From farm-to-snacks for Asians: Vietnam-based Lecka eyes ASEAN millennials

By Pearly Neo

- Last updated on GMT

Lecka believes that its all-natural snacks, localised flavours and sustainable packaging will help it attract the attention of millennial consumers. ©Lecka
Lecka believes that its all-natural snacks, localised flavours and sustainable packaging will help it attract the attention of millennial consumers. ©Lecka

Related tags Vietnam Asean

Healthier snacks outfit Lecka believes that its all-natural snacks, localised flavours and sustainable packaging will help it attract the attention of millennial consumers across various markets in the South East Asian region.

Based out of Hanoi, Vietnam, Lecka’s first target consumer group is the highly health conscious, and has launched its first product range of energy bars to cater to this group – but Lecka Founder and CEO Markus Gnirck is looking to target a much larger range of consumers with more upcoming products.

“For the very first time, we are seeing fairly coherent consumer segments appearing across the various countries in this region, where tastes and preferences all used to be very specific to specific markets previously,”​ Gnirck told FoodNavigator-Asia​.

“A lot of the consumers making up these groups are millennials – from those interested in yoga, in trail running, in fitness, in natural foods, a lot of consumers here are between the ages of 25 to 35, and their interests converge even though they may be in different places.

“So Lecka is looking to grow not based on a country-by-country expansion strategy, but more of a South East Asian hubs strategy, something like how tech investments are targeting cities instead of countries as touchpoints – we are doing something similar by moving to target consumers across different hubs in the region, from Hanoi to Singapore to Kuala Lumpur.”

This strategy seems to be serving Lecka well, as it has already secured an export market in Singapore and is eyeing more across the region including Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines and Indonesia although it is less than two years old – with many of these set to see products reaching them within this year.

“For us in the healthy snacking sector, we have come to realise that an offline-online-offline expansion strategy is best – in Vietnam for example, we started with specialist stores such as running stores and hiking stores as these were very important to reach the target consumer, then after that we graduated online after developing a stable consumer base, and from there we reached even more stores and are innovating and producing for more offline stores,”​ said Gnick.

“So our first stops have been these outdoor sports shops, then online, then back to more bigger store ranges, and supermarkets are certainly also on the radar. It is a strategy that has worked well here, and I am sure it can be applied in places like Malaysia and Thailand where there are many of these stores too.”

Apart from Lecka’s first range of energy bars, the firm is also looking to appeal to more consumer groups with its new upcoming product ranges including protein bars for the fitness enthusiasts (gym-goers, kickboxing, muay thai, etc.) and then granola snacks for the more general health-aware consumer.

“It’s really a pyramid strategy we are working by, with the extremely health conscious and outdoor-loving on the top which is a fast-growing but smaller group, then down to the larger fitness enthusiasts, then the largest group of consumers aware of the need to reduce sugar or boost protein in their diets,”​ he said.

“The aim is of course to reach a larger audience, and we are also aware that in the ASEAN region many consumer are just entering a stage where they can afford these healthier but relatively pricier products, and it is usually the more health conscious who are within this group.”

Localised flavours

Gnick also stressed that Lecka’s energy bars differ from those made in the west due to its ingredients, being not just made ‘farm-to-snack’ using traceable, local ingredients from Vietnamese farmers, but also not using any dates which is an extremely common addition in most energy bars.

“Most energy bars from places like Europe or the United States are based on dates – there are no dates produced in Vietnam and we wanted to keep things 100% local so we opted not to use any dates and went for local ingredients such as dried mangoes, dried bananas, nuts like cashews and macadamias, and various seeds and spices instead, giving the bars very localised flavours,”​ he said.

“So these are all-natural with no added sugar, they’re gluten-free, they’re vegan-friendly and they are very Vietnamese in terms of taste, all in line with [our ethos].”

There are four flavours in the Lecka energy bar range: Mango Coconut, Banana Cinnamon, Pineapple Macadamia and Chocolate Banana. New products are expected to use ingredients from beyond Vietnam such as seeds and fruits from Thailand, but to remain within the region.

Carbon footprint minimisation

One of the reasons for keeping its sourcing within ASEAN is because Lecka has engaged researchers from New Zealand to keep track of its carbon footprint on a monthly basis, and has determined that ingredient sourcing is the main contributor to this footprint.

“We are very particular about sustainability and have even designed our in-house factory to be carbon neutral, so keeping the supply chain as sort as possible is very important,”​ said Gnick.

“We’ve already done what we can in terms of packaging – our energy bar wrappers are bio-based and home-compostable, made out of paper, cellulose and corn starch-based bioplastic; whereas our upcoming granola pouches will be made from recyclable plastic as opposed to the usual non-recyclable aluminum-plastic combination.

“But in this process, we found that ingredient transportation really is the biggest contributor to carbon footprint, so we are focused on this aspect in hopes of making a bigger impact.”

Lecka’s product wrappers give its bars a shelf-life of about eight months, and the pouches give the granola about 12 months.

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