Karana is the first whole-plant-based foods firm in Asia, with a focus on Asian-style foods like dim sum (tea time Chinese snacks, many of which are traditionally meat-based) and char siew bao (BBQ sauce roasted pork bun), which it will be using its first invention, jackfruit-based pork, to develop.
“We saw a lot of amazing Western plant-based products coming to market [like burgers and sausages], but very little happening in Asia - I grew up in Hong Kong and really missed a lot of the Asian foods I ate growing up after going vegan as they weren’t available in a plant-based format,” Crichton told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“As plant-based is still a very nascent space in Asia, the primary challenge in this region is availability and choice, so we want to give consumers that choice along with a breadth of products that provide comfort, familiarity and suit the local palate, which will hopefully drive the adoption of plant-based products.
“[We also pride our products on being minimally-processed], so although there are also a number of quite heavily-processed products out there, we believe that some consumers would prefer a less-processed product such as ours.”
Crichton also made a very major switch in industries to start Karana, from a financial background with a Masters degree in Chinese Economics from Cambridge University and a long-time stint at HSBC Bank, to food entrepreneurship.
“It is a very different world, but there is a lot I can take from my past experiences into what I am doing now. I have to fundraise and run the finance side of the business so being a banker helps,” he said.
“In terms of fundraising though, my advice to new entrepreneurs is to try to bootstrap longer if you can - you’ll find the fundraising process easier once you’ve hit more milestones as it increases your investability and you’ll be in a better negotiating position.”
Karana has also just secured a US$1.7mn investment, which Crichton said would be used to build up the team and bringing new products to market.
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