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  • Writer's pictureMeyrick Consulting

Meal worms coming to a table near you

I tried to keep an open mind about everything but I’m really struggling with the concept of mealworms. Yes, I eat shellfish so why am I so bothered about mealworms? I suppose the clue is in the word mealworm; oh dear.

Transforming insects into premium, high-value ingredients attracts smart money

However, others are not so picky or dubious and in fact the smart money is on sustainable protein solutions. Ÿnsect is a company that has been in existence since 2011. Its pedigree is French and was founded in Paris by a group of environmental activists and scientists. Their aim was to transform insects into premium, high-value ingredients for pets, fish, plants, and human beings.

A potential long-term solution to deal with an impending issue

I suppose I was being disingenuous by beginning my article with a typical response to insects on the plate. However, Ÿnsect is likely to serve up something very different that we will barely recognise as critter shaped. They have been working on a long-term solution to deal with the impending issue of feeding a burgeoning global population that’s sustainable and kind to the planet.

Photo: gryffyn m

To this end Ÿnsect has created state of the art purpose-built vertical farms where Molitor and Buffalo mealworms are produced. Their outfit is also carbon negative which makes them a great fit for green investors. In fact, Ÿnsect’s employees have raised more or less $425 million from significant global investors who are taking these initiatives very seriously. With B Corp status already, it is aiming for the highest status regarding ESG.

On the hunt for human consumption authorisation

In 2021 Ÿnsect has acquired Protifarm demonstrating their plan to expand their mealworm production. Protifarm is a global specialist in using mealworms as an ingredient for use in food for humans. This acquisition will ramp up their manufacturing capacity now that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has passed mealworms as safe for human consumption early in 2021. Ÿnsect is now after human consumption food authorisation for its protein concentrate meal.

Antoine Hubert, CEO and co-founder at Ÿnsect feels that the EFSA authorisation is basically a green light for future approvals. He says that

“defatted insect protein represents the largest human food market segment in terms of value and volumes, especially in sports and health nutrition.”

Habit will change hearts and minds

Most people will still have a basic aversion to all of this, but I imagine we will simply get used to these ingredients being added to foodstuffs as technical functionalities. For example, Buffalo mealworm-based protein helps to improve texture and also binding capacities and solubility. We barely question so much of what is added to our foods in the main this may just be another ingredient on the list.

It's a matter of appropriate promotion and consumer education

On the other hand, those who are searching for additional forms of protein, especially in the sport and fitness industry may welcome what Ÿnsect are doing in these specific nutrition arenas. Hubert is sure that the pandemic has demonstrated how fragile our food production might well be in the long term. We had a small taste of shortages and what happens when the ‘just in time’ supply chain is disrupted.

The Suez Canal debacle also demonstrated how we have come to rely on certain channels that may not be fit for purpose in the 21st century. He thinks that ‘we need to produce more food with less available land and fewer resources. Many humans are already consuming insect products as a secondary food source, through the livestock and the fish consumed daily on a global scale. Therefore, making mealworms part of our common and primary food sources is just a question of appropriate promotion and consumer education. Photo: Johan Taljaard

Food production is definitely being transformed

Lab grown or cultivated meat is an area that is expanding and also attracting significant investment from the likes of Richard Branson. After all, this is hardly a niche that’s in its infancy. Back in 2013 the very first slaughter free or lab-grown burger was prepared and eaten. Now scientists have managed to create 15 ‘types’ of meat from kangaroo, lobster, duck and lamb. Lab grown chicken nuggets are also approved for sale in Singapore. Photo: Toa Heftiba

Ÿnsect seems to think they can fulfil all functions

It’s good to know that Ÿnsect have carefully curated their growth with Corp B standards as their bedrock. It is so easy to suggest that lab-grown meat will solve global food shortages but at what cost? Yes, we understand that meat production has led to deforestation, factory farming, antibiotic resistance and carbon emissions but can a lab produced foodstuff every be considered green or good for the planet. Ÿnsect seems to think they can fulfil all functions.

It is obvious the food and ingredients industry is transforming itself as a consequence of tech and some pretty profound challenges. I think it will be an extraordinarily exciting career for many people and will be very different from what it was when I first became a food and ingredients executive search professional. I now look for very different qualities and experiences. I believe education starts very young and schools should be teaching even more about how food is evolving and also the kind of careers open to the curious and the fearless. These are very exciting times for sure. Photo: Clark Tibbs

Organisations like Ÿnsect that are well funded and have an unique proposition in the market, can prove an exciting opportunity for people to develop their career in what inevitably will be a fast moving change driven culture. To make the move from a larger well established business may well require a leap of faith but the upside potential can be quite significant.

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