The Jackfruit Company is the global leader for jackfruit products, bringing meal starters and frozen entrees to the U.S. market. It was founded on a core commitment to making a positive impact on farmers’ livelihoods, humanity’s eco-footprint, and health and wellbeing by mainstreaming the planet’s meatiest plant. The company works with more than 1,000 farming families in southern India to source organically-grown jackfruit. For the past three years, The Jackfruit Company has experienced annual growth at nearly a 3x rate, and it continues to expand.
Founder and CEO Annie Ryu was inspired to create The Jackfruit Company in the summer of 2011. She was 21 years old and working in India to implement a maternal and child healthcare program that she and her brother had developed. Upon discovering jackfruit, Ryu saw an incredible opportunity to convert an underutilized crop into nutritious, delicious food, while also providing an income opportunity to local farming families. She established the company during her junior and senior years at Harvard, and simultaneously won Harvard’s Women in Business Competition, Harvard’s i3 Innovation Challenge, and the Resolution Project’s Social Venture Challenge, helping to kickstart the support needed to grow the business.
With low awareness about jackfruit as a principal challenge, the barrier to trial of new products and concepts is even higher than usual, and so is the barrier to repeat. But Ryu is determined to educate consumers about what jackfruit is, why they should eat it, and how they should eat it, all with a megaphone that’s small relative to the size of the awareness gap. Thankfully, The Jackfruit Company is able to capitalize on the rising tide of plant-based consumer options.
“Building a company is a marathon – but an uphill marathon where speed is important,” says Ryu to aspiring entrepreneurs. “Don’t be surprised by challenge – learn to expect challenges and make overcoming them part of your routine.”