Edible insects: Let’s look at what’s on the menu
It is possible to make an educated that energy bars, which have been the focus of entomological attention since the inception of insect startups, will still be around. As a great source of protein—they contain proportionately more than any other animal—bugs have great utility as body-building supplements.
There are many notable energy bar producers, such as the American pioneers Chapul, and the reigning superstars, Exo, which was recently financed to the tune of over US$5m by investors.
There are also many energy bar producers outside of America. From Iceland (Jungle Bar) and Poland (Ronzo) to Australia (EcoBar), it seems that many think that turning processed crickets into a sports supplement is a safe bet.
However, is this really the right way to go? Crickets might be a little too expensive to be used in a supplement. Also, I’m not sure if there is sufficient demand for all these cricket bars, in a market that is still in its early stages (we have counted as many as seven cricket energy bar brands on sale in Britain alone).
But let’s leave the fitness and snack arena and move forward in our culinary adventure, starting with an aperitif.
Critter Bitters is about to launch a unique cocktail ingredient made with toasted crickets, and have already received US$25,000 through crowdfunding.
Next, some finger food: how about crackers—or Crickers, to be exact—made with almonds, arrowroot, tapioca, sesame, honey, apple cider vinegar, sea salt and, of course, cricket flour.
How much cricket flour? It doesn’t say on the label, probably because there isn’t very much. Cricket flour percentages are a weak element in the bug food industry at the moment. Most products only contain 5-10% crickets because of the substantial cost of producing the flour, which is still done in an artisanal, handmade way, and is far from being optimised and carried out on an industrial scale.
Now it’s time for the main course. What’s on the table? Pasta, of course! There are a few options here: from rice flour and cricket flour (Thailand Unique); one from a more traditional wheat flour and cricket flour blend (Bugsolutely, my product, with 20% cricket flour); and a peculiar combination of worm flour and wheat flour (Aldento).
As for the sauce, let’s try a mealworm bolognese sauce from the Canadian One Hop Kitchen.
For those of you who need a meatier dish, thanks to the Belgian Damhert supermarket, we can choose between schnitzel, nuggets, meatballs or a burger—all made from worm flour (or buffalo bug flour, in the case of the burger).
For dessert, there is a wide variety of insects dipped in chocolate and candies from Hotlix, an American company with international distribution.
You might even fancy some cocoa cricket cookies? So do many others, according to Canadian company Bitty’s online shop, where the product has sold out. Bitty also makes a line of biscuits with cricket flour and sweetened with coconut sugar.
You think that was a weird culinary trip? Don’t forget, the majority of the world’s population eats insects, and westerners are the minority. But maybe not for long, as Josh Bentham, co-founder of Mophagy, a British edible insect retailer, tells me.
"Consumers are becoming more aware of cricket powder and the taste, nutritional and sustainability benefits it offers. It is very encouraging for the growth of the market to see the true positive reactions from consumers,” he says.
“When you remove the 'yuk' factor of the whole insect, instead presenting a familiar looking and nutty smelling powder, it allows people to relax and focus on how they would incorporate it into their diet using the incredible number of recipes out there."
- Massimo Reverberi is the Italian founder of Bangkok-based Bugsolutely, which manufactures pasta from cricket flour.