This Harvard grad wants to bring a huge, exotic fruit to your dinner table

Boston Business Journal

David L. Harris  :  Associate Managing Editor

Annie Ryu had an epiphany on a trip to India three years ago while she was a student at Harvard.

Ryu noticed a big green melon-like fruit on the street.

“My brother told me it was a jackfruit,” she said, referring to the oversized tropical fruit that belongs to the mulberry family. It’s high in protein, potassium and vitamin B.

So Ryu did some research on it. And she found that most of it goes to waste.

“I thought that was such a shame,” she said. “I really liked the flavor of the fruit. India was a country where poverty is very widespread.”

A light bulb went off. Jackfruit, a non-commercial crop, is abundant in India.

“I thought if I could connect this great crop with a market, it could create opportunity,” said Ryu.

Ryu raised some seed funding, launched the Boston-based startup Global Village Fruit, and her first product is aimed at people seeking a “meat alternative.” The result is a bag containing chunks of jackfruit with different flavors, including barbecue, Tex-mex, teriyaki and Indian curry.

The jackfruit is imported from India and processed in a facility there.

Each product costs $4.99 and is now available at stores including Whole Foods, Wegmans and MOM’s Organic Market.

“The texture is like tender meat and it kind of pulls apart like pulled pork,” said Ryu.

Ryu’s company recently raised $1.5 million in equity funding from investors that include Roger Davidson, a former executive at Walmart and the Wild Oats supermarket chain, which was acquired by Whole Foods. Davidson currently serves as executive vice president of business development at Global Village Fruit.

Ryu, who declined to disclose revenue for the startup, said the new funding would be used to help expand the company’s product within the U.S.