Our special guest for the Green Interview Series today is Markus, founder of Lecka, a sustainable food company, based in Vietnam, that produces healthy snacks for the sports community. Let's find out more about Lecka is pursuing sustainability in all aspects of the business, as well as their inspiring story since 2020!
Trâm Anh: Hi Markus and the Lecka team! It is our pleasure to have you with us today! For the first question, could you please introduce yourself and Lecka?
Markus: Thanks for having us. We are excited to share more about Lecka where we are supporting our great communities with living an active, healthy and eco-friendly life. We are serving our customers with delicious natural energy bars that are made from 100% natural, high quality Vietnamese ingredients and are packaged in bio-based, home compostable material.
We believe that Vietnam has an abundance of healthy ingredients that are great for fueling active lifestyles. We work with local farmers that practice sustainable techniques and produce high quality food. Also, we don't want to create more long-term waste and hence have chosen a unique packaging material, that is bio-based and decomposes within 12 months without leaving any toxic residuals behind. With all those measurements in place, all Lecka products are carbon negative.
Those efforts were awarded with a B Corporation Certificate, the 2nd only company in Vietnam to get such a validation.
Since we launched the product in early 2022, we are now present in over 250 retail stores in Vietnam and are about to export to other Southeast Asian markets.
Trâm Anh: Could you tell me the story behind Lecka? Why did you decide to invest in this challenging sector in Vietnam?
Markus: Lecka was born out of the nature - and sport loving trail running community in Vietnam. In 2022, a bunch of trail runners decided to create a product that serves the needs for their endurance training. We tested many different recipes for over one year, trying all sorts of Vietnamese ingredients to come up with some unique Asian flavours that are great for any kind of sport. The idea was to provide healthy energy whenever a little boost is needed.
Also, we made it clear from the beginning to not use any plastic packaging. We already have enough of that in circulation. Alongside the flavour testing, we tried a lot of different materials that would be eco-friendly and also give the product a long enough shelf life - not an easy compromise. We settled then on a bio-based, home compostable wrapper that is made from paper, cellulose and corn starch. It is 100% biodegradable and even home compostable. That means it breaks down to natural components within 12-18 months of composting and no toxicity is released to nature.
We launched the first products in November 2021, when we opened our own production facility just outside Hanoi. After some more testing, we went live in February 2022 with more distribution in Vietnam. We are super happy to see many outdoor athletes using our products to enjoy their adventures.
Why Vietnam? Why this segment? Well, we feel strongly about this great community of sport lovers that do all kinds of sports, whether it is indoors or outdoors. Also, we see a growing demand for eco-friendly products as consumers are shifting their purchasing behaviour.
You can watch the video about the story of Lecka below!
Trâm Anh: Could you share with us an exciting story that you have had with Lecka?
Markus: Most of our exciting stories revolve around our packaging...
The first 12 months, during our testing phase, we actually wrapped all the samples and products in banana leaves. We didn't want to use any plastic, so we went down the traditional route of using leaves, which is very common in Vietnam's cuisine. When a trail race was coming up, there were half a dozen people in a small workshop, preparing hundreds of our energy bars and wrapping them in the leaves. Then we take them with us to the race and distribute them to the runners. Super cool experience and the greenest product ever. Unfortunately the shelf life wasn't long enough for retail so we had to find another solution.
Our new bio-based packaging is great and unique, but also tough to work with. All the common machines are made for plastic packaging, so finding and configuring a machine that can work with our material was quite a challenge. We invested months into making sure it works well and it would meet our quality standards. Once the first product rolled off our production line, we were super happy and relieved.
Trâm Anh: How is Lecka promoting sustainability throughout its business operations? What is Lecka's strategic approach to sustainability? What are your biggest challenges in ensuring the sustainability factors?
Markus: Sustainability is not just a word and strategy for us. It has been at the heart of Lecka since Day 0. We love nature and aim to build a company that is good to people and the planet. Never easy, as compromises have to be made along the way.
I think every business leader has to come up with a framework that is relevant for that specific business. In our case, we put priority on the product quality and taste, the ingredients and the packaging. Those are within our control and we can ensure that we achieve the highest standards possible. After all, that can be measured by the carbon footprint, aka the impact the business has on the planet. Since February 2022, we have measured our carbon footprint and achieved carbon negativity. That is a hard number that doesn't lie.
We only work with farmers that can prove to use sustainable practices, for example don't use chemicals, no child labour, fair wages. All of our suppliers are small holders who don't belong to a conglomerate. All our ingredients are from Vietnam. Compared to imported products, that effort alone already reduces the carbon footprint by around 30%.
As mentioned before, the packaging is bio-based and compostable. Compared to plastic, depending on the source and database, it reduces the carbon footprint by 10-25%.
The biggest challenge is to keep it that way even though we are growing. We gotta stay true to ourselves and ensure to preserve our core values along the way.
Trâm Anh: What is the one piece of advice you would offer to others seeking to create changes in sustainability in Vietnam? What is your biggest concern about our ability to create a more sustainable world?
Markus: Define sustainability as early as possible. We started in 2020 by defining our parameters and letting them guide us. If you start building a business from that foundation, many decisions will be easier to make and one has to change less later to become more sustainable. If a business is keen to become more sustainable along the way, it comes with the understanding what the compromises are. Whether it might be costs, supply chain, operations, etc., everything comes with a price.
I would love to see more actions by governments to incentivise businesses and institutions for driving change faster. Countries like Singapore and the European Union are introducing forward looking policies to look at the problem holistically, for example with a carbon tax.
Overall, every innovation comes with a downside eventually - everything has a balance. I am curious to see what that balance looks like in say 20 years when many are carbon negative, less plastic is used, etc. What challenges will we have to solve then?
Trâm Anh: Thank you so much for sharing your great story with us! I hope for nothing but the growth of Lecka!
If you are interested in working with Lecka, check their contact below!
Factory: NS. Sanly, Group 45, Dong Anh, Hanoi, Vietnam
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: +84 339 050 352