The company was founded in March 2020 by biotechnology students from Republic Polytechnic (Singapore), Tan Kai-En Gavriel and Lee Qi Xun John.
It currently has two SKUs ready for production, which are protein bars in two flavours (Double Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cinnamon). Each bar (80g) contains 12g of protein.
The company is currently awaiting approval from the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) to start production and sales. According to Lee, its protein bars are categorised as novel foods in Singapore.
Altimate Nutrition is hoping to start small-scale production in Singapore within the next six months. The protein bars would be sold on its online store first, followed by sustainable retailers such as organic supermarket Scoop Wholefoods.
“Most of the customers that go there are health conscious and ethical consumers, which are what we are targeting. So we aim to target these retailers first before we consider mainstream supermarket chains,” Lee told FoodNavigator-Asia.
Overseas, the firm has received interest from distributors in Malaysia for its products.
Protein of the future
According to Tan, the idea of developing sustainable insect protein supplements came when the co-founders were exploring ways to alleviate food and nutrition security around the world.
They studied alternative protein sources ranging from plants to insects, and eventually settled on cricket for its economic viability and nutritional properties.
“Cricket farming requires less energy, land, water, feed and they produce much less greenhouse gases compared to getting the same amount of protein from cattle.”
It also does not require high-tech equipment or much capital, making it an economic solution for developing communities.
“Nutritionally, crickets are a complete protein source, containing all the essential amino acids, as well as micronutrients like vitamin B12 and iron,” Tan said. Crickets contain about 70% protein.
He added: “In fact, iron is one of the world's most widespread nutritional deficiency. In the future, we can consider distributing insect-based products to developing countries to help them overcome this deficiency issue.”
Altimate Nutrition is the first company in Singapore to manufacture cricket supplements for human consumption.
There are several companies manufacturing insects such as black soldier fly and crickets, but mostly for animal feed.
Despite its environmental, economic and nutritional benefits, the ick factor remains a mounting challenge for companies producing insect food.
Tan said: “Some people associate consuming insects to emotions of disgust, fear or even poverty, but we feel that to overcome this stigma, it is important to educate and build awareness around the benefits of insects, not just for physiological health but also for the environment.
“How we overcome this is by marketing our products as an all in one nutritional supplement that will help strengthen food and nutrition security around the world, instead of emphasising on the product origin.
“This way, it will be a sustainable long-term approach, instead of having customers try it once or twice for the novelty factor.”
The company hopes to play a part in Singapore’s 30-by-30 mandate of producing 30% of the nation’s foods by 2030. “We want to be part of this movement as well to promote sustainability.”
Sourcing and future works
Altimate Nutrition sources cricket protein from Asia Insect Farm Solutions, which specialises in the production of crickets for the food, feed and petfood industries. The crickets are farmed in Indonesia.
The other ingredients in the protein bars are also sourced from ethical businesses in the South East Asia region, and are all organic with no preservatives or artificial flavours or colours.
The company will start small-scale production in a food lab first, before scaling up and considering cloud kitchens in the future.
Cloud kitchens are commercial kitchen spaces for F&B businesses to manufacture their products.
According to Lee, the company is currently working on a new line of products in the snacking and bakery segment.
“Recently, we conducted a survey to see like what the majority of Singaporeans consumed as a daily snack. We hope to take these daily snacks and push it to the next level in terms of nutritional attributes by incorporating our cricket-based ingredient and sustainability culture into new snack products.”
R&D is expected to begin in May, on potentially cookies, chips and muffin products.