That's a (no-plastic) wrap - 2021 in review
Who would have guessed that this year 2021 would bring so many surprises? From a never ending COVID situation to lock downs and massive vaccination campaigns, it was a year that centred around batteling the COVID challenges.
In the midst of all that chaos and uncertainty, we couldn't help it and continue to grow Lecka and double down on our efforts from 2020. Where 2020 was focused on experimentations of ingredients, recipes, sales, marketing and packaging, 2021 was all about putting those tests to work! It was time to turn Lecka into a proper business that can serve the Vietnamese sports community.
There have been many highlights this year and just one blog post wouldn't do it all justice. In an attempt to summarise 2021, I shall use the framework that we are using, called the Lecka Way (the 5 P), that guides us throughout this journey:
Our highest priority is to deliver a great product.
Having started in 2020 with the banana leave wrapped energy bar, we learned that much longer shelf life is necessary to scale up our business. A tough decision! What packaging can be eco-friendly and still is no plastic? Banana leaves are the ultimate green packaging (in colour and in sustainability) and is hard to match. After 12 months of research, we decided that we will use material that will not outlive us! We don't want to add more waste to the environment that will last for decades, even after we passed away one day. We settled on a three layer home compostable, biodegredable, bio-based material that offers up to 9 months in shelf life. Much better than the 5 days from banana leaves.
The next challenge was how to produce our high quality energy bars. After months of research again, we found and renovated an old school building outside Hanoi that is now home to our own factory. We cannot compromise on quality so we are keen to keep production in house and impose strict quality controls.
Finally, in October 2021, we launched the production and the first Lecka Energy Bars rolled off the packaging machine. What a moment! See the picture above that shows the first ever produced Lecka Bar :)
Another important part was sourcing high quality ingredients from Vietnamese farmers that meet our expectations. It was not easy to find unprocessed, no sugar added ingredients. However, we did find farmers that follow our philosophy of sustainable farming and keeping the food as natural as possible.
With the production and supply chain getting more stable, we are now about to introduce many more new products to the market. Stay tuned!
Without people Lecka wouldn't exist. First and foremost, our customers have been the most supportive throughout this year. We love working with the sport community that provides honest and constructive feedback. It feels often like a big family that is extremely helpful in many aspects, e.g. designs, flavours, product lines, business development. We are super grateful for all the support we are receiving on all fronts.
Our first customer segment was the trail running community, that is the heart to Lecka. However, soon we realised that many other sport communities are also looking for energy to fuel their activities. Now we are proud to share that runners, cyclists, gym goers, hikers, busy mum's, office workers, triathletes, tennis players and kickboxers are amongst our customers.
We truly excited to offer more products soon to those customers in order to help them have the appropriate nutrition for their active lifestyles.
Secondly, our #teamlecka is growing too! The first employee, Luyen, took the chance and moved from Saigon to Hanoi, alongside the move to open the factory here. A strong sign of commitment to Lecka reflecting the loyalty of our staff to our mission. We have 4 staff in the production and another additional 2 for marketing and sales. The team has a strong conviction to deliver on our mission and be part of this journey step by step.
As soon as we have taken care of producing a great product and taking care of our people (customers and staff), we care for the planet. The biggest effort this year was to introduce the home compostable, bio-based (no-plastic) packaging. That was the first big step for us to make a difference in the snack and food market. Additionally, we are only sourcing our ingredients from local markets, and hence avoiding additional impact on the planet (aka higher carbon footprint) through importing ingredients from overseas. Those two measures are key to our mission and those set boundaries we will not cross anymore.
In order to help us improve constantly, we have submitted our application to become a B Corporation. It is a fantastic framework for using a business as a force for good. We subscribed to the standards set out in the B Corporation agreement that outline a stakeholder (not shareholder) approach. We are building Lecka as part of a wider ecosystem that we include in our decisions. We hope to be accepted into the B Corporation network soon and will share those news shortly.
Lastly, our customers have also been able to do good, as part of their online shopping experience. We partnered with EcoCart, a tool that helps to offset the carbon emission for Lecka's product and logistics. During checkout on our webiste, customers have the option to pay an additional amount to offset the carbon. The funds go straight to projects in Myanmar and Tasmania that offset the carbon, e.g. forestration. We are please to see that 40% of our customers have choosen that option which helped to offset around 10kg of carbon so far.
The experience with EcoCart and the great feedback from our customers, we are now digging deeper into this topic and are aiming at a complete Life Cycle Assessment that provides us with the more exact carbon emission data for our entire company.
As mentioned before, we are working closely with our customers to improve our current products and develop new product lines to serve more functional nutrition needs. Think protein, think keto, think no sugar. That's all we can share now :)
After the lockdown in Hanoi over the summer, were able to launch our factory and bring the product with the new packaging to the market. We are grateful to have seen great traction in November and December 2021, and onboarded over 50 reselling partners so far, plus many consumers via our online platforms. Also, we have started to work with two distribution partners that help us to grow even further.
One of our committments is to donate 2% of our revenue to charitable causes in Vietnam. So far, we have supported:
- VietSeeds Foundation
- Terry Fox Foundation Cancer Charity
- Nui Dinh Plastic Clean Up
We are always looking for more causes to support, so please reach out to us with ideas you might have.
So, that's it. An attempt to summarise our busy and active 2021, and that despite COVID. We have also created a great video to show our growth this. Please see it HERE.
To a healthier and greener 2022.