One of the most common challenges that the insect-based food industry faces, both in many countries in the Asia Pacific region and in the west, is the tendency for consumers to feel fear or disgust when considering eating insects – and Wu has seen much of this since starting Ento in 2019.
“Growing up in Malaysia and the United Kingdom, the concept of eating insects was a very new one to me as well until I went to Mexico City and tried some there, then realised how tasty it was and started wondering why this was still uncommon in the parts of the world I am familiar with,” he told FoodNavigator-Asia.
“Ento started off selling flavoured whole-roasted bugs but the ‘ick’ factor was really strong amongst local consumers in Malaysia, so since then we’ve evolved to using insect powder in more familiar food products such as bread or granola, and the response has been tremendously improved. It’s also basically proteinisation of the foods, as the insects are very high in protein content so makes them that much more nutritious and protein-rich.
“We’ve also created and recently soft-launched one of the world’s first insect-based burger patties, made with plant-based ingredients and proteinised with Ento cricket powder. It’s through familiar formats such as these, which consumers are familiar with, which we believe can drive insect consumption up and bring more people onto the bandwagon.”
When asked to make a comparison between an insect-based and plant-based diet, Wu said that although a balanced diet is always the way to go, there are still some advantages that insect consumption can confer which plant-based cannot.
“Insects are super high in protein, higher by mass for sure as compared to plant-based foods, and many studies have shown that insect protein is high in fibre, iron, Vitamin B12 and contains all the essential amino acids – these are certain components that will not be able to be found in solely plant-based products, so I think insects definitely has a part to play,” he said.
Wu is a lawyer by training, and also told us about his challenges making the transition into food entrepreneurship, encouraging any entrepreneurs in the industry to ‘definitely start as early as possible’ as well.
“I am involved in both the legal and furniture businesses, and I can tell you, selling insects is much more difficult that dealing with either of these. I often joke that if you can sell crickets, you can sell anything, [and] indeed I do believe that these lessons learnt at a young age are invaluable, from team management to marketing and so on,” he added.
“I would definitely recommend starting as early, as young as possible if looking to start a company whether in food or any other area – it is only possible when you can afford to take the risk without being tied down by family or other responsibilities, and the opportunity costs of becoming an entrepreneur really rise exponentially with age.”
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