Malaysian brand Nanka brings jackfruit range to Europe

21 Dec 2022

Malaysian brand Nanka is expanding to new Asian and European markets with its fast and ready-to-eat plant-based products based on jackfruit.

Food company Ira Noah launched with the aspiration to make food as healthy, convenient and minimally processed as possible. “[It] seems to be quite impossible to put these three features in one sentence by modern commercial product standards. We want to challenge that,” says Ahmad Syafik Jaafar, co-founder of Ira Noah.

Malaysian brand Nanka brings jackfruit range to Europe
Image courtesy of Ira Noah LLP

Ira Noah makes products that offer alternatives to highly processed fast food. As the brand grew, coupled with local issues like food security and escalating food prices, today, it strives to create diversity in food resources, especially in its domestic market, Malaysia.

Ira Noah’s business model seeks to reflect new consumer demand by creating collaborations both upstream and downstream. “We believe only the locals understand the local palate [and] they should lead the creative and innovative process in developing the products further using our proprietary technology,” adds Jaafar.

Transforming fast and ready-to-eat food

For Ira Noah, consumer confidence in the ready-to-eat (RTE) and fast-food market is currently missing. The food tech brand seeks to solve this by offering appealing tastes and nutritional profiles that rebuild confidence in RTE and fast foods.

The RTE and fast-food sectors have developed a reputation for unhealthy and poor-tasting products and that bad name is one that Ira Noah seeks to dismantle.

“Generally, people have lower expectations of fast-food products, albeit they still consume them. RTE has to fulfil higher requirements to please customers.”

Jackfruit: Its hero ingredient

The food brand, which is one of FoodBytes! 2022 recognised startups, seeks to create plant-based alternatives to traditional food staples, such as milk and animal feed from a single source, jackfruit. “We believe it is an under-tapped opportunity that warrants further exploration,” says Jaafar.

Jackfruit can be eaten as both a sweet fruit and a savoury vegetable in cooking. Understanding where to obtain it and how much to use were vital specifications that led Ira Noah to choose jackfruit as its hero ingredient. Ira Noah chose jackfruit based on its traditional offering and technical capabilities. Traditionally, jackfruit is a mainstay and popular ingredient in Southeast Asian cooking, especially in the Malay archipelago.

“Being a Malaysian/Singaporean-based startup, which is a melting pot of cultures, we were exposed to Indian vegetarian dishes that use jackfruit to aim to replace meat,” says Jaafar.

Matching traditional with technical performance

From a technical perspective, Ira Noah relays that jackfruit is a source of fibre and brings a good texture when blended with alternative proteins due to its cellular structure. The brand states it sources 99% of its materials, which amount to approximately ten tonnes a month, locally, from a farm in the northern part of Selangor, located in the same state as its production facility.

Courtesy of Ira Noah LLPImage courtesy of Ira Noah LLP

Ira Noah’s first product was its jackfruit-based burger patties. Since its first release, Ira Noah has developed its product range to consist of sub-temperature foods, including burger patties, cubes, minces and ambient product ranges, including Asian dishes, luncheon and premixes. The brand is creating more forms and iterations with animal meats capabilities.

Ira Noah’s proprietary technology lies in the processes or methods of production and the formulation of its products. Its core challenge was to keep its products as minimally processed as possible and remain highly robust, Jaafar says. Therefore, it required its manufacturing process to be flexible enough to blend with any source of protein, including lentils, mycoprotein and insects, to create new versions of plant-based meats.

Reaching new markets

In 2023, the food tech name wants to expand to more export markets in Asia and Europe, namely South Korea and Germany. Ira Noah has selected the South Korean market, its second Asian market, as part of its “target-and-try approach”, Jaafar says, “rather than a calculated one”.

Launching in Germany will mark its first in a Western market. “I saw that plant-based alternatives to foods have become pretty much mainstream in Germany,” says Jaafar. “We need to be here as soon as possible.”

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