Protein supplements such as shakes and powders are a popular way of increasing protein intake. Although a common staple among athletes and gym enthusiasts, protein supplements can be easily used for anyone interested in balancing out their amino acids. However, not all protein formulas are necessarily good for the environment or even the people consuming them.
Natral wants to offer a healthier and more environmentally-friendly option to consumers. The company offers a protein powder with an unusual key ingredient: darkling beetles. We reached out to one of the co-founders, Lucas Wright, to learn the inspiration behind Natral powder and the benefits of beetle protein over other sources.
Note: This interview was conducted over phone and email. It has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
Can you give us a brief elevator pitch for your company?
Natral makes protein powder that’s three times more sustainable than plant protein.
What inspired you to take the leap and build this company?
I owned a renewable energy business in Alaska. During the winters, I had the opportunity to travel quite a bit. In the Netherlands, I came across an article discussing insects as a possible future food. I took that as a challenge, because nobody wants to eat insects. I knew if I could figure out how to make people eat my products and really enjoy the taste, without even knowing it was insect-based, that would be success.
What past experiences prepared you to start, build, and lead your company?
I’ve started two companies. The first, I was 19, and it didn’t make enough money to get off the ground. But I learned about tech development, the patent filing process, financial planning, customer feedback and its importance, etc. It was a crash course.
I then started a renewable energy company in Alaska and kicked ass. As a one-man show, I did more than $300,000 in sales in six months by my second year. I learned how to be successful and the “why” behind success.
What is your vision for the future of the industry you are operating in?
The day there are other brands calling their protein “darkling protein” is the day we’ve succeeded. My vision is to have people knock us off and copy what we’re doing — because we’re doing so well.
What is the benefit of darkling protein over plant-based or whey protein?
Darkling protein is three times more sustainable than plant protein and six times more sustainable than whey protein. Plants are not naturally protein dense, and whey is a byproduct of milk production. Both of those sources produce a ton of greenhouse gases because it requires so much work to achieve a high protein powder.
Darkling beetles are the opposite. They are naturally protein-dense and nutrient-rich. Life-cycle assessments from multiple universities have shown that they are the superior choice.
Who is on your team and how did you come together?
I started this company with my best friend, Eli. We grew up together in Alaska. We always knew we would eventually start a company, and here we are.
Do you have any competition, if so, how do you differentiate?
Take a look at other protein brands. The labeling is obnoxious, bombastic. Bold letters, artificial coloring. They’re a reflection of the content: fake. Our brand is totally different. It IS natural. We just display the facts on a clean background, and that reflects the superiority of our contents.
What does your business model look like?
We make protein. We sell protein. In direct-to-consumer (DTC), we have margins of 75% — in wholesale, 50%.
What brought you to equity crowdfunding and how do you intend to use the money you raise this round to scale the business?
All the funds from this round are going towards sales. We’re growing what we spent two years researching and achieving. No more R&D, with the exception of new product development, from here on out: just growth.
What do you want potential investors to know about you and/or your company?
We’re making a new category. Darkling is totally different from whey or plant protein. People are consuming our protein because of its inherent differences to the mainstream market. It’s a new segment within the market.
As you think about the business 5-10 years down the road, what do you see exit opportunities looking like? have you set any future goals for the company?
There are plenty of insect producers out there (a handful of which have raised more than $50 million each). None of them are focused on making protein for humans. Our margins are vastly superior to the margins found in animal feed, and we make the perfect candidate for acquisition. Or a big boy in the whey or plant protein market who is looking to expand into new territory would be very attracted to our segment.
We at KingsCrowd are excited to see where Luke and his team take the company. Natral is currently raising on StartEngine.