PODCAST: Jackfruit opportunities – NANKA Co-Founder on the potential of hybrid products as consumers transition to plant-based diets

By Pearly Neo

- Last updated on GMT

In this episode of our Food and Beverage Trailblazers podcast we speak to Ahmad Syafik Jaafar, Co-founder of Malaysia’s NANKA.
In this episode of our Food and Beverage Trailblazers podcast we speak to Ahmad Syafik Jaafar, Co-founder of Malaysia’s NANKA.

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In this episode of our Food and Beverage Trailblazers podcast we speak to Ahmad Syafik Jaafar, Co-founder of Malaysia’s NANKA, about the niche hybrid plant-meat product category and the potential of using these as a ‘transitional’ product for consumers wanting to go fully plant-based.

NANKA specialises in using jackfruit as a base to make alternative plant-based and hybrid meat products that are currently already being sold in Malaysia, particularly burger patties, meatballs and meat cubes.

The firm offers 100% plant-based products made with jackfruit and grey oyster mushroom, as well as hybrid products comprising jackfruit and either chicken or beef.

“Malaysians really love our food, a lot of which is oily and fatty and a lot of which is based on animal-based meats,”​ Syafik told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

“So our thought process with the hybrid plant-meat products was to give consumers the opportunity to at least try out something [that was more familiar to them] – so when they try the product containing animal meat but at a minimum amount together with jackfruit, and find this tastes like the real deal, it increases the chances of them making the shift to 100% plant-based products.

“So we see the hybrid area as a platform for consumers to just try [things out], an opportunity for them to have a trial [and decide if they like it before] transitioning to plant-based.”

Syafik also described how although the brand is currently positioning itself as a more premium item, the eventual plan is to reach out to the masses across various countries from Malaysia to Singapore to Japan, and attract consumers in these countries by ‘democratising’ plant-based products and bringing these to them at price parity or lower.

“Our vision is really to democratise the plant-based space – we are taking a premium positioning currently as we are a start-up and a lot of investment has gone into our R&D and technology, but we really do not want to maintain this premium positioning forever,”​ said Syafik.

“Currently we are about 20% to 25% away from price parity with conventional meat products, and have surpassed most other plant-based meat products in terms of price competitiveness. So it’s all about scaling up and driving costs down moving forward.

“Jackfruit is available abundantly in Malaysia at a very competitive price – compared to the other common plant-based ingredients like soy, peas or even mycoprotein from fungi, a large chunk of these are imported from overseas, so we have a definite price advantage.

He also revealed that trying to sell plant-based or hybrid products to Asian consumers - Malaysian consumers in particular – based on sustainability credentials alone is not a strong enough proposition to attract that much attention.

“We’ve still found that positioning our products from the health perspective is more effective in Malaysia – if we wanted to sell to Malaysians based on the sustainability angle, sure there are some parties who are very concerned about it, but largely – honestly – not so much,”​ he said.

Listen to the podcast above to find out more.

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