Irresistible Insects #2: The Global Market
The insect companies taking the world by "swarm" are......
Happy Tuesday Market Shakers!
We’re back with our second installment of edible insect insights. This week we’ll be introducing you to the insect-based product markets around the world before deep diving into Japan next week.
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The edible insect category is still new; a space full of pioneering startups who are iterating through different types of products and looking for major success. Meanwhile, many large F&B corporations are watching from the sidelines and funding startups rather than directly entering the market themselves. In order for you to get to know the market for insect-based products, we’ll introduce some of the pioneers today.
We will showcase exciting companies that are making products across the range of applications we discussed in our first post. We will also give an overview of the regulations surrounding insect-based products as this is an important factor for the future growth of the market.
The North American region has a lot going on in the edible insect space. Several major insect farming ventures are currently growing rapidly. Beta Hatch raised $10 million to build the largest mealworm farm in the US, and Aspire Food Group received $10 million of investment to build the largest automated, food-grade cricket processing facility in the world. The region also has plenty of insect-based F&B startups for us to introduce to you. Look out, American plates and pet bowls, because you’re in store for an insect-filled future!
With that said, there are no specific rules surrounding edible insects in the USA. Import and sale are permitted as long as the insects used in food have been raised for that very purpose. Canada does not consider insects as a novel food, so there are no lengthy approval processes required for production.
Exo Protein was founded in 2014 in New York. They manufacture paleo-friendly cricket-based protein bars that are enriched with cricket flour. The bars deliver 10 grams of protein each and are available in the flavours cocoa nut, banana bread, PB & J, blueberry vanilla, and apple cinnamon.
Exo’s product marketing emphasises the unique nutritional profile of crickets such as the rare prebiotic, Chitin, to compete in the fiercely competitive protein bar market which is estimated to be worth close to $3 billion in North America alone.
Founded by 3 college friends back in 2013, Chirps make sriracha, cheese, and other flavoured tortilla chips enriched with cricket protein. The founders hope to make entomophagy mainstream in the states.
Chirps received $100,000 after appearing on the US TV startup funding show, Shark Tank, in 2017. This helped them land their products in stores across the US, including Kroger grocery stores.
The company has also since launched a protein powder line in addition to baked goods: cookies and brownies.
Mighty Cricket was founded in 2018 with a vision to build a clean and equitable protein supply. Their unique product offerings include cricket-powder enriched breakfast products such as pancake mix and oatmeal. Plus, they even sell cricket protein powders.
Mighty Cricket has expanded into retailers in Missouri, with plans to expand nationally while developing local cricket farms that do not import from Thailand.
Entomo Farms is a Canada based insect-farm company that expanded into human food products in 2014. The company produces a range of cricket-based products, including powders for B2B and B2C, whole roasted insects, and cricket-enriched corn puffs which are sold under their consumer brand, Actually Foods.
The company already supplies cricket powders to some of the largest insect-based product companies including EXO Protein and Chapul.
HOPE Pet Foods
One company betting on the growth of the insect-based pet food market is HOPE, a Canadian startup founded in 2020. They sell a sustainable dog food product, Berry Bugulicious, which is made from insect-based and plant-based proteins.
Insect-based products in the pet food industry are currently limited to 2% of the market in the US due to lagging regulation activities, according to industry expert Phillip Cooper. However, the pet industry boomed during the pandemic, making this a promising space as consumers become increasingly conscious about their pets’ ecological paw prints.
Traditionally in South America, insects such as grasshoppers, beetles, wasps, and ants are consumed. And despite being the world’s second-largest market for edible bugs, there are still only a small number of edible insect startups on the continent, mainly based in Mexico.
There is also a lack of formal regulation in South American countries relating to edible insects for human consumption.
Nurtisectos was founded in 2013 in Guadalajara, Mexico. A producer of protein powders and flours to sell B2B, they focus on producing a high-quality product that their partners can rely on. At the moment, says CEO Hector Jiminez, the edible insect industry faces a frustrating lack of consistency in raw materials.
Standing for ‘Costa Rica Insect Company’, CRIC was founded in 2018 by Anelia Arias and Alejandro Alvarez. They produce and sell a high-protein cricket powder targeted at those following paleo and keto diets.
The CRIC team believes insects are THE sustainable protein source of the future. They have been instrumental in changing Costa Rican law to allow the production and sale of edible insect products. CRIC utilizes a low-cost, sustainable farming model to support local farms to raise the crickets which they use to make their product.
Totolines produce a range of cricket-based and grasshopper-based tortilla chips. Flavours range from those such as Chipotle Chilli to Italian Herb. The Mexican-based company gets their raw materials from sustainable farms in Mexico including Griyum, a Mexico-based company that produces cricket flour for B2B.
Europe is at the forefront of the edible insect industry, having done a lot to advance regulation of insect-based products. Given regional support, Europe has some of the world’s largest players such as“soonicorn”, Ÿnsect, and Protifarm. Forecasts expect 390 million Europeans to be consumers of insect-based products by 2030.
The EU recognized whole insects and their ingredients as novel foods in 2018, and approve the yellow mealworm as the first insect suitable for human consumption in 2021. Information about country-specific regulations surrounding insects within the EU can be found here.
Bugfoundation was founded in 2014 by Baris Özel and Max Krämer, two individuals who aspired to get insects recognized as food for human consumption. The pair finally launched their buffalo worm-based burger following the EU's recognition in 2018 of insects as a human consumption-friendly novel food. Their burger was sold across supermarkets in Germany such as Penny and Rewe.
Isaac Nutrition was founded in 2017. The company uses cricket protein to provide dietary supplements including protein powders, protein bars, and protein porridges.
They offer a high-end product that emphasizes the functional benefits of insect protein, their target being athletic customers who are willing to pay a premium for cutting-edge products that are also sustainable. The company uses attractive packaging and trendy social media marketing to develop a premium brand image.
Ÿnsect & Protifarm
Founded in 2011, Ÿnsect has grown into the world’s leading producer of premium, high-value insect ingredients to be used in food for humans, pets, fish, and plants.
They use proprietary insect-rearing and processing tech, which ensures zero waste. To date, Ÿnsect has $105 million worth of contracts signed to supply customers, including Skretting – the largest global fish feed company, and wine producer Torres.
In 2021, Ÿnsect acquired Protifarm, the Dutch producer of insect-based proteins used in products such as isaac Nutritions’. In an interview with Agfund News in 2019, Protifarm’s CEO, Tom Mohrmann, explained how he believes that the popularity of flexitarianism will drive demand for insect-based products in the future.
In a few weeks, we’ll be bringing you an exclusive interview with Ÿnsect, so stay tuned!
Mars Petfood - Love Bug
‘Love Bug’ cat food is marketed with all the high protein, amino acid-rich benefits of insects, in addition to a sustainability angle. It is also made from black soldier fly larvae, the production of which takes up 80% less land than beef protein farming.
Africa & the Middle East
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization reports that insects for human consumption are barely regulated in Africa and the Middle East, where insects are consumed traditionally. Relevant religious scriptures of Islam and Judaism permit the consumption of insects such as grasshoppers and crickets.
Though the activity of insect-based companies in this part of the world is still limited, companies like Hargol Foods (below) and Flying Spark in Israel are ones to watch.
Hargol Foods (2014) is the world's first commercial-scale grasshopper farm. They focus on producing grasshopper powder to sell B2B while collaborating with producers to develop innovative insect-based protein products. For example, this grasshopper gummy.
Co-founder Dror Tamir says he works with partners on product development to help overcome the “yuck factor” of insects.
“The yuck factor is the industry’s biggest challenge…but I am convinced it will soon be widely accepted, just like eating raw fish in sushi was embraced.”
Dro Tamir, “The edible insects coming to a supermarket near you”, by BBC News
Southeast Asian countries have a tradition of entomophagy but do not have regulations relating to the breeding, sale, and export of insects. Thailand, the world’s largest breeder of crickets, released the guidelines for cricket farming (GAP – Good Agricultural Practice) in 2017. An English version is available here.
Cricket One - Vietnam
Cricket One was founded in 2017 in Hanoi, Vietnam. The company is all about sustainability and the nutritional and societal benefits of cricket production. They support a network of local farms by providing them with guidance and tech so they can earn extra income by raising crickets.
Cricket One produces cricket powders and oils to sell B2B. They are developing meat substitutes, such as burgers, from crickets. They plan to sell their burger in Japan, which they consider as the most promising market for insect-based foods in Asia.
Co-founder Bicky Nguyen explains how Cricket One’s success relies on a realistic approach to the application of their product:
“The first thing we do is we don’t try to sell the whole cricket….We present something that won’t attack customers’ vision or imagination….Things like bread, pasta and meat products, that’s the future of the market.”
Co-founder Bicky Nguyen, “This Vietnamese Startup Wants to Feed the World Crickets”, by Hive Life
JR Unique - Thailand
Founded in 2003, JR Unique has grown from a small startup into the largest manufacturer of whole insect products in Asia. Their product lineup ranges from mealworms and crickets to more exotic items such as scorpions, or even a whole tarantula. They also produce a range of protein powders for B2C and B2B markets.
Their products are sold globally under the Thailand Unique trade brand. We also found that they are one of the most popular international products in Japan, where they appear in discount store Don Quijote and insect vending machines.
Ento - Malaysia
Founded in 2018, Ento is a company that originally sold trendily-packaged, whole roasted insects in flavours such as Kimchi. They have since branched out into sales of insect-enriched bread, including sourdough.
As an insect-based, alt-protein company, Ento aspires to mimic Beyond Meat and are currently developing an insect-based burger. Founder and CEO of the company, Kevin Wu, aspires to be the world’s first edible insect protein company to launch an IPO.
Altimate Nutrition - Singapore
Altimate Nutrition was founded in 2020 by Biotech students Tan Kai-En Gavriel and Lee Qi Xun John. The pair used seed funding to develop cricket-based protein bars in flavours such as matcha green tea, double chocolate, and peanut butter cinnamon.
They are also the first company in Singapore to manufacture products using crickets, and are currently waiting for government approval to start the manufacturing and sales of their product.
Australia and New Zealand are also close behind in the insect-based foods race with several edible insect startups developing interesting products such as pasta and granola, in addition to proteins and snacks. In 2021, Australia’s national food agency wrote a detailed report on the strategic growth of the industry, suggesting great potential for edible insects in the future.
Australia and New Zealand share an agency for the maintenance of food safety, Fsanz, which has come to the conclusion that insects such as the super mealworm and the domestic cricket are not novel foods. Sale and import of insect-based goods are currently permitted, but regulations need to be clarified.
Eat Crawlerz was founded in 2013 in New Zealand by Daniel Craig and Matthew Genefaas. The brand offers products such as cricket flour, chocolate-coated insects, and seasoned insects - sourced from sustainable farms across South East Asia.
Since starting, they have expanded their line of products to include nutritious goods such as flour and pasta, now boasting one of the broadest insect-based product ranges on the market.
Hoppa Foods is a bootstrapped Australian startup that produces a range of cricket-based pasta and protein powders.
Hoppa was founded in 2018 by Channy Sandhu, who was to bring the sustainable benefits of insect-based products to the Australian market. Over the next few years, they are focusing on product development and expanding their products overseas.
Grubs Up was founded in 2016 in Australia by Paula Pownall, who has been awarded a Nuffield Scholarship for her work farming crickets for human consumption. The company runs its own cricket farm and sells whole-roasted insects and cricket salts via its website and several stockists.
Circle Harvest was founded in 2007 by entomologist and food scientist, Skye Blackburn, making it one of the world’s veteran-insect product companies. Circle Harvest sells a range of cricket-based pasta, cookies, and protein powders produced from crickets raised on their cricket farm in western Sydney.
Previously called ‘The Edible Bug Shop’, they rebranded to ‘Circle Harvest’ in 2020 after going through the ‘Mars Seeds of Change Accelerator’ program. Their branding now focuses on the nutritional and sustainable benefits of their products which can easily be incorporated into consumers' everyday diets, like cricket pasta.
Circle Harvest sells its products online and is expanding across stores in Australia.
This Australian pet food brand, Buggy Blend, incorporates insects, like black soldier fly and mealworm, with pumpkin and pea to produce nutritious food for dogs. Buggy Bix was founded in 2018 by a husband-and-wife team to address a gap in the market of insect-based pet food.
Buggy Bix is motivated to tackle the looming food crisis and unsustainable livestock production. Their product is sold online, alongside several brick-and-mortar stockists in Australia.
That’s all, folks!
Let us know in the comments if there is a company we couldn’t feature that you want more information on. We’ll see if we can feature them in the coming weeks.
Stay tuned for next week where we’ll be hunting insect-based product companies that are shaking up Japan!
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