chips are naturally sweet chips made from jackfruit while Jack & Friends have developed a protein-filled plant-based jerky made from jackfruit and pea protein. Jackfruit seeds also represent a potential growth opportunity: normally a wasted byproduct, they can be ground into flour but this is not yet available outside of India.

Jumping for jackfruit: Karana and Jacked

Singapore startup Karana are tapping into the demand for ready-made comfort foods, developing Asian classics with a plant-based twist. They raised $1.7 million in first round seed funding this year to develop their range, which includes gyoza, dumplings and bao buns. By using jackfruit, they can trumpet the health benefits compared to conventional meat versions: their products are high in fibre, cholesterol-free and minimally processed - something consumers are increasingly hunting for. They’re now focusing on expanding distribution to chefs and restaurants, providing chances for eateries to branch out from the standard veggie burger.

Back in Europe, UK-based startup Jacked are shaking up the dried food sector with their 100% natural dried jackfruit that tastes similar to mango. The company was founded with the mission of improving the livelihoods of Ugandan farmers, so the startup pays pre-agreed prices to reduce the impact of market fluctuations on incomes. The fruit is dried before it is exported, increasing margins for local producers and making it more practical to transport the products across continents. Their next goal is to achieve fair trade and organic certification.

Solving supply chain setbacks and standing out

One hefty issue is the jackfruit’s sheer size, which is a hindrance to hassle-free harvesting. Once picked, cutting into a raw jackfruit also reveals a thick gum that stains tools and machinery. This means jackfruit needs to be picked, cleaned and packaged by hand, and transportation can be costly and difficult. Startups like Jacked are getting around this problem by exporting products processed on site, but all companies will need to minimise costs and create a feasible value chain for jackfruit products to be worth the labour and investment. Thankfully, the fruit’s popularity shows that this is entirely doable – and those who manage it have plenty to gain.

Existing competition from tofu, quorn and the like mean that it’s essential for jackfruit brands to stand out with unique selling points and persuasive marketing. What’s more, competition even within the jackfruit market is fierce. In the long term, companies will need to increase consumer knowledge and expand their core base beyond the current ‘vegan millennial’ demographic with irresistible products and further applications in the snacking category. Jackfruit’s versatility means it has one up on other one-use meat substitutes and the companies that can utilise its adaptability are well-placed to win big.


30 second pitch: Jackfruit


🔍 What

  • Jackfruit is a fruit native to southwest India with edible, yellow flesh, most commonly sold before fully ripe as a meat alternative. Ripe jackfruit is traditionally eaten raw or used in bakes, juices and ice cream.


🤷‍♂️ Why

  • Jackfruit is a natural, plant-based ingredient high in vitamin C and an agreeable flavour with wide application as a meat substitute and in sweet and savoury dishes.


🥘 How

  • As a ready-to-cook meat alternative (blocks, burgers, bites, balls)
  • In vegan ready meals (curries, chillies, stews, pizza)
  • As a ready-to-eat product (dried fruit, chips, jerky)
  • As a ready-to-eat fruit and in fruit juices and ice creams


👀 Who


👍 The good

  • Jackfruit is already widely available in European supermarkets, particularly the UK, so consumers are likely to already have some awareness of the product.
  • There are still opportunities for product development in the ready-to-eat sector and healthy snacking categories.
  • Jackfruit is a versatile ingredient: it can be added to baked goods or drinks, or included on the menu in plant-based restaurants to tempt more customers with a new vegan meat substitute.


👎 The bad

  • Existing competition from other alternative meat products like tofu, seitan, tempeh and quorn mean that it’s essential for jackfruit brands to stand out with clear messaging and attractive brand identities.
  • Competition within the jackfruit market itself is strong: many companies worldwide are already processing jackfruit into meat alternatives and supermarkets are also launching their own in-house lines.


💡 The bottom line

  • For those with strong USPs and unique brand identities, jackfruit could be a promising product for food retailers, manufacturers and eateries keen to win over customers interested in plant-based products who aren’t sold on the other options on offer.