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The snack start-up taking jackfruit beyond a meat substitute

New brand Jacked wants to shake up the dried fruit space with new ingredients and flavours. 

12 September 2018

Jackfruit tacos have been everywhere – from restaurants to retailers – ever since the fruit exploded onto the UK scene as a hot new meat substitute.

Since then, we've seen the ingredient used in biryani and as a pickling spice.

Now, snacking start-up Jacked are taking jackfruit into new territory. The brand's range of dried fruit snacks is inspired by a trip founders Michael Adair, Dilvir Bhullar and Josh Clarke took to Uganda on a UK-government project to support local businesses.

“In Uganda, you have jackfruit sellers lining every street and it’s loved as a snack – fresh, of course – and we started getting jackfruit daily and loved it. None of us had tried it before and we were surprised it wasn’t available in the UK. It’s basically because it weighs so much that importing it is really expensive,” Clarke tells Food Spark.

“It got us thinking, and we spoke to a couple of farmers we were working with and they told us you could dry it. We tried it and liked it, and we started talking about whether it would be a hit in the UK.”

The taste of dried jackfruit is a lot sweeter than when it’s used as a meat substitute, according to Clarke. To achieve the meat-like texture, jackfruit is used at a much earlier stage, whereas Jacked relies on ripened fruit picked two to three weeks later.

Not just jackfruit

While the range includes dried snacks in flavours like plain jackfruit, jackfruit and ginger, and jackfruit and chilli, Clarke says they didn’t just want to be a one trick pony.

So they also investigated other dried fruit potentials. Winners included papaya, which has been combined with lime, and also bogoya banana, a variety found in Uganda that is different to the South American kind typically eaten in the UK. This resulted in a plain bogoya banana product, as well as banana chips with cocoa.

“Jackfruit will always be the main product and part of the brand identity, but we wanted to play around with different flavours and products,” Clarke explains.

“We got thinking about what things typically go well together, and chilli goes well with mango, so we thought what about chilli jackfruit? Ginger was for the health benefits. The inspiration for the banana chip with cocoa was based around cereals in the UK that are very popular... so we tried to get the texture crispy and used unsweetened cocoa powder so there is no added sugar, but hopefully it satisfies the sweet tooth.”

Clarke admits that the boom in veganism certainly gives the brand a leg up, as more people are aware of jackfruit and willing to try it in an alternative form. His products are currently available in 13 speciality shops in the UK.

Breathing life into dried fruit

Jacked is setting out to tackle the dried fruit market, as Clarke says it’s relatively uninteresting at the moment.

“We’re created a quirky brand in what is effectively a dead space,” he explains.

“There are a few brands, but for me they are not doing anything particular interesting and the branding is fairly average. They are not trying to cater for the sort of clientele that we are. We are trying to go for a younger demographic, so we are almost trying to make dried fruits cool. Rather than putting them in smoothie, we are saying you can snack on them instead of a bag of crisps, as it’s a great, healthy alternative snack.”

Back in May, Food Spark profiled Latvian company Prosvego, which was looking to bring its raw, organic, vegan fruit roll ups – essentially dried fruit – to the market. Its apple fruit leathers are now available on Amazon, but its more interesting flavours like sea buckthorn haven’t yet made it onto the online retailer.

For Clarke, the trend towards snacking and people eating on the go more frequently means it’s a good time to release a product of this kind.

“We obviously want to take this brand into the big retailers like Holland & Barrett, Ocado, Whole Foods and Waitrose – those are our long-term goals. I think we will hopefully take the dried fruits to that stage. If it’s a success, it will be a matter of diversifying the product range and looking at alternative snacks in a similar space.”

Millennial mindset

Like a lot of start-ups created by the younger demographic, Jacked also has social responsibility driving its fledging business. The fruit is sourced from a network of farmers in Uganda and is processed and flavoured in the country before being sent to the UK for packing.

Jacked also works with farmers that are transitioning into organic, which is a timely three-year process, with plans to certify their products as organic in the future.

The brand has partnered with Trees of the Future, an environmental charity that works to reverse the effects of deforestation, with a percentage of profits donated. As a result, one Jacked pack is the equivalent to one tree being planted in Uganda.

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