Knook #39: Roam
Sports nutrition is an interesting space. Athletes push themselves and look to get nutrition into their bodies quickly but don’t always consider the content of the food they’re consuming.
Roam is the brainchild of Raeana Connell and Andrius Ramonas. They create wholefood nut butters to support athletes and active people.
“We both enjoy our exercise, and we’ve found that most supplements or energy foods are overrun with sugar. We’ve formulated our recipes around the guiding lights of real, natural, and clean food.” says Rae.
I asked Rae and Andrius how Roam got started.
“During high school, I went on exchange to Italy, and while they love their hazelnut spreads, it was hard to find natural peanut butter. It planted this seed that I’d like to make peanut butter of my own.
“The idea resurfaced a few times, and ten years later, I found some peanut butter mills on Trade Me and thought, ‘Let’s give this a go’. We experimented with different nuts, but we found out that not all nut mills are made the same. So to make a variety of nut butters, we had to buy a brand new grinder.” Rae laughs.
“I had an appreciation of almond butter, so decided to explore that. It’s wholesome, morish, and doesn’t overpower your taste buds. At the time, I was running a lot — road-tripping and running trails — and I found it challenging to find various foods to eat outside of muesli and energy bars, lollies, and so forth. I started thinking that almond butter would be a good companion for adventures — it’s calorie-dense, tastes good, and is light to carry.
Andrius’ background is in sports medicine, and he’s studying towards a Ph.D. in Exercise Physiology. He’s well known in the trail running community and is part of The North Face Australia and New Zealand team.
Says Andrius, “Carbohydrate-rich products dominate in endurance sports. This makes sense during intense physical efforts, because once you’ve tapped out the glycogen stores in your muscles, you need food to quickly convert into energy to maintain your desired exercise intensity. Carbohydrates are good for this task.
“However, the lack of diverse sports-specific food options is also sending a strong message to people that you should only consume carbohydrates, which isn’t true. Our bodies’ macronutrient requirements during exercise flex depending on the intensity and duration of activity. Then there are practical things like taste fatigue and gastrointestinal issues. When you are moving for long periods and consuming only gels or bars, you can start to feel pretty lousy.
“We launched Roam in June 2020 — just after the first lockdown ended. Our range is in Torpedo7, and we are focusing on e-commerce and are exploring the Hong Kong market.”
I asked Rae and Andrius what challenges they’ve faced in getting started.
Andrius explains, “One aspect was (and still is) educating amateur athletes that there is space to introduce foods that are not carbohydrate-based to eat during training and longer races. However, we’ve found that experienced trail runners or adventure racers get it — they appreciate the need for diverse options for before, during, and after exercise.
“Finding a perfect, pocket-sized packet was a challenge,” says Rae.
“It’s something that we’re improving now. It seems like a small thing, but our current packet opening is difficult for cyclists to use with one hand. We knew this when we first started, but the machinery we were working with had limited options. We just had to accept it and move forward.
“All of this has shown us the importance of getting a minimum viable product to market. Now we’ve got our first data points, and we feel prepared to redevelop the product and create something customers will like even more.”
I asked Andrius and Rae what they saw as factors to their success so far.
Says Rae, “There’s a few things. The first thing for us is we keep moving to maintain momentum. A business is a living thing — if activity stops, it withers and dies.”
“Using premium ingredients helps with our confidence that we’re selling something worthwhile and something we can believe in. We’ve created a product we wanted to use ourselves,” says Andrius.
“Roam ties in well with our passions and skill sets. I have the academic and research side, and Rae has business experience. Together, it works well.”
I asked Rae and Andrius what key things they are focusing on to grow.
“First is improving our products — continuing to elevate them and push forward.
“Second is focusing on our marketing. Word of mouth is powerful, so it’s about finding fun and authentic ways to engage with people and get the product in their hands to try.”
I asked what advice the couple would give to someone looking to start their own business.
Says Rae, “Start by completing small tasks each day. Keep moving and maintain momentum. A business is a living thing — if activity stops, it withers and dies. On the other hand, sometimes you need to be patient. Movement is necessary, but so is patience — it’s a strange dichotomy.
“It takes time for things to come together. Starting a business is not always a linear process. Know what you can control, be flexible, and adapt.”
I asked what’s next for Roam.
“We are working on building out our product range over the next year. We also want to get greater coverage in New Zealand. We’ve got a great distributor in Hong Kong, and we’re seeing success there.
“Achieving decent penetration in the Australia would be awesome. The size of the sports nutrition market is over 20 times that of New Zealand’s and represents an exciting opportunity.
“We’ve got a lot to do, and we’re excited to see where this adventure takes us.”
Originally published at https://www.knooknz.com on May 5, 2021.