Insects as a Food Start-up Revolution?

A few months ago we posted a story about Absolutely Famished – An Exploration of Future Food, an event held at Carlton Connect at Melbourne Uni. One of the features of that was what the limits of edibility and food sustainability are? One of the options explored was insects as a source of food. Now, start-ups in Germany are exploring the same possibilities.

Read our previous post: Absolutely Famished – An Exploration of Future Food

Clearly, in Germany people are more accustomed to eating a schnitzel than deep fried insect, so its not surprising that start-ups offering such an alternative are relatively few. There are many people here who shake their heads in disgust at the thought of eating a worm or a crust. Although insects are part of a traditional diet in many countries–about two billion people eat the crab animals worldwide. But in Germany, grasshoppers, mealworms, and the like are rarely found on the plate.

For years, the advantages of insects as a food source have been pointed out. As early as 2013, the World Food Organisation (FAO) published a report calling for insects to be eaten as a source of food. On the one hand, the raising of insects is considered to be more environmentally friendly than livestock such as cows, since they require less space, water and food, therefore releasing less greenhouse gases than animal husbandry. At the same time, insects such as crickets have a lot of protein, healthy fatty acids and minerals.

“They are better than meat,”

said Arnold van Huis, entomologist at the University of Wageningen.

But where are the insect start-ups? One problem is that the diet with insects has not been extensively researched. Critics point out that they do not know what the long-term consequences might be. For example, incompatibilities are possible: People who are allergic to crustaceans may also show reactions in insects. Also, any possible toxins that insects absorb in their environment could also be passed on to humans.

In addition, the law on the sale of insects in the EU has not been clarified, until recently. It was unclear whether insects fall into the category of novel foods because they were not named by name in the so-called Novel Food Regulation.

One German start-up which has dared to go into the insect market was founded by Folke Dammann. The company has been offering grilled mealworms and buffalo worms since 2013. While he co-financed his shop with other projects, the business is now self sustaining.

But, “insect consumption is still a niche market, we do not have to do anything,” Dammann admits openly. “Not everyone wants them to eat.” But he thinks that dietary habits could change, as happened in the past with sushi.

People are less likely to eat whole insects than to try out the latest super food smoothie. The founders of Bugfoundation want to bring humans in Europe to insects as food in the form of a burgers. Since 2014, Baris Özel and Max Krämer have been developing a burger pattie that consists of up to 50 percent ground buffalo worms.

So far, it has been distributed in only a few restaurants in Belgium and the Netherlands. For research with insects as food, the two got money from the EU, which they are currently financing.

In Cologne, two friends are developing insects as food: Timo Bäcker and Christopher Zeppenfeld want to produce a protein bar with insects under the name Swarm Protein. More specifically: a bar of ground grilled worms, of which up to 100 are placed in one of the snacks. The bars are mainly aimed at sportsmen and are not yet available for sale. In the summer, however, the two entrepreneurs want to enter the market in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

“We realise that people want to know more about insects and the ways to eat them,” says Bäcker.

Photo credit: Material used in the preparation of this article has been drawn from Gruender Szene.


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