Wakao Foods is a sustainable Goa-based company that brings plant-based ethically sourced ‘Ready to Cook’ and ‘Ready to Eat’ products to the market. Founded in 2020, Wakao Foods uses native jackfruit as its core ingredient.
Sairaj Dhond, a criminal lawyer turned sustainable entrepreneur is the founder and chief executive officer of Wakao Foods. Sharing his thoughts on a vegan lifestyle, he said, “Meat has been relished by many throughout the years. The budding health concerns have imposed an unbound transition towards healthier alternatives and incorporating a vegan lifestyle. Not only is jackfruit a superfood, its versatility and texture when mixed with our unique blend of spices render an unmatched experience for all the meat lovers out there. The idea has been simple and straightforward - to promote healthy and sustainable living all while enjoying the comfort of food.”
The company brings a fresh influx of plant-based alternatives that are ‘Ready to Cook’ such as the Teriyaki Jack, which combines well with a slider or as a Frankie to enhance its flavors, the BBQ Jack, which makes a delectable filling for wraps, and the Butter Jack, which is the go-to choice for whipping up a quick meal with a side of steaming rice.
Why the jackfruit?
Wakao Foods’ current offering of jackfruit meat is ethically sourced and hand-picked from farms, hygienically manufactured, and brought to the customer’s dining tables. Sharing the reason for choosing it as a core ingredient in their products, Dhond said, “Jackfruit is a powerhouse of essential vitamins like vitamins A and C and acts as a great booster for your immunity. Considering its meat-like texture, health benefits, and extreme adaptability towards blends and flavors, jackfruit makes for an excellent source of plant-based alternatives.”
Raw jackfruit has a meaty, fiber-rich texture that shreds exactly like pulled meat. It is rich in fiber and low in calories and fats, making it an ideal choice for today’s health-conscious consumers.
The rising Indian vegan market
Dhond believes that India is on its way to making a prominent mark in the vegan sector. He remarked, “With its myriad of resources like nuts and pulses, India is all set to obtain momentum in this industry. Additionally, with a rise in health-related concerns as well as the popularization of plant-based meat, such factors are determining the roadmap of India’s success story in the vegan market.” The sector is expected to be the subject of a plethora of research and development to make the vegan sector steady and growing.
Aiming to supply jackfruit meat to the world
Wakao Foods is working diligently towards providing its consumers with new vegan products that resemble meat. The brand has recently launched two varieties of sausage to its product line- Hot and spicy sausage and American Herbs Sausage. Talking about the team’s efforts, he said, “Our R&D team put a lot of effort into developing these items. Our sausages are delicious and have the ideal texture and form.”
Dhond proudly shared, “Initially, Wakao Foods had five major products: the Jack supreme burger patty, Raw jack, Butter jack, BBQ jack, and Teriyaki jack. The response was overwhelmingly positive because a sizable portion of the community is becoming vegan. After we appeared on Shark Tank India, we noticed a massive increase in sales.”
To make the products accessible to the majority of the urban population, Wakao products have been placed in the price range of INR 300 - INR 800.
Distribution network and plans ahead
Wakao Foods currently supplies pan India to a large number of chains, hotels, and restaurants from Goa. According to Dhond, the company wants to streamline its operations and have more teams throughout the country for better reach. On the D2C front, the company intends to push hard with its online presence to reach a larger audience and encourage more people to try its innovative products.
Sharing the export activities, he said, “We are currently exporting our goods across the UAE and Netherlands. Our products will be available in the USA by the end of 2022.”
When asked how the company plans to move ahead, Dhond said, “For now, our focus remains on jackfruit being the base of all our products. However, going forth we are definitely in the making to whip up a palate that is favored by both the consumers and the planet.”
All Wakao products claim to be free of preservatives, have a one-year shelf life, and do not require refrigeration. “To support our farmers’ communities, we make it a mandate to contribute 1% of the sales proceeds to the local farmers across India,” Dhond signed off.