Insect protein makes a jump to the gourmet aisle with Jimini's apéritif snacks

By Niamh Michail

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition France

Insect protein makes a jump to the gourmet aisle with Jimini's apéritif snacks
While most insect products focus on hiding the insect content by using flours, French start-up Entoma sells Jimini's whole, spiced insects as a gourmet apéritif snack – a gamble that has paid off as they featured in Mintel's most innovative food products of 2015.

Marketed as a refined and upmarket aperitif snack, the products are sold in over 200 gourmet shops and department stores across France, and come in a variety of flavours from fruity curry or sundried tomatoes and pepper crickets  to sesame and cumin or garlic and herb mealworms.

Can ‘gross’ be gourmet?

Jimini's reassures consumers that the products are prepared without the use of artificial flavours and preservatives and are cooked according to a recipe that is “à la française.”

But it is the fact that the insects are left whole for the consumer to see that makes the company stand out, according to global market research company Mintel, which picked Jimini's as one of its top ten most innovative food and drink products​ from around the world.

In an online blog, Lynn Dornblaser and David Jago, directors of innovation & insight at Mintel said: “Although most consumer packaged goods products made with insect protein use insect flour, we do see some branded products that leave the insect intact. This line of flavoured crickets also includes a secondary line of flavoured mealworms.​”

Fun and jokes 'play down' the insect part

Communications officer, Raphaëlle Browaeys, told this publication that while the need for more sustainable sources of protein is increasingly urgent, the huge cultural barrier around eating insects meant that arguments regarding sustainable development and nutrition were not enough to make people try insects.

That’s why they came up with the idea of creating a product for the apéritif, or apéro. Browaeys explained that in France this means more than simply a drinking snack, and the website even has a section advising what kind of wine or beer makes for the best accompaniment

“In France [the apéro] is a typical friendly moment and people are eager to test new products and challenge themselves in groups. In addition, using fun and jokes helps to play down the insect consumption,” ​she said.

Jimini's website is currently only available in French but will soon be translated into English, in line with the start-up’s ambitions for 2016: although 80% of its sales came from France in 2015, the company has set its sights on foreign European markets such as Belgium, the UK, Denmark, Netherlands and Switzerland. This month will also see the opening of its new office in London.

Sports nutrition on the way

Nonetheless, the next step for Jimini's will be cricket-flour based bars, a territory which is a little more familiar for those who keep an eye on insect NPD.

The company launched a Kickstarter campaign last year​ to bring its range of energy bars to life, successfully raising over €22,000 from 346 backers by 30 December.

“We did hit the target 10 days before the end of the campaign and we were so happy,” ​said Browaeys. “We reached 110% of the objective. Thankfully we will be able to purchase new machines to produce and pack our bars in our own facilities located in France near Paris.”

Once the  cricket flour bars have been launched the company will turn its attention to high protein energy bars for the sports nutrition market. A range of cricket flour apéro crackers will follow. 

Jimini's insects are sourced from farms in the Netherlands. The company also sells a range of t-shirts and bottle openers. This is also a way to reinforce our community,” ​said Browaeys.

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