Meet Jack: the startup making meat from jackfruit

Meet Jack is a plant-based food startup from the Netherlands developing alternative meat products from unripe jackfruit. The startup was founded by Kaline Van Halder and Marjolein Pleune, who are part of the current cohort at the ProVeg Incubator. This is their story.

While on vacation in Asia back in 2018, Kaline Van Halder and Marjolein Pleune fell in love with jackfruit. The enterprising duo discovered that the fruit has a natural meaty texture and launched a startup with this ingredient as the star.

Kaline and Marjolein founded Meet Jack that same year in Haarlem, in the Netherlands. The startup produces plant-based meat products, such as burger patties, gyros, rendang, meatballs, and sausages from young, unripe jackfruit. We spoke to Kaline and Marjolein about their startup journey with Meet Jack so far.

What is your favourite part of your work?

We consider ourselves adventurers and impact makers and ever since we started, our startup journey has been one big adventure and one very steep learning curve. Not a single working day is the same and we truly love the dynamics. Our work is so hands-on, action-based, and full of fun moments. Best of all, we have an impact along the way.

Meet Jack founders, Kaline van Halder and Marjolein Pleune

What have been the main challenges in setting up your business?

With no background in running a food startup or any knowledge of product development, we run into challenges all the time. Scaling a product, which tastes delicious when designed by a culinary chef, but completely loses its greatness when producing it on a large scale is a major hurdle to tackle.

Aside from this, difficulties arise in the areas of logistics as we try to establish a sustainable supply chain with frozen goods. Price-quality is another thing; how to build a brand, with hardly any marketing budget; how to stay sane, and many many more.

Can you tell us more about how you source the jackfruit?

Jackfruit is considered a multi-crop (instead of a mono-crop) and grows naturally at its best in an agroforestry environment. There are no large scale farmyards yet, so we work with a community of farmers.

They source the unripe jackfruit in eastern Thailand and then transport it within the country to be cut up. Here individually quick frozen (IQF) technology is used to preserve the freshness and natural look of the food before it is shipped overseas.

Although jackfruit is not officially organic certified, no pesticides and chemicals are needed for it to grow. Jackfruit trees also require very little water. You can really consider the crop to be a good solution in terms of food security.

Tacos made with Meet Jack jackfruit chunks

Why did you join the ProVeg Incubator?

Our raw, frozen jackfruit (and products) are sold to the food service and hotel industries, food producers, and catering companies. However, our ambition is to sell a new, innovative product line to retail on an international scale. The ProVeg Incubator can help us to do that. It accelerates our ambitions and provides us with the network, knowledge, and skills to be well prepared for this next stage of our journey.

What do you hope to achieve in the next 12 months?

We hope that people can find Jack in many stores and on the menus of their favorite restaurants. It would be great to see Jack’s fanbase really grow and to get the feedback that people are loving Meet Jack.

For us, we will continue on our path of inspiring others through product innovation and working on regenerative agriculture. We’ll also be planting some jackfruit trees along the way.

Meet Jack team in a rice field in Bali

Internationally, the demand for meat alternatives is increasing. The market is forecasted to be worth €118 million in 2020. In addition, some 75% of consumers admit that they would like to eat less meat.

Although there are many plant-based brands already on the market, Kaline and Marjolein believe that there is a gap for products that truly deliver in terms of texture and taste – particularly when it comes to feeding flexitarians or carnivores.

Meet Jack is positioning itself as a company for meat lovers, due to the unique meaty texture of jackfruit. This means that it can be easily used to create alternatives to well-known and beloved products such as the typical Dutch ‘bitterballen’, burger patties, and meatballs.

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