A blog post by Minh Pham, co-owner of Naak, a new Quebec company popularizing the consumption of insects.
How can we feed 9.7 billion humans in 2050 without destroying the planet? The solution is insects, an abundantly available, environmentally responsible, complete source of protein. Worldwide, 2 billion people already consume insects as a source of food. Why don’t we join them?
This was the idea that led myself and my business partner (and friend), William Walcker, to co-found Naak, which offers adventurous nutrition for athletes.
Eating crickets can save the world. This idea might seem crazy, but it should be taken quite seriously according to a recent UN report: Crickets require 2,000 times less water, 12 times less food, and less space, and they produce 100 times less greenhouse gas than beef, pound for pound. Plus, crickets are full of the essential nutrients we need to function, including complete proteins, vitamins and minerals.
The potential for edible insects is huge. They are an environmentally sustainable food source in North America and a solution for fighting hunger across the world. As people passionate about sports, nutrition and sustainable development, launching this business was the opportunity of a lifetime. So with a lot of enthusiasm we rolled up our sleeves, borrowed a friend's kitchen and set about creating our first energy bars based on cricket protein.
With the help of nutritionists, Montreal chefs and members of our triathlon club (who kindly agreed to be our guinea pigs), we refined our initial recipes in order to arrive at a final product. Today, Naak bars are distributed through more than 300 points of sale across Quebec, including Avril, Rachelle Béry, Metro and Marchés Tau stores.
Being an entrepreneur means being able to bring your ideas to life. Our first challenge was to figure out how to convince people in the West to eat insects. It was a problem that needed a good strategy and a lot of patience to overcome. We decided to tackle it by approaching athletes who were also environmentally aware and by working with professional athletes in order to link crickets with performance.
As a start-up with limited means, we had to be creative on a constant basis in order to raise our profile. Rather than spending a fortune on sponsoring international figures in sports, we preferred to focus on young up-and-coming talent who would share our vision and love our products, like Alexis Lepage and Arnaud Côté-Boisvert.
Above and beyond our desire to create a profitable company, we wanted to support a universal cause: protecting the environment and providing the world with access to a lower-cost food source.
In 2018, Naak will send part of its profits to developing countries. For every purchase made in North America, we will give an insect-based product to a family in need in Southeast Asia.
This product will be made locally and will support micro-entrepreneurs by using crickets that have been raised on local farms. We have already contacted a farm in Vietnam in order to set up the project.
We want to build a profitable economic and social model that thinks in an organic way. Campaigning for such an important cause it what gets us up every morning feeling passionate about going to work.
We think that tomorrow's successful companies will be those that support universal causes. Today people do not simply buy a product, they support a cause they take to heart. If you are considering starting a business, just think about which cause you want your company to represent!