When you’re dealing with a piece of fresh fruit that’s sticky, spiky and can weigh up to 100 pounds, it’s easy to understand why consumers might be attracted to a more compact, lightly processed alternative.
A handful of companies, including Boston-based The Jackfruit Co. and Chicago-based Upton’s Naturals, offer packaged jackfruit in the refrigerated section where meat substitutes are sold.
The Jackfruit Co. offers four kinds of packaged jackfruit — teriyaki, curry, Tex-Mex and barbecue — that serve as meat alternatives, and plans to introduce a frozen version this summer that can be used as fruit in baked goods or smoothies, says founder and CEO Annie Ryu.
The soft, young jackfruit, which typically is used in salads or sandwiches, is sold in 10-ounce pouches that retail for $4.99 to $5.99, she says.
Upton’s Naturals offers seven varieties – original, barbecue, chili lime, carnitas, Thai curry, sweet and smoky and sriracha — says founder Daniel Staackmann.
They’re sold in 10.6-ounce shelf-stable packages with a suggested retail price of $4.99.
Jackfruit is a favorite among Asian consumers, but it’s also popular among a wider demographic — “people who are looking for a nutritious alternative to meat” — Ryu says.
Her jackfruit isn’t a typical meat alternative made from processed soy and packed with gluten — two items that many consumers want to avoid — she says.
“It’s a special, rare meat alternative that is not highly processed. It’s just a pure, wholesome food.”
Upton’s Jackfruit is ready to heat and eat, Staackmann says, and uses only “simple, recognizable ingredients.” It’s a good source of fiber and is free of cholesterol, gluten, soy, oil, GMOs and artificial flavors.
The Jackfruit Co. sources its product from India, where the fruit previously went to waste due to lack of a supply chain, Ryu says.
Today, the company works directly with farmers “to make sure they are getting paid a good amount,” she says.
Upton’s Naturals found a partner in Thailand to do its processing, Staackmann says.
The company partners with a network of family farms that have been growing cultivated jackfruit for many years, he says, which has “resulted in a mutually beneficial relationship for both.”