Hi, we are the two co-founders of Näak, a young company from Montréal, Québec, aspiring to democratize insect consumption. We are part of the Y generation, a generation raised in a context of growing awareness in regards to our impact on the environment and the importance of how we consume. Thus, we have always felt concerned with sustainable development and responsible consumption.
Our story begins in 2016 when we qualified for the triathlon world championships. It is on this occasion that we really started to reflect upon the role of our nutrition and its impact on our performances. We quickly understood that there were significant improvement opportunities in sports nutrition products. Indeed, none met our criteria: performance, health, and environment.
What does Naak mean?
Naak stands for Adventurous Nutrition for Athletes who travel Kilometers.
How did everything start?
Naak was created in 2016 by William Walcker et Minh-Anh Pham, 2 green athletes who participated in the Triathlon World Championships. Preoccupied by the impact of meat production on the environment, the 2 friends decided to radically change their nutrition: they became vegetarian and started looking for alternative protein sources for their training. They then discovered cricket protein and immediately started incorporating it into their diet by making their own cricket protein bars in William's kitchen. This is how Naak started.
A friend of ours introduced us to the benefits of adding insects to our diet. Soon after, we started to do some research on the matter, and stumbled upon a report published by the FAO in 2013 entitled “Edible insects: Future prospects for food and security.” After investigating entomophagy more, we quickly realized that insects were very nutritious, and that farming insects was more eco-friendly than farming animals. That’s when we decided to start Näak; a company that would make food products for active people using cricket powder.
Launch and development
Lots of work went into the development and launch of Näak products. We teamed up with sports nutritionists and chefs in order to develop our first product: energy bars. This product was initially released in two delicious flavours (choco-orange and choco-banana), but it is now available in five different flavours, which you can read all about here.
Näak bars were designed by athletes, for athletes. Their nutritional value and physical characteristics are thus conceived to meet endurance athletes’ needs in terms of energy and recovery, before, during or after exercise. Created for athletic performance, they are also perfectly suitable as a snack for all active people. Näak bars are a healthy product: they contain only natural ingredients, and they are free of preservatives or refined sugar. The protein in Näak bars comes from cricket powder; a super-food which is also rich in vitamins and minerals, and requires very few resources to produce. You can learn more about crickets here!
Once our recipe was finalized, we started to produce and pack the energy bars ourselves in a restaurant’s kitchen. During the summer of 2016, we took part in many triathlon, cycling, and running events in order to promote our product. Athletes quickly identified with our values and were quick to adopt our energy bars, which strengthened us in our project. We managed to sell over 4,000 bars, and eventually we were no longer able to increase our production capacity using the restaurant's kitchen.
In November 2016, we launched a crowdfunding campaign on our own platform, naakbar.com. The campaign was very successful on social media platforms. In fact, our video was seen over 80,000 times and shared more than 500 times on Facebook. Hence, our pre-sale objectives were widely exceeded, which allowed us to launch our very first industrial production of energy bars in January 2017 with a co-producer based in Québec.
On April 17th, 2017, we took part in the tv-show "Dans l’œil du dragon" (the French-Canadian version of Dragons' Den). During our time on the show, we struck an agreement with Martin-Luc Archambault and Caroline Néron. Our appearance on the screens brought significant visibility for Näak, and was a great way to share our project with more people.
On February 7th, 2019, we took part in the tv-show Dragons' Den. During our time on the show, we struck an agreement with Arlene Dickinson. Once again, this opportunity allowed us to showcase our company and everything it has to offer with the rest of Canada.
For us, Näak is more than a simple business. We want to create a community of #cricketpowered athletes sharing the same values: performance, health, and respect for the environment. Our company sponsors professional athletes convinced of the benefits of insect-based foodson their performances. Alexis Lepage, 8th in the U23 elites at the World Triathlon Championships in 2016, and Magali Tisseyre, 16-time Ironman 70.3 Champion and 3rd in the World in 2009 and 2010, have both added Näak bars to their diet. Our goal is to offer sportsmen food products adapted to their lifestyle, in order to help them achieve their goals, while raising awareness of the impact of their food on the environment. Thus, we seek to constantly develop new innovative products that could be integrated in our daily diet. In fact, since our beginnings, we have released more food products for active people, such as our cricket powder, and our protein bars.
Partners and funding
Today, we are firmly established in the sports communities of Quebec, distributed throughout the country and present in more than 700 points of sale. We want to offer our product all across the Canada. We stroke deals with many partners, such as Sports Experts, Avril,Marchés Tau, Nautilus Plus, and more!
Naak was also fortunate to be able to count on the support of several institutions that support start-ups at their beginning and then their growth. We received a grant from the Montreal Inc. Foundation program, and have been selected amongst the 10 most innovative projects in the environmental and social innovation competition "Mouvement", presented by Novae.
To accelerate the growth of our company, we have also received financial support from Futurpreneur, the BDC and PME Montreal, and have participated in the "Growth Accelerator" program of Futurpreneur and SpinMaster.
Let’s get social
If you wish to get involved in our movement, do not hesitate to write to us on firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange an interview if you are a media, or on email@example.com if you want to distribute Näak products in your store.
Our strategy operates a lot with social media on which we are very active through exclusive and dynamic content in all formats. More than 9,000 people have already joined the community! Join the movement and follow us on our Facebook page.