JACKFRUIT 365 IS A KERALA BASED FOOD COMPANY that makes packaged food using India’s most plentiful and most undervalued fruit: Jackfruit. Jackfruit in south India is a wild crop that is often left on the trees to rot, completely neglected by rice and tea farmers that are the majority of Kerala’s producers. Jackfruit 365 developed a new processing technique to make Jackfruit more marketable and created a completely new market for this fruit. The company is positioning the mature, unripe green jackfruit as a carbohydrate replacement to fight dietary diseases.
CURRENTLY, 80% OF JACKFRUITS in India are left unharvested, as it had no commercial value, due to its seasonality and rapidity to rot. Jackfruit 365’s research and marketing efforts helped farmers to start eating their own fruits as a health food to fight non-communicable diseases and created demand for fresh jackfruits in local vegetable shops. The company even convinced the government to declare jackfruit as the State’s Official Fruit.
The growth of the jackfruit market not only contributes to consumer health, and provides an income opportunity for farmers, but also plays a role in biodiversity conservation, since jackfruit is generally grown sustainably, traditionally, integrated among other diverse plants, and does not incorporate any chemical inputs.
JAMES JOSEPH FACED MORE THAN ONE CHALLENGE to create a supply chain for jackfruit. First of all, jackfruits are not produced as a cash crop, even though one tree produces an average of one metric ton of fruit per year. How to convince farmers not to waste the huge fruits that grow wildly behind their farms? Second, jackfruit ripens and becomes rotten quickly, and is quite messy to handle. So how can this complex 15kg monster fruit be processed? And third, there’s not a high demand for jackfruit, since few people know about it, and it’s hard to find in cities. So how can a wider market for this fruit be developed?
Jackfruit 365 developed its own patented processing technique that extends the shelf life of this fruit up to one year (which explains the name Jackfruit 365) and increases its marketability. Freeze-drying is the key; this process reduces the weight of Jackfruits by 82%, dramatically reducing the costs of transportation, storage and inventory.
Freeze-drying is a process used widely to preserve fruits and vegetables during the off-season by removing water content by first freezing and then converting ice to vapor. Nobody actually thought to apply it to jackfruit before Joseph tried it. After this process, the fruit can be preserved at room temperature in an airtight bag, waiting to be used. The rehydration process takes about 15 minutes. The second step is to mill this dried fruit into flour, which is then packed and distributed to retailers all over India and overseas. This flour can be easily used as any carbohydrate substitute or simply added to a recipe to increase the fiber content and reduce glycemic peak and calories, without impacting its taste.
The supply chain of Jackfruit 365 is fairly simple and straightforward. Their buyers first conduct surveys across Kerala and identify the regions where jackfruits mature, from the beginning to the end of the season, then they plan their collection for each month from different villages to ensure they have a stable supply most months of the year. The buyer then goes to the different farmers and collect these uncultivated wild fruits from the backyards of farmers, providing a service to farmers. They pay a fair price to farmers, in order to convince them not to cut down the jackfruit trees, to take care of them and establish a quality standard for the fruits.
Jackfruit, overall, is a summer crop that ripens when the risk of drought is at its peak. By selling their jackfruits to James’ company, farmers earn five times more money than what they would have earned by selling it unripe in the market. Thanks to the Jackfruit365 business model, Kerala’s farmers can now rely on these fruits to manage the risk of mainstream crop failures and stabilize their incomes during the most risk-prone season of the year.
Considering their patented product is showing solid evidence of efficacy as a medical food for two very critical medical conditions, Jackfruit365 is looking to explore strategic partnerships in the nutraceutical sector and market their products as a medical or functional food recommended by doctors and nutritionists.