Edible insects: opportunities for budding bug entrepreneurs

Edible insects: opportunities for budding bug entrepreneurs

By
Laura Robinson
August 25, 2020

It’s a must-do for anyone travelling through Asia. Track down the local market and take your pick. In Korea, you might find silkworm pupae soup. In Japan, baby grasshoppers. Thailand will treat you cockroaches or bamboo worms. Cambodia? Fried tarantula.  

While locals see them as delicacies or staples, Western consumers have always struggled with the ick factor. But things are starting to change. Back in 2013, the UN proclaimed that insects were the food of the future. Since then, A $112 million global market has emerged and is expected to grow at over 47% CAGR between 2019 and 2026. Today, even leading retailers like Sainsburys are stocking smoky BBQ roasted crickets alongside their summer selection of beers and wines.  

So this week, we take a look at which crunchy critters are making it on the menu and how innovative brands are working hard to make insects the next bug thing in food. 

 

Trend drivers: a healthy and sustainable source of lean protein 

Insects are incredibly nutritious. They’re full of vitamins and minerals, low in saturated fat and pack a powerful protein punch. Cricket flour, for example, contains twice as much protein as beef, boasts more iron than spinach, more calcium than milk and as much omega-3 as salmon. The rising popularity of paleo and keto diets has also left many consumers eager to experiment with alternative proteins - something that insect companies have been quick to highlight in their marketing messages and content strategies. 

 By 2050, we also need to find a solution to sustainably feed over nine billion people. Insect farming uses significantly less water and land than traditional farming. The production of mealworms, for example, also emits fewer greenhouse gases than other animal proteins and crickets typically need twelve times less feed than cattle to produce the same amount of protein. Plus a huge 80% of insects can be eaten, compared with just 40% for beef, meaning more bang for your buck and less waste. 

 

So what bugs are we talking about? 

According to the FAO, there are around 1900 edible insect species and around 2000 are currently eaten across the world. Grasshoppers, caterpillars, beetles, wasps, bees, tree bugs and ants remain some of the most common categories. Grasshoppers in particular can contain up to 77% protein, which has made them a go-to option for many insect entrepreneurs. While crickets and mealworms also remain popular choices, especially in the European market.  

 

But what do they taste like? For those of you who have not yet munched on a mealworm, apparently they’re distinctly hazelnutty. Grasshoppers supposedly taste more like chicken. And cricket converts will tell you they have a popcorny flavour (who knew?). 


Snacks and treats, chefs’ creepy crawly creations - and pet food 

One of the biggest barriers to bug munching is the unusual mouthfeel. So one of the most common applications is flour and protein powder. Thanks to insects' easy solubility and relatively neutral base flavour, these flours can be easily transformed into popular snacks and treats - from crisps and energy bars to chocolate, cookies and macarons. Paris-based Jimini’s even developed a buffalo worm enriched granola. While others have been experimenting with creating butter from black soldier fly larvae.  

Insects are also crawling their way onto restaurant menus. Chef René Redzeppi from award-winning Copenhagen-based Noma developed a new signature dish, using sour ants to spice up his beef tartar - and it quickly became a foodie sensation. Numerous other chefs have since followed his lead, resulting in all manner of creepy crawly creations - from crickets on couscous and black ant guacamole to honey and bumblebee ice cream and ant-infused salt and tequila cocktails. 

But Hugo Walters took things a step further still. After struggling to find a sustainable solution to feed his two cats, he launched a crowdfunding campaign to create an insect-based pet food. Exceeding his fundraising target by 250k, his company Aardvark is now due to launch in autumn this year and has already set up a partnership with VC backed insect farm, NextProtein, to create their first range of products. 


Insect innovators: Essento and Krikets

Christian Bärtsch and Matthias Grawehr discovered edible insects while travelling. As soon as they touched down in Switzerland, they made it their mission to bring bugs to European dinner plates. After helping to reshape the Swiss legal framework and launching their first products in 2017, Essento’s range now includes dried insects, burgers, snacks and protein bars. They were quick to recognise that consumer education was just as important as nailing a mouthwatering product. And their investment in events, workshops in schools, a cookbook and collaborations with leading restaurants has certainly paid off. Essento has seen a marked change in Swiss consumers’ willingness to munch on mealworms. After bagging a place in the top 10 product innovations at Anuga, the team is now looking for new retail partners to expand their distribution network in Germany, following a successful collaboration with burger chain Hans im Glück last year.   

Belgium-based company, Kriket, bagged seventh place in this week’s FoodHack Discovery Board. Their snack bars made of cereals, nuts, grains, seeds and - yes, you guessed it - crickets were launched back in 2018 after a successful crowdfunding campaign. Focussing their marketing on young consumers who want it all - their daily dose of goodness in a tasty product, while doing their bit for the planet – their product is now being sold in Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and the Czech Republic. In May, the team announced a partnership with Belgian retail giants, the Colruyt Group, to help their growing brand make it mainstream. 


A shifting legal framework and the next generation of bug lovers 

In 2015, the European Union decided that insects should be classified as novel food products, making them subject to a lengthy approvals process. Although some countries, including Belgium, the UK, the Netherlands and Switzerland, decided to allow their marketing and consumption, national restrictions have curbed market growth. But insiders expect that the European Food Safety Authority will authorise their sale across the EU in the next few weeks, opening up new market opportunities.  

In terms of product development, experts see potential in the functional foods, baked products, meat, diet-specific and specialty food segments in the next five years. Studies have also highlighted a particular opportunity in the children’s food market. Less affected by the ick factor, there may be good returns for budding bug entrepreneurs who focus on growing the next generation of bug lovers and develop products that win over the alternative protein purchasers of the future. 


The 30-second pitch: edible insects


What

  • In Europe, we’re mainly talking grasshoppers, crickets, mealworms and buffalo worms. 
  • The legal situation currently varies from country to country - but the Novel Food Committee is due to meet in October to standardize regulation across the EU. 

Why

  • Insects are a nutritious and sustainable source of lean protein. 

How

  • Flour and protein powder
  • Sweet and savoury snacks, like crisps, cookies and chocolate
  • Bread and baked goods
  • Protein-powered pasta
  • Burgers and other meat-like products 
  • Breakfast products, like granola
  • Pet food

Who

The good

  • Experts predict growth in the functional foods, bread, meat, diet-specific (e.g. paleo, keto) and specialty food segments in the next five years. 
  • Insects are also a promising but currently underused ingredient for restaurants catering for health and sustainability oriented consumers, hungry for new experiences.  
  • There may also be untapped opportunities in the children’s food product market.  

The bad

  • Many adult consumers still need more time to get over the ick factor and embrace bugs in their natural form. 
  • The legal framework is still evolving, resulting in shifting regulatory requirements and guidelines at national level. 
  • The changes at EU level could also mean that the sale of certain insects, like ants or wasps, may no longer be permitted. 

The bottom line

  • As the legal framework becomes clearer, insects will provide a great opportunity for brands or restaurants looking to offer customers alternative protein sources - just check your clients’ openness to bugs au naturel or pack a protein punch through powders or processed formulations.

Written by
Laura Robinson

From policy geek to digital consultant, Laura has always enjoyed bringing people together through words or tools to drive positive change. She is most proud of finally taking the leap into entrepreneurship by founding Pink Pear Agency - a network of passionate specialists who help food businesses grow innovative projects and share their stories with the world. Laura is currently interested in project development and management, digital tools, content strategy and copywriting.

Become a FoodHack+ member to get unlimited access

  • Read Unlimited Articles
  • Access Member Directory
  • Get Event Discounts

It’s a must-do for anyone travelling through Asia. Track down the local market and take your pick. In Korea, you might find silkworm pupae soup. In Japan, baby grasshoppers. Thailand will treat you cockroaches or bamboo worms. Cambodia? Fried tarantula.  

While locals see them as delicacies or staples, Western consumers have always struggled with the ick factor. But things are starting to change. Back in 2013, the UN proclaimed that insects were the food of the future. Since then, A $112 million global market has emerged and is expected to grow at over 47% CAGR between 2019 and 2026. Today, even leading retailers like Sainsburys are stocking smoky BBQ roasted crickets alongside their summer selection of beers and wines.  

So this week, we take a look at which crunchy critters are making it on the menu and how innovative brands are working hard to make insects the next bug thing in food. 

 

Trend drivers: a healthy and sustainable source of lean protein 

Insects are incredibly nutritious. They’re full of vitamins and minerals, low in saturated fat and pack a powerful protein punch. Cricket flour, for example, contains twice as much protein as beef, boasts more iron than spinach, more calcium than milk and as much omega-3 as salmon. The rising popularity of paleo and keto diets has also left many consumers eager to experiment with alternative proteins - something that insect companies have been quick to highlight in their marketing messages and content strategies. 

 By 2050, we also need to find a solution to sustainably feed over nine billion people. Insect farming uses significantly less water and land than traditional farming. The production of mealworms, for example, also emits fewer greenhouse gases than other animal proteins and crickets typically need twelve times less feed than cattle to produce the same amount of protein. Plus a huge 80% of insects can be eaten, compared with just 40% for beef, meaning more bang for your buck and less waste. 

 

So what bugs are we talking about? 

According to the FAO, there are around 1900 edible insect species and around 2000 are currently eaten across the world. Grasshoppers, caterpillars, beetles, wasps, bees, tree bugs and ants remain some of the most common categories. Grasshoppers in particular can contain up to 77% protein, which has made them a go-to option for many insect entrepreneurs. While crickets and mealworms also remain popular choices, especially in the European market.  

 

But what do they taste like? For those of you who have not yet munched on a mealworm, apparently they’re distinctly hazelnutty. Grasshoppers supposedly taste more like chicken. And cricket converts will tell you they have a popcorny flavour (who knew?). 


Snacks and treats, chefs’ creepy crawly creations - and pet food 

One of the biggest barriers to bug munching is the unusual mouthfeel. So one of the most common applications is flour and protein powder. Thanks to insects' easy solubility and relatively neutral base flavour, these flours can be easily transformed into popular snacks and treats - from crisps and energy bars to chocolate, cookies and macarons. Paris-based Jimini’s even developed a buffalo worm enriched granola. While others have been experimenting with creating butter from black soldier fly larvae.  

Insects are also crawling their way onto restaurant menus. Chef René Redzeppi from award-winning Copenhagen-based Noma developed a new signature dish, using sour ants to spice up his beef tartar - and it quickly became a foodie sensation. Numerous other chefs have since followed his lead, resulting in all manner of creepy crawly creations - from crickets on couscous and black ant guacamole to honey and bumblebee ice cream and ant-infused salt and tequila cocktails. 

But Hugo Walters took things a step further still. After struggling to find a sustainable solution to feed his two cats, he launched a crowdfunding campaign to create an insect-based pet food. Exceeding his fundraising target by 250k, his company Aardvark is now due to launch in autumn this year and has already set up a partnership with VC backed insect farm, NextProtein, to create their first range of products. 


Insect innovators: Essento and Krikets

Christian Bärtsch and Matthias Grawehr discovered edible insects while travelling. As soon as they touched down in Switzerland, they made it their mission to bring bugs to European dinner plates. After helping to reshape the Swiss legal framework and launching their first products in 2017, Essento’s range now includes dried insects, burgers, snacks and protein bars. They were quick to recognise that consumer education was just as important as nailing a mouthwatering product. And their investment in events, workshops in schools, a cookbook and collaborations with leading restaurants has certainly paid off. Essento has seen a marked change in Swiss consumers’ willingness to munch on mealworms. After bagging a place in the top 10 product innovations at Anuga, the team is now looking for new retail partners to expand their distribution network in Germany, following a successful collaboration with burger chain Hans im Glück last year.   

Belgium-based company, Kriket, bagged seventh place in this week’s FoodHack Discovery Board. Their snack bars made of cereals, nuts, grains, seeds and - yes, you guessed it - crickets were launched back in 2018 after a successful crowdfunding campaign. Focussing their marketing on young consumers who want it all - their daily dose of goodness in a tasty product, while doing their bit for the planet – their product is now being sold in Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and the Czech Republic. In May, the team announced a partnership with Belgian retail giants, the Colruyt Group, to help their growing brand make it mainstream. 


A shifting legal framework and the next generation of bug lovers 

In 2015, the European Union decided that insects should be classified as novel food products, making them subject to a lengthy approvals process. Although some countries, including Belgium, the UK, the Netherlands and Switzerland, decided to allow their marketing and consumption, national restrictions have curbed market growth. But insiders expect that the European Food Safety Authority will authorise their sale across the EU in the next few weeks, opening up new market opportunities.  

In terms of product development, experts see potential in the functional foods, baked products, meat, diet-specific and specialty food segments in the next five years. Studies have also highlighted a particular opportunity in the children’s food market. Less affected by the ick factor, there may be good returns for budding bug entrepreneurs who focus on growing the next generation of bug lovers and develop products that win over the alternative protein purchasers of the future. 


The 30-second pitch: edible insects


What

  • In Europe, we’re mainly talking grasshoppers, crickets, mealworms and buffalo worms. 
  • The legal situation currently varies from country to country - but the Novel Food Committee is due to meet in October to standardize regulation across the EU. 

Why

  • Insects are a nutritious and sustainable source of lean protein. 

How

  • Flour and protein powder
  • Sweet and savoury snacks, like crisps, cookies and chocolate
  • Bread and baked goods
  • Protein-powered pasta
  • Burgers and other meat-like products 
  • Breakfast products, like granola
  • Pet food

Who

The good

  • Experts predict growth in the functional foods, bread, meat, diet-specific (e.g. paleo, keto) and specialty food segments in the next five years. 
  • Insects are also a promising but currently underused ingredient for restaurants catering for health and sustainability oriented consumers, hungry for new experiences.  
  • There may also be untapped opportunities in the children’s food product market.  

The bad

  • Many adult consumers still need more time to get over the ick factor and embrace bugs in their natural form. 
  • The legal framework is still evolving, resulting in shifting regulatory requirements and guidelines at national level. 
  • The changes at EU level could also mean that the sale of certain insects, like ants or wasps, may no longer be permitted. 

The bottom line

  • As the legal framework becomes clearer, insects will provide a great opportunity for brands or restaurants looking to offer customers alternative protein sources - just check your clients’ openness to bugs au naturel or pack a protein punch through powders or processed formulations.

Become a FoodHack+ member to get unlimited access

  • Read Unlimited Articles
  • Access Member Directory
  • Join a Global Community
UPGRADE NOW
Cancel anytime

It’s a must-do for anyone travelling through Asia. Track down the local market and take your pick. In Korea, you might find silkworm pupae soup. In Japan, baby grasshoppers. Thailand will treat you cockroaches or bamboo worms. Cambodia? Fried tarantula.  

While locals see them as delicacies or staples, Western consumers have always struggled with the ick factor. But things are starting to change. Back in 2013, the UN proclaimed that insects were the food of the future. Since then, A $112 million global market has emerged and is expected to grow at over 47% CAGR between 2019 and 2026. Today, even leading retailers like Sainsburys are stocking smoky BBQ roasted crickets alongside their summer selection of beers and wines.  

So this week, we take a look at which crunchy critters are making it on the menu and how innovative brands are working hard to make insects the next bug thing in food. 

 

Trend drivers: a healthy and sustainable source of lean protein 

Insects are incredibly nutritious. They’re full of vitamins and minerals, low in saturated fat and pack a powerful protein punch. Cricket flour, for example, contains twice as much protein as beef, boasts more iron than spinach, more calcium than milk and as much omega-3 as salmon. The rising popularity of paleo and keto diets has also left many consumers eager to experiment with alternative proteins - something that insect companies have been quick to highlight in their marketing messages and content strategies. 

 By 2050, we also need to find a solution to sustainably feed over nine billion people. Insect farming uses significantly less water and land than traditional farming. The production of mealworms, for example, also emits fewer greenhouse gases than other animal proteins and crickets typically need twelve times less feed than cattle to produce the same amount of protein. Plus a huge 80% of insects can be eaten, compared with just 40% for beef, meaning more bang for your buck and less waste. 

 

So what bugs are we talking about? 

According to the FAO, there are around 1900 edible insect species and around 2000 are currently eaten across the world. Grasshoppers, caterpillars, beetles, wasps, bees, tree bugs and ants remain some of the most common categories. Grasshoppers in particular can contain up to 77% protein, which has made them a go-to option for many insect entrepreneurs. While crickets and mealworms also remain popular choices, especially in the European market.  

 

But what do they taste like? For those of you who have not yet munched on a mealworm, apparently they’re distinctly hazelnutty. Grasshoppers supposedly taste more like chicken. And cricket converts will tell you they have a popcorny flavour (who knew?). 


Snacks and treats, chefs’ creepy crawly creations - and pet food 

One of the biggest barriers to bug munching is the unusual mouthfeel. So one of the most common applications is flour and protein powder. Thanks to insects' easy solubility and relatively neutral base flavour, these flours can be easily transformed into popular snacks and treats - from crisps and energy bars to chocolate, cookies and macarons. Paris-based Jimini’s even developed a buffalo worm enriched granola. While others have been experimenting with creating butter from black soldier fly larvae.  

Insects are also crawling their way onto restaurant menus. Chef René Redzeppi from award-winning Copenhagen-based Noma developed a new signature dish, using sour ants to spice up his beef tartar - and it quickly became a foodie sensation. Numerous other chefs have since followed his lead, resulting in all manner of creepy crawly creations - from crickets on couscous and black ant guacamole to honey and bumblebee ice cream and ant-infused salt and tequila cocktails. 

But Hugo Walters took things a step further still. After struggling to find a sustainable solution to feed his two cats, he launched a crowdfunding campaign to create an insect-based pet food. Exceeding his fundraising target by 250k, his company Aardvark is now due to launch in autumn this year and has already set up a partnership with VC backed insect farm, NextProtein, to create their first range of products. 


Insect innovators: Essento and Krikets

Christian Bärtsch and Matthias Grawehr discovered edible insects while travelling. As soon as they touched down in Switzerland, they made it their mission to bring bugs to European dinner plates. After helping to reshape the Swiss legal framework and launching their first products in 2017, Essento’s range now includes dried insects, burgers, snacks and protein bars. They were quick to recognise that consumer education was just as important as nailing a mouthwatering product. And their investment in events, workshops in schools, a cookbook and collaborations with leading restaurants has certainly paid off. Essento has seen a marked change in Swiss consumers’ willingness to munch on mealworms. After bagging a place in the top 10 product innovations at Anuga, the team is now looking for new retail partners to expand their distribution network in Germany, following a successful collaboration with burger chain Hans im Glück last year.   

Belgium-based company, Kriket, bagged seventh place in this week’s FoodHack Discovery Board. Their snack bars made of cereals, nuts, grains, seeds and - yes, you guessed it - crickets were launched back in 2018 after a successful crowdfunding campaign. Focussing their marketing on young consumers who want it all - their daily dose of goodness in a tasty product, while doing their bit for the planet – their product is now being sold in Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and the Czech Republic. In May, the team announced a partnership with Belgian retail giants, the Colruyt Group, to help their growing brand make it mainstream. 


A shifting legal framework and the next generation of bug lovers 

In 2015, the European Union decided that insects should be classified as novel food products, making them subject to a lengthy approvals process. Although some countries, including Belgium, the UK, the Netherlands and Switzerland, decided to allow their marketing and consumption, national restrictions have curbed market growth. But insiders expect that the European Food Safety Authority will authorise their sale across the EU in the next few weeks, opening up new market opportunities.  

In terms of product development, experts see potential in the functional foods, baked products, meat, diet-specific and specialty food segments in the next five years. Studies have also highlighted a particular opportunity in the children’s food market. Less affected by the ick factor, there may be good returns for budding bug entrepreneurs who focus on growing the next generation of bug lovers and develop products that win over the alternative protein purchasers of the future. 


The 30-second pitch: edible insects


What

  • In Europe, we’re mainly talking grasshoppers, crickets, mealworms and buffalo worms. 
  • The legal situation currently varies from country to country - but the Novel Food Committee is due to meet in October to standardize regulation across the EU. 

Why

  • Insects are a nutritious and sustainable source of lean protein. 

How

  • Flour and protein powder
  • Sweet and savoury snacks, like crisps, cookies and chocolate
  • Bread and baked goods
  • Protein-powered pasta
  • Burgers and other meat-like products 
  • Breakfast products, like granola
  • Pet food

Who

The good

  • Experts predict growth in the functional foods, bread, meat, diet-specific (e.g. paleo, keto) and specialty food segments in the next five years. 
  • Insects are also a promising but currently underused ingredient for restaurants catering for health and sustainability oriented consumers, hungry for new experiences.  
  • There may also be untapped opportunities in the children’s food product market.  

The bad

  • Many adult consumers still need more time to get over the ick factor and embrace bugs in their natural form. 
  • The legal framework is still evolving, resulting in shifting regulatory requirements and guidelines at national level. 
  • The changes at EU level could also mean that the sale of certain insects, like ants or wasps, may no longer be permitted. 

The bottom line

  • As the legal framework becomes clearer, insects will provide a great opportunity for brands or restaurants looking to offer customers alternative protein sources - just check your clients’ openness to bugs au naturel or pack a protein punch through powders or processed formulations.

It’s a must-do for anyone travelling through Asia. Track down the local market and take your pick. In Korea, you might find silkworm pupae soup. In Japan, baby grasshoppers. Thailand will treat you cockroaches or bamboo worms. Cambodia? Fried tarantula.  

While locals see them as delicacies or staples, Western consumers have always struggled with the ick factor. But things are starting to change. Back in 2013, the UN proclaimed that insects were the food of the future. Since then, A $112 million global market has emerged and is expected to grow at over 47% CAGR between 2019 and 2026. Today, even leading retailers like Sainsburys are stocking smoky BBQ roasted crickets alongside their summer selection of beers and wines.  

So this week, we take a look at which crunchy critters are making it on the menu and how innovative brands are working hard to make insects the next bug thing in food. 

 

Trend drivers: a healthy and sustainable source of lean protein 

Insects are incredibly nutritious. They’re full of vitamins and minerals, low in saturated fat and pack a powerful protein punch. Cricket flour, for example, contains twice as much protein as beef, boasts more iron than spinach, more calcium than milk and as much omega-3 as salmon. The rising popularity of paleo and keto diets has also left many consumers eager to experiment with alternative proteins - something that insect companies have been quick to highlight in their marketing messages and content strategies. 

 By 2050, we also need to find a solution to sustainably feed over nine billion people. Insect farming uses significantly less water and land than traditional farming. The production of mealworms, for example, also emits fewer greenhouse gases than other animal proteins and crickets typically need twelve times less feed than cattle to produce the same amount of protein. Plus a huge 80% of insects can be eaten, compared with just 40% for beef, meaning more bang for your buck and less waste. 

 

So what bugs are we talking about? 

According to the FAO, there are around 1900 edible insect species and around 2000 are currently eaten across the world. Grasshoppers, caterpillars, beetles, wasps, bees, tree bugs and ants remain some of the most common categories. Grasshoppers in particular can contain up to 77% protein, which has made them a go-to option for many insect entrepreneurs. While crickets and mealworms also remain popular choices, especially in the European market.  

 

But what do they taste like? For those of you who have not yet munched on a mealworm, apparently they’re distinctly hazelnutty. Grasshoppers supposedly taste more like chicken. And cricket converts will tell you they have a popcorny flavour (who knew?). 


Snacks and treats, chefs’ creepy crawly creations - and pet food 

One of the biggest barriers to bug munching is the unusual mouthfeel. So one of the most common applications is flour and protein powder. Thanks to insects' easy solubility and relatively neutral base flavour, these flours can be easily transformed into popular snacks and treats - from crisps and energy bars to chocolate, cookies and macarons. Paris-based Jimini’s even developed a buffalo worm enriched granola. While others have been experimenting with creating butter from black soldier fly larvae.  

Insects are also crawling their way onto restaurant menus. Chef René Redzeppi from award-winning Copenhagen-based Noma developed a new signature dish, using sour ants to spice up his beef tartar - and it quickly became a foodie sensation. Numerous other chefs have since followed his lead, resulting in all manner of creepy crawly creations - from crickets on couscous and black ant guacamole to honey and bumblebee ice cream and ant-infused salt and tequila cocktails. 

But Hugo Walters took things a step further still. After struggling to find a sustainable solution to feed his two cats, he launched a crowdfunding campaign to create an insect-based pet food. Exceeding his fundraising target by 250k, his company Aardvark is now due to launch in autumn this year and has already set up a partnership with VC backed insect farm, NextProtein, to create their first range of products. 


Insect innovators: Essento and Krikets

Christian Bärtsch and Matthias Grawehr discovered edible insects while travelling. As soon as they touched down in Switzerland, they made it their mission to bring bugs to European dinner plates. After helping to reshape the Swiss legal framework and launching their first products in 2017, Essento’s range now includes dried insects, burgers, snacks and protein bars. They were quick to recognise that consumer education was just as important as nailing a mouthwatering product. And their investment in events, workshops in schools, a cookbook and collaborations with leading restaurants has certainly paid off. Essento has seen a marked change in Swiss consumers’ willingness to munch on mealworms. After bagging a place in the top 10 product innovations at Anuga, the team is now looking for new retail partners to expand their distribution network in Germany, following a successful collaboration with burger chain Hans im Glück last year.   

Belgium-based company, Kriket, bagged seventh place in this week’s FoodHack Discovery Board. Their snack bars made of cereals, nuts, grains, seeds and - yes, you guessed it - crickets were launched back in 2018 after a successful crowdfunding campaign. Focussing their marketing on young consumers who want it all - their daily dose of goodness in a tasty product, while doing their bit for the planet – their product is now being sold in Germany, the Netherlands, the UK and the Czech Republic. In May, the team announced a partnership with Belgian retail giants, the Colruyt Group, to help their growing brand make it mainstream. 


A shifting legal framework and the next generation of bug lovers 

In 2015, the European Union decided that insects should be classified as novel food products, making them subject to a lengthy approvals process. Although some countries, including Belgium, the UK, the Netherlands and Switzerland, decided to allow their marketing and consumption, national restrictions have curbed market growth. But insiders expect that the European Food Safety Authority will authorise their sale across the EU in the next few weeks, opening up new market opportunities.  

In terms of product development, experts see potential in the functional foods, baked products, meat, diet-specific and specialty food segments in the next five years. Studies have also highlighted a particular opportunity in the children’s food market. Less affected by the ick factor, there may be good returns for budding bug entrepreneurs who focus on growing the next generation of bug lovers and develop products that win over the alternative protein purchasers of the future. 


The 30-second pitch: edible insects


What

  • In Europe, we’re mainly talking grasshoppers, crickets, mealworms and buffalo worms. 
  • The legal situation currently varies from country to country - but the Novel Food Committee is due to meet in October to standardize regulation across the EU. 

Why

  • Insects are a nutritious and sustainable source of lean protein. 

How

  • Flour and protein powder
  • Sweet and savoury snacks, like crisps, cookies and chocolate
  • Bread and baked goods
  • Protein-powered pasta
  • Burgers and other meat-like products 
  • Breakfast products, like granola
  • Pet food

Who

The good

  • Experts predict growth in the functional foods, bread, meat, diet-specific (e.g. paleo, keto) and specialty food segments in the next five years. 
  • Insects are also a promising but currently underused ingredient for restaurants catering for health and sustainability oriented consumers, hungry for new experiences.  
  • There may also be untapped opportunities in the children’s food product market.  

The bad

  • Many adult consumers still need more time to get over the ick factor and embrace bugs in their natural form. 
  • The legal framework is still evolving, resulting in shifting regulatory requirements and guidelines at national level. 
  • The changes at EU level could also mean that the sale of certain insects, like ants or wasps, may no longer be permitted. 

The bottom line

  • As the legal framework becomes clearer, insects will provide a great opportunity for brands or restaurants looking to offer customers alternative protein sources - just check your clients’ openness to bugs au naturel or pack a protein punch through powders or processed formulations.