Vegan food line concocted by Mayo High School graduate fills 3,000 retailers – Reuters

ROCHESTER — Among the grocery store shelves of popular meat-alternative brands like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meats is a less recognizable line of veggie nuggets, “sausage” patties and links called Jack & Annie’s.

Although this line sold at Fresh Thyme isn’t made in Minnesota, the meat substitute brand was founded by 2009 Mayo High School graduate Annie Ryu.

While still in high school, Ryu was an avid tennis player and violinist before heading to Harvard University where she planned to study on a pre-med track.

Today, its jackfruit products fill the refrigerators of 3,000 national grocery stores, including Rochester’s Fresh Thyme.

His tennis coach at Mayo High School, Jeff Demaray, recalled some of Ryu’s accomplishments during his tennis career.

According to Demaray, Ryu was a “great player” for Mayo, who won a state doubles championship and played three singles in her final season.

“She was extremely smart on the tennis court,” Demaray said. “It was a lot of fun training him.”

When Ryu’s interests in healthcare and medicine brought her to India in 2011 where she planned to implement a maternal and child healthcare program, she ended up finding inspiration for an alternative to ethical and sustainable meat.

Seeing his first jackfruit in a street market, Ryu saw the potential for this nutrient-rich fruit, and from there The Jackfruit Company, based in Boulder, Colorado, and a new line, Jack & Annie’s.

According to the assistant manager of the Fresh Thyme store, Schuyler Spring, products in the Jack & Annie’s line are doing “pretty well” compared to similar products.

Spring said that Fresh Thyme generally sells a lot of jackfruit, whether it’s whole, frozen, canned or in products like Jack & Annie’s meat substitute.

“He’s really gotten a lot more popular,” Spring said.

According to Spring, jackfruit has become more popular among vegan shoppers or people just looking to eat healthier.

What sets Ryu’s products apart from competitors like Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat and Morning Star is their nutritional value. The product is made from the fruit itself, not from processed soy products.

This exceptional quality of Jack & Annie’s led Ryu to be selected as the 2022 “Mindful CEO of the Year” among 1,650 nominees, a recognition given to leaders of transparent, fair, natural, healthy and sustainable companies.

Forbes reported that while vegetarian alternatives to meat are needed to fight climate change, many brands are nutritionally lacking; it recognized Ryu’s Jack & Annie’s as a company that uses minimal processing and is “nutritionally superior” to animal protein.

A selection of frozen produce from Jack & Annie on Tuesday, July 26, 2022 at Fresh Thyme in Rochester.

Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

The increased use of jackfruit as a vegan meat substitute has driven global demand and boosted market growth. According to the jackfruit market forecast, the market has an expected compound annual growth rate of 3.3% between 2021 and 2026.

According to Spring, one of the advantages of Jack & Annie’s is that the products sell for less than established brands like Beyond Meats and Impossible Foods.

The four Jack & Annie’s products sold at Fresh Thyme are all $5.99, while Impossible Foods’ prices sit at $8.99 for similar products in similar sizes.

While Spring and other fresh thyme buyers may not have initially known that jackfruit products were pioneered by a Rochester native, Ryu’s use of jackfruit instead of meat alternatives more common soybeans or peas sets Jack & Annie’s apart from its competition as it gains national popularity.