BY ROBERT NATHAN ALLEN
FOUNDER, LITTLE HERDS
It’s been a busy summer here at Little Herds with our crowdfunding campaign for edible insect education, so while we’re a little behind we’re still very excited to continue our world tour of edible insects with FoodBev.
Last time we stopped in, we laid out some of the groundwork for how and why edible insects are being used in consumer facing products in western countries that have until now largely ignored or recoiled from insects as a food. This week we’ll begin our globe-trotting in the UK, where delicious new edible insect products are entering the market, exciting research is being done and “entopreneurs” are forming communities to collaborate and grow the Ento movement.
Interestingly enough the video that first inspired me to dive into the rabbit’s hole of edible insects back in 2012 was a project by design students from Imperial College London’s Royal College of Art, called “Ento – the art of eating insects”, which can still be found on Vimeo. This video lays out beautifully many of the same points I still use on a daily basis when discussing entomophagy with people who’ve never considered it before. That was four years ago, and very little was happening in England when it comes to bug-eating. That year, you start seeing media like the Independent covering world-class restaurants like Noma serving insects, and by 2013 chef Stefan Gates writes a great article for the BBC extolling the virtues of edible insects for the UK consumer. While the students that created the Ento Box video never took the idea beyond their project, by 2014 Neil Whippey and Shami Radia of Grub had gotten the idea to serve insects and were catering pop-up dinners in London to convince people to give crickets and mealworms a try. Chef Andy Holcroft also began a series of pop-ups promoting entomophagy that year, leading to exciting developments in the next year.
By 2015 things had really started picking up, with chef Andy Holcroft launching Grub Kitchen not related to Grub) that summer as the UK’s first and only edible insect restaurant, alongside their working educational farm, Bug Farm. Christine Spliid of Gathr Foods launched a crowdfunding campaign that year for Crobar, the first cricket protein bar for sale in the UK. Additional insect protein bar products began to become available to the public, from companies such as Yumpa, Bodhi and Zoic. While novelty insect products like scorpion vodka or chocolate-covered ants have been available at Selfridges and other retail locations in the UK for years, edible insect ingredients broke into the grocery sector in 2015 with Grub launching its line of edible insect ingredients at Planet Organic in 2015.
In 2016, Grub launched a successful crowdfunding campaign for their own protein bar, and also published “Eat Grub, the Ultimate Insect Cookbook”. In 2016, start-up Mophagy began selling whole and powdered insect ingredients and offering wholesale insect ingredients to the EU. Jimini’s, a French brand of edible insect aperitif and snack products, also began selling into Selfridges and Fortnum & Mason this year. Finally, the Woven Network, the UK’s only industry organisation supporting the insects for food and feed sector which had launched in 2015, had their inaugural Woven Conference with the Royal Entomological Society in April 2016, bringing all of the stakeholders and industry leaders in the UK together to discuss how to grow the industry and engage with new consumers and advocates.
For our next post we’ll look at some of the interesting marketing strategies employed by these UK start-up companies, share some take-aways from the experts at the Woven Conference and see who the target consumers are for the UK edible insect sector. We’ll also hear from some of these companies on how the Brexit vote could help or hinder the fledgling industry as it unfolds.
Until then, stay hungry my friends!
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2020