BOULDER, COLO. — Jackfruit is the star ingredient in Jack & Annie’s, a brand of frozen and refrigerated plant-based meat alternatives developed by a first-time entrepreneur with no previous experience in the food industry. Fresh off the heels of a $23 million Series B fundraise, the Boulder-Colo.-based brand is on a mission to show the world what the tropical tree fruit is capable of.

Annie Ryu first encountered jackfruit at a street vendor’s stand in India. Impressed by its meat-like texture and high fiber content, the discovery sparked a years-long journey to build the world’s largest jackfruit supply chain.

Immense biodiversity and a relatively short shelf life after harvest historically have made establishing a supply chain for jackfruit a challenging endeavor. As the world’s highest-yielding tree crop, however, there’s no shortage of the plant to go around. As much as 70% of jackfruit in India goes unused outside of home consumption.

“We have a fully-owned subsidiary in India that manages the whole just-in-time supply chain,” Ms. Ryu said. “The original reason we started pioneering that was to create added income for farming families. Later, it was a farmer that introduced me to jackfruit as a meat alternative. It’s been enjoyed that way in India for hundreds, if not thousands of years, but hasn’t really been able to scale because there weren’t any supply chains.”

Nearly a decade after Ms. Ryu first encountered the plant, Jack & Annie’s launched with an assortment of whole plant-based meat analogs.  Meatballs, sausages, breakfast patties, Buffalo wings and pulled pork are among the products offered by the fast-growing brand, which already has gained national distribution in more than 1,500 retailers since landing on shelves late last year.

Jackfruit’s meaty texture, strong nutritional profile and climate-friendly credentials help the products stand out in an increasingly competitive landscape, Ms. Ryu said. In the 24 weeks ended Oct. 3, 2021, Jack & Annie’s was the third largest frozen brand in the entire plant-based category and the No. 1 nugget in the natural channel, according to data from SPINS.

“We’re delivering this hugely needed point of difference for the category, which is that first and foremost, our products are made out of a real whole plant,” Ms. Ryu said. “Authenticity is another point of difference. The ‘Annie’ in Jack & Annie’s is a real person who founded this company as an idealistic undergrad who wanted to do whatever it took to make the world a better place. That story resonates with people who are looking for something real. It resonates more powerfully than a meat company who says they want to go into plant-based because their sales are down.”

Jack & Annie’s plans to use funds from its $23 million Series B round to continue expanding distribution across the retail, natural, club and foodservice channels. New products and formats featuring jackfruit also are on the horizon.

“We’re going to leverage our supply chain and our product development capabilities to make jackfruit as accessible as possible,” Ms. Ryu said. “That means having a wide array of offerings from breakfast, lunch and dinner that folks of all ages can enjoy.”