Aquarius and her business partner Inez van Oord started Fiber Foods after living in Uganda where they looked for “an ingredient that could really be essential in the whole plant-based position,” and receiving a grant from the Netherland's government, Aquarius explained.
After experimenting with several different fruits, they came upon the jackfruit and developed a technology (patent pending) to dry the fruit at the source in Uganda, creating the PrimeJack product it offers today, Aquarius added. PrimeJack is available in minced, chunks, and diced and is allergen-free & cholesterol-free.
Currently, Fiber Foods is focused on the European markets, but with the help of funding from PeakBridge’s seed fund FoodSparks and its long-standing partnership with a major global food and beverage ingredient supplier, the company is planning to expand into the US.
“We are funded by PeakBridge now, so we are also entering a completely new network, which gives us a lot of opportunities overseas, and we learn from them. We learn from them on how to do it in the US,” Aquarius said. “In the Netherlands, we had a few big international clients, like the biggest fast-food chain in the world. We tried it in the Netherlands, and then we hope with them, to enter the bigger markets.”
Jackfruit’s opportunity in the hybrid plant- and animal-meat space
While it lacks protein, jackfruit provides plant-based meat a similar texture to animal-based products, she explained. Jackfruit plant-based products have already made their way to the US market from Upton's Natural, The Jackfruit Company, Jack & Annies, and Kitchen & Love.
“The best part of the jackfruit is the texture and the very high dietary fiber content,” Aquarius said. “By drying it, it becomes easier to apply on an industrial scale, and the extra added value is that you add the sauce or the volume to it, which brings the flavor into the deeper end of the fibers. So, it's an easy-to-apply ingredient.”
Jackfruit also is finding adoption in the growing hybrid plant- and animal-based products, she said. European brands looking to boost their Nutri-score can substitute jackfruit for traditional meat, and brands, regardless of region, can create healthier and more sustainable meat products, she added.
"Our clients are now just taking out a little bit of meat [from] former products and maybe 20-30% of our jackfruit back in, and that makes it easy because you don't have to do anything with your recipe, but you reduce the price... It's a win-win for everybody."
By focusing on animal-based meat companies, Fiber Foods can tap into a much larger market than it originally was expecting, she added.
"When we started out we were focusing on the vegetarian brands, the vegan products, and of course we still do, but it's just a smaller group of companies and they're growing a bit less than they used to do.”