Forget pulled jackfruit in tacos – we’ve moved far beyond that. Creative chefs have used the ingredient as a meat substitute in curries, burgers and even sushi rolls. In July, Mexican chain Chiquito added it the menu in the form of a chilli, ladled atop cassava fries.
Soon, consumers will even be able to enjoy it in place of pepperoni at Zizzi, thanks to a start-up called Jack & Bry. Founded by Bryony Tinn-Disbury, the company’s star product has already found its way onto plant-based pizzeria Purezza’s menu, and it’s also stocked by fine food supplier Leathams.
“My family are all meat eaters and for me that’s the biggest test – if they like it then I know I’m doing something right,” Tinn-Disbury tells Food Spark. “For me, it’s about showing flexitarians, meat eaters, everyone – obviously vegan and vegetarians, but everyone that plants can be tasty.”
Compared to a soy product, she notes that jackfruit needs less processing, adding, “We’re very much a clean product.”
That extends to avoiding gluten and palm oil in the recipe, which is flavoured with traditional pepperoni seasonings like garlic and paprika. High in fibre and low in sugar, it also purports to have 70% less fat than the leading supermarket own-brand pepperoni, making it a healthier option as well as meat-free.
While Jack & Bry may be the first to use jackfruit as a pepperoni alternative, it isn’t the first to come up with a meat-free version: Quorn has a mycoprotein option, for example, while Canada-headquartered Daiya Goods makes a pepperoni based off pea protein and cremini mushrooms.
That hasn’t stopped a rapid rollout, an indication of how fertile the plant-based market is, as well as perhaps the quality of the product – it won a gold award at this year's Lunch fair. The business, which has its roots in street food festivals, only got funding in June, and by July it was in Purezza’s London store, where it’s now not just a pizza topping but also a constituent of the antipasti board.
Discussions are underway with several retailers over stocking the brand’s hero products, pepperoni and chorizo, in chilled aisles.
But Jack & Bry’s products go beyond just imitating cured meats. The brand has also created a sausage, as well as a burger, tuna and fish fingers – all, of course, made from jackfruit. Future NPD is already in the works, too, including a fish fillet.
“We are expanding our product range purely because people are trying our pepperoni and thinking, wow, what else can you do?” says Tinn-Disbury. “We’ve had to speed up our NPD process purely because of the demand.”
While the UK is the primary market, Jack & Bry is also exploring its options abroad, particularly in the USA but also Europe, with the goal of becoming the UK’s answer to Beyond Meat or Impossible Foods.
“We’ve got global ambitions, so much so that we’d like to see how we can grow jackfruit trees in space,” reveals Tinn-Disbury.
While at the moment Jack & Bry’s jackfruit is sourced from factories in Asia that have received BRCGS food safety certification, the company is experimenting with nurturing the notoriously hardy jackfruit tree in the UK. Tinn-Disbury suggests that using the principles of intercropping, it could fill gaps and corners of fields primarily growing other foodstuffs.
“We want to see ourselves as looking at the longevity of how we help nurture the Earth and help grow more jackfruit trees, not only in Asia but throughout the whole world.”