BUCK co-founder Jason McIvor doesn’t miss a beat when you ask him what his Vancouver-based buckwheat milk company is all about. “At the core of this is a strong desire for people to express their goodness in the world. Goodness starts with things like nutrition and positive thoughts. There’s goodness to be had and we want people to obtain it.”
Jason and his co-founder, Peter Yupangco, conceived the company in the darker days of COVID-19 when goodness sometimes felt like it was in short supply. Jason, a former vice president at an energy company, had already been craving a change before the pandemic hit. He’d started a leadership development company in the hopes of being able to support positive changes in people’s lives. “But then COVID hit,” he says. “But I believe in being open to possibilities. So, in March 2020, when Peter described his idea for BUCK, it didn’t take much for me to say, ‘It’s a yes.’”
Peter conceived BUCK’s buckwheat milk and gelato as an alternative to the dairy-free alternatives he and his lactose-intolerant children weren’t fond of. The result is a gluten-free, dairy-free, allergen-friendly plant-based product that offers more, both nutritionally and environmentally.
“In addition to being a nutritional powerhouse, buckwheat literally renews the ground,” Jason says. “Its roots release molecules that help other plants eat phosphates. It feeds bees. It doesn’t require harmful fertilizers or pesticides. It uses water efficiently. The list goes on!”
The conversation that started BUCK in March 2020 created momentum that took the two founders on a ride that’s been both wild and productive. By December 2020, BUCK was selling buckwheat milk gelato at Vancouver-based farmers’ markets. The product was a smash.
“We asked the people who bought our gelato at the market, ‘Where would you like to buy this in the future?’ They said, ‘Nature’s Fare.’ And before long, we were there. Then, we were picked up by a distributor. We’ll be in 100 BC stores by the end of the month and in Ontario at 30 locations. We’re so grateful.”
Fortunately, as they were creating the brand that would end up opening so many doors for them, Jason and Peter connected with Great Little Box Company/Ideon Packaging (GLBC). BUCK needed impeccable labels for their ice cream, and in Jason’s words, “the pricing was flexible, and the minimums were just right for a start-up like ours.”
“GLBC helped us create a professional image on a rapid timeline. When you’re launching a product like ours, the real-life version needs to look as good as the pictures. GLBC helped us accomplish that so cost-effectively.”
But even with a strong brand and a product representing an even stronger consumer trend—plant-based— the challenges are endless for a new company like BUCK. As Jason puts it, “You’ve got to keep believing in the possibility even when the reality is looking different from your dreams.”
For a while, BUCK’s difficult reality was securing sufficient support from “the money guys. For two to three months, we were spending money and our lines of credit were growing thin.”
Salvation arrived in the form of their investor Brad Newell, founder of King of Floors. “It’s so good to be working with good money, from good partners who give back and believe in what we’re doing.”
What BUCK’s currently doing is revealing its potential as a national brand. “A few people are interested in private-labelling our product and we’re also excited about the opportunities to continue expanding into new locations.”
With a brand identity as powerful as BUCK’s, we have no doubt that this company can go wherever it wants to go. And we’re excited to be part of that.