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Kuna is a word in the Quechua language that means to give. Precisely for this purpose LiveKuna was founded six years ago in Ecuador. “We want to give farmers health, nutrition and jobs; good products to consumers and to rescue good eating habits ”, explains Carlos Gutiérrez, president and co-founder of LiveKuna .
In an interview with Entrepreneur , the entrepreneur tells that it was in 2013 when, with his partner Santiago Stacey, now co-founder and CEO of LiveKuna, they detected the business opportunity from Canada. “We analyzed the changes in habits and trends in consumers, we saw a boom in the consumption of super foods and we did not find a brand that reflected that concept of nutrition and health,” he recalls.
A year later they launched LiveKuna, a vertically integrated superfood company that works directly with Ecuadorian farmers to create healthy foods that are distributed and marketed from Ecuador to Canada. They started with snacks made from chia, a seed high in fiber, Omega 3, antioxidants and a source of micronutrients such as calcium and iron.
The production of this seed was exported in 99% of the Andean country and the entrepreneurs wanted to return it to its origins. “We were pioneers in Ecuador when setting up the concept with chia. There was no superfood issue, there was no culture about chia and they even put us next to cereal, it was a challenge to educate about the benefits, but that same year we grew 800% in the category, with more than a million dollars ”Remembers Carlos.
Then, they realized that the consumer was asking for more and began to innovate to give added value to other seeds such as quinoa and moringa leaves, ancestral superfoods of Aztec or Mayan civilizations from which they developed cereals, pasta, snacks and others.
The products were well accepted and consumers began to ask for gluten-free ones, such as flours, which the company makes from quinoa, bananas, among others.
Carlos Gutiérrez and Santiago Stacey, Livekuna co-founders. Photo: courtesy.
Mexico, potential market
This startup was born in Ecuador and Canada simultaneously. Since before its founding, entrepreneurs attended the Expo West natural food fair every year, where they exhibited their products and kept abreast of market trends.
It was there that they detected the interest in distributing the products in Mexico. They joined it two years ago through Super Naturista, a small retail chain focused on natural and healthy products.
Mexico is a country where Carlos lived for four years of his childhood. Upon his return, as an adult, he reiterated the warmth of Mexican culture and the ever-expanding search of consumers to adopt a healthier lifestyle.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Mexico is the country with the highest rates of childhood obesity in the world. The figures are so alarming that the Mexican government is already demanding more and more conditions from food companies to reduce the consumption of sugar, fats and lactose in children and adults and thus prevent them from developing diseases such as cancer, hypertension and obesity.
That is precisely the mission of LiveKuna: to provide society with health and innovation through its products, which naturally help to increase the body’s defenses. In fact, several studies recommend consuming superfoods like chia, quinoa, and moringa to strengthen the immune system and slow aging.
It is important to note that LiveKuna’s broad portfolio of products does not contain preservatives, flavorings, or harmful chemicals. Everything is made from a healthy combination of 100% natural products.
Innovation and sustainability
But LiveKuna’s purpose goes beyond leading a healthy life through the best foods. The startup seeks to improve people’s lives no matter how big or small the impact. “Every day we have the opportunity to improve someone’s life,” insists Carlos.
Livekuna has revolutionized the food sector with the best practices of social and environmental responsibility, a fair price for its producers and nutritional ethics with its consumers, in countries such as the United States, Mexico, Canada, Guatemala, Panama and Ecuador, where the company has presence.
“Our business concept is to reduce the processed and if there are processed in snacks or cereals, make it as healthy as possible, reducing unhealthy fats, oils, sugars or salt”, explains Carlos. And it gives an example of one of its most innovative products: the Kuna Pops, snacks made with five totally natural ingredients: rice flour, quinoa, chia, sunflower oil and seasonings such as tomato, cheese or chili.
“In Mexico our products have a stamp [warning of excess calories in processed foods] and we continue working to not have one,” says Carlos, considering that the challenge to mass consumption is to educate the consumer.
Currently LiveKuna in Mexico is distributed in Super Naturista, the e-commerce of Walmart, City Club, Soriana, Amazon and its own online store. The entrepreneur considers that a success is to bet on promotion on social networks, where in addition to food they promote exercise, education and good sleep.
“In Mexico we are going to bet on the supermarket channel, with Super Naturista we have 105 stores nationwide and a presence with cereals in Citymarket. By the end of January we hope to have the entire portfolio at walmart.com and in Soriana, distribution of cereals nationwide ”.
This year Grupo Bimbo chose LiveKuna to participate in Bake Lab, its business accelerator, through which the co-creation of a product portfolio was sought, highlighting two important aspects for the consumer: functionality and traceability.
Photo: courtesy Livekuna
The next step in Mexico is to innovate with national ingredients. “Every market requires its salt. There are very interesting ingredients where we can find the space to innovate ”, says the co-founder of LiveKuna.
Mexico, for this Ecuadorian company represents 50% of future sales. “In 2021 we are looking to migrate operations, but it will be done depending on how we open the channels,” explains Carlos. “The idea is to grow 50% of our sales and penetrate more than 600 points of sale and macro supermarkets in order to continue innovating with products from the area of snacks, cereals, alternative flours and pasta”.