Following a public consultation exercise last year, the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) announced in April that 16 species of insects, including crickets and silkworms, will be approved for human consumption — subject to food safety requirements — in the second half of the year.
Currently, the import and sale of insects as food for human consumption are not allowed in Singapore.
The lengthy regulatory approval process has proven to be the final barrier for Altimate Nutrition, which has developed products that are ready to be mass manufactured once the green light is given.
“When we first spoke to NutraIngredients-Asia, we had just finished the R&D for our protein bars. Back then, we didn’t expect the approval to take more than two years.
“We started off with two flavours of the protein bar, Peanut Butter Cinnamon and Double Chocolate, and now, we’ve developed three new flavours — Matcha Green Tea, Almond Butter Nutella, and Mixed Berries. They are commercially ready, and our partner in Thailand is set to kick off full-scale production,” said Gavriel Tan, co-founder of Altimate Nutrition.
The firm’s portfolio also includes cricket protein powder, which claims to function like baking flour, while it looks to finalise the development of its cricket-based chips.
At the same time, the company is in the midst of securing distributors both in Singapore and overseas. Specifically, it has a team in London that is working on potential future expansion in the UK.
“We worked with University College London to administer a survey last year. About 85% of respondents said that they were willing to eat insect-based products, as long as they have the right value attributes, such as protein content, healthy ingredients, organic etc.”
For the domestic market, Altimate Nutrition will be focusing on e-commerce sales on its website, as well as specialty stores that retail niche, sustainable and organic products.
In addition, the firm recently partnered with local restaurant House of Seafood to concoct insect-based recipes, such as fish floss with crunchy crickets and black pepper crab with superworms.
Aside from crickets, Altimate Nutrition is looking into other insects, such as mealworms and superworms.
“There are more than 1,000 species of edible insects. We chose crickets for a few reasons. They can be easily found, they are one of the more widely studied insects, and they have significantly higher nutritional value. For example, in terms of protein content, crickets are about 70% while mealworms are about 50%.
“A lot of people have also asked us about black soldier flies. Many other insect companies are using them but as animal feed. It’s very challenging to convert black soldier flies into food products because they have a distinct odour that may be unsuitable for human consumption,” Tan shared.
Targeting early adopters
When it comes to consumer acceptance, Tan acknowledged that there will be people “who will never eat insects” and that the firm’s target audience are those who are willing to try novel food products.
“Even though we are still pending SFA approval, there are customers who have been contacting us to check if our products are available. Our focus is really on early adopters and consumers who are on the fence. For the latter, our role is to shed more light on insect-based foods in general.
“Furthermore, our protein bars are not just for fitness buffs. People can eat it as a meal substitute or snack. That is why we add chips to our line-up, so as to appeal to a wider range of consumers.”
As part of its efforts to raise awareness on food security and sustainability and insect farming, Altimate Nutrition is working with various government organisations in Singapore.
These include co-developing a learning journey programme with the Singapore Science Centre for local students to be better informed of these topics.