Sunday, August 9, 2015

Grimiam - Progressing Entomophagy in Switzerland

A recent research project invited three groups of people to attend focus groups to discuss the barriers and supporting enablers to eating insects in the West.  The full results of this research will be shared in a later post but one of the most significant barriers that was revealed was a lack of information.  To enable us to accept a new food, we need information about what it tastes like, how to prepare it, how to eat it, which other foods we might want to eat it with, what the nutritional value is and any other information that might motivate us to purchase and consume an unfamiliar food.

Food choice is a very complex process and often involves the following elements and more
  • Emotions
  • Finances
  • Culture
  • Convenience
  • Family norms
  • Context
  • Taste and texture preference
...and many more
food choice


The range of information needed to inform consumers is vast and when we are talking about a food such as insects which has not been in our culture since hunter/gatherer times, the information might need to be that much more informative and motivating to persuade us! The type of information that we see are adverts, product labels, supermarket promotions, blogs and websites.  All of which inform consumers to help them make a decision on their weekly shop.

The common denominator amongst these information channels is the government who ensure that the information meets a certain standard.  The government play a large part in agreeing policies and regulations that officially inform consumers about food safety, content and production which in turn allows the consumer to make a trusting and informed decision.


Grimiam


Some organisations in this exciting entomophagy movement are being founded to simply inform policy makers and consumers about the benefits of edible insects and the potential of them as a future food.  Grimiam, an organisation in Switzerland, was founded in 2013 for that very reason.  They are calling on Swiss policy makers and legislators for the development of a voluntary code of contact and a new legislative framework that accepts animals as food for human consumption! Grimiam have held a number of exhibitions, conferences, debates, info-booths, workshops, tasting sessions and produced publications and films around this subject.  They have influenced the launch of three inquiries to the Swiss Federal council.

For something to be really successful, work needs to be done from the bottom up and top down and a combination of innovative organisations and government decisions will help the edible insect movement move in the right direction!

Grimiam have certainly made some exciting waves in the entomophagy world in Switzerland.  In fact, the Swiss federal food safety and veterinary office (BLV) announced on 22nd of June 2015 that they back the sale of crickets, grasshoppers and meal worms as part of a planned revision of Switzerland’s law governing foodstuff.  That means that insects could be legally for sale in Swiss supermarkets starting next year. The BLV has initially limited the type of insects approved to the three most widely known and these have been trialed at small pilot events.

Grimiam events



Grimiam working to inform the government has not only advanced entomophagy in Switzerland but the transparency of information about edible insects will become accessible to consumers and in turn, consumers can start to feel happy and safe to buy insects as part of their weekly shop.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The First UK Snack Bar Made From Cricket Flour


Imagine a tasty, natural, filling energy bar that contains Superfoods and is so packed full of goodness that it could be used as a supplement for sports or as a guilt free filling snack.
Well you don’t have to use your imagination any longer because such a product exists right here in the UK
CROBAR is a natural energy bar which contains flour made from crickets and zero added sugar or preservatives. Previous posts have informed of the health benefits to eating insects so I don’t think I need to say too more about that but with their high protein & iron content and efficient energy conversion they make the perfect ingredient for an energy bar.
Crobars2
Founder of CROBAR and fitness fanatic Christine Spliid was dissatisfied with current protein bars using sugar and artificial ingredients, and decided to use a source of protein which had already gained a big following in the US, Netherlands and Belgium: insects, more specifically, roasted and pulverized crickets. Because crickets are very high in protein, the addition of a small amount of cricket flour makes for a sustainable way to add more protein to food products. The other ingredients of the bars include nuts, dates and seeds, and the bars will be free from added sugar, gluten and dairy.
“The challenge is always to make people take the first bite, but when they realize that Crobars taste delicious, are healthy and contain sustainably farmed protein, most people change their minds and don’t care about the fact that they are eating insects. By making the insects into flour, the yuk factor goes away, in the same way as most of the meat we see on supermarket shelves has been processed and looks nothing like the whole animal it comes from. People are very visual, so appearance and branding is key” says Spliid.
Spliid continues to explain that “Insects like ants, beetles, bees, crickets etc. are eaten by a third of the world’s population, and I believe by educating Western people about the health and environmental benefits, eating insects will catch on like sushi caught on in the West 30 years ago. Current meat production is unsustainable, and we would need another planet to produce enough meat in 50 years, if we continue in the same way. Farming insects is the solution to the needs for protein in the future”.
CROBAR is not only designed with values in sustainability but also health by avoiding added sugar and artificial ingredients. I can also confirm that they taste delicious and are incredibly filling.
Crobars
CROBAR has been launched with two flavours; Cacao & Chia as well as Peanut Crunch. More flavours will follow shortly and other products like bread and crisps are also in the pipeline. Available initially on  www.gathrfoods.com Let’s support a local and creative business by trying these tasty treats!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Be Part of the Buzz - Crowbar

In a previous post I mentioned some exciting insect products that are appearing on the market both in the UK and further afield.  Crowbar Protein is an Icelandic startup that produces food products made with edible insects. The company has been developing its first product, Jungle Bar – The Insect Powered Protein Bar, for almost a year and it has now become available via Kickstarter, the crowd funding website.


The bars are date-based with chocolate so already a great start to the ingredient list. Needless to say, they taste great! For those of you who are still on the fence about eating insects or concerned about the yuck! factor, you'll be pleased to know that you can't actually taste the insects.  Cricket flour is added to the protein bar recipe for the fantastic nutritional value, but as for the taste, you mostly just taste the dates, chocolate and seeds.



The main ingredients of Jungle Bar are dates, sesame, sunflower & pumpkin seeds, chocolate and cricket flour. Cricket flour is made out of crickets that have been dried and ground down to fine flour, which then is mixed with the other ingredients to make the final product.  You may ask why the cricket flour needs to be added at all.  Well, crickets contain vital nutrition such as protein, iron, calcium and omega 3 and 6 (good fat).  They are lower in (bad) fat than a lot of other protein sources.  All of that goodness in a protein bar will give you energy as well as contributing to your diet with the essential goodness that we all need to support our body and our brain.

Crowbar Protein was founded in 2014 after one of its founders, Búi Aðalsteinsson, got global attention for his concept art project called The Fly Factory. The Fly Factory showed how easy, affordable and sustainable it is to farm insects and make food out of them.  The media attention this project suggested to Aðalsteinsson that there was a real interest and demand for insects as food.

As well as producing delicious food, Crowbar Protein‘s mission is to educate people in the West about the individual and social benefits of eating edible insects, some of which have been discussed in recent posts.

Crowbar Protein recently sampled their products in this video below. It appears they found some willing participants on the street and revealed the secret ingredient after sampling (I'm not sure they would have got away with that in the UK).




I think you'll agree the Jungle bar looks and sounds great!  Why not support this innovative company by donating to support the development of the Jungle bar and future products.

www.kickstarter.com/projects/crowbarprotein/jungle-bar-the-insect-powered-protein-bar

More information on Crowbar Protein can be found on the media links below:

Daily Mail
Dezeen
BBC

Monday, March 30, 2015

Crunch Critters

If you've been following Twitter (@EdibleInsectnet) or Facebook (Edible Insect Network) you will have seen that I have been busy creating recipes with my insects from Eat Grub from sage roasted cricket and butternut squash risotto to mealworm British summer fruit crumble.  I even knocked up a quick mealworm fruit smoothie to help with my energy levels for running club. 20150330_18145820150330_192920I thought it time to try what else is out there on the ever growing edible insect market.


Crunchy Critters has caught my eye a few times due to the pure number of products they have available on their website.  It is mind blowing just how many edible insects there are and in what forms!  You can get tubs of things, tins of things, things covered in chocolate or chili flavoured!  I am saying 'things' because there really is so much to choose from.  Scorpians, tarantulas, locusts...and the list goes on.CrunchyCrittersI decided to order some chili flavoured Chapulines (small grasshoppers) and some Sago Worms.  I ordered these because they were things I'd never heard of before and I really wanted to know what other flavours and textures there were out there to experiment with.  I have to admit, when they arrived I was a little disappointed with the size in comparison to the price but that is because they have been shipped half way across the world for us to try. Crunchy Critters ship their products from Thailand, Mexico as well as a little closer to home in The Netherlands.  I shared the Chapulines with the focus group that I was running at the time and they chomped away at them quite happily.  They looked similar in size to the crickets that I had purchased in my previous order and they made a healthy and quite filling snack although I personally found them a little bitter to taste!  The Sago Worms had an interesting fatty type taste and weren't like anything I'd tried before.  I think because of the fatty taste and (very) slightly chewy texture, I could imagine these being used in meals as a meat replacement (although it would be an expensive meal - 7 Sago Worms for £4.99)  and I actually really enjoyed the taste.    
20150330_201338
Sago Worms
20150330_201444
Chapulines
I think Crunchy Critters are a great place to start to try such a diverse range of insects.  They are more of a novelty shop for now with items like 'Bush Tucker Banquets' and 'Frankenstein Fudge' but I can imagine that as local production becomes more affordable, this may change.  They are a great pace to go for a novelty gift or to simply try all the weird and wonderful insects available to us.  It is worth noting that they are shipped from quite far afield if you are concerned about food miles but all in all, it was a really great experience to try something completely new.
You can find them at www.crunchycritters.com and their website includes information on eating insects and nutrition.
Happy shopping!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Eat Ento


When I was researching existing literature for my masters thesis on the acceptance of eating insects in the West, one thing that kept interesting me was the fact that we have rejected certain foods in the past because they have seemed disgusting or just a bit weird but have later come to accept them as a very popular or even common food.  In fact, there was a book printed as far back as 1885 entitled 'Why Not Eat Insects?' by Vincent Holt and in this book he quite rightly questioned how lobster went from being something quite repulsive due to the fact that it is a 'foul feeder' to being found on the most upmarket tables around the world!  He also recalls there being 'an equally strong objection to the pig' thought to be an unclean animal.  'What would we do without the poor pig now?' he questions.  And that was in 1885!  I'm pretty sure there are more bacon butties consumed now than there were back then.

It is true that we have deanimilised or desensitized what we eat.  We don't refer to our meat as cow or pig, it's beef or pork and we rarely see the whole form of the animal prior to eating it and not many people have witnessed the abattoir process.  Needless to say, accepting insects in their whole form is difficult as we are not used to seeing our food in this way.  Although I believe it it is not a bad thing to get to know exactly where our food comes from, how it is farmed and what the process is, I understand that we all have a different threshold when it comes to these things.
I was interested recently to learn that a friend went from being a vegetarian to eating meat after rearing her own cow.  She found the process so touching that she couldn't understand why she wouldn't want to reap the fruits of her labor.


Another example that kept popping into my head whilst doing my research was sushi.  I am sure that the majority of us thought that eating raw fish was a rather strange thing to do and possibly a major health risk.  I'm also pretty sure that we didn't expect there to be a fast food sushi shop on almost every street corner in towns and cities.  Sushi is a great example of how a food we viewed with 'disgust' was turned into a popular, upmarket cuisine.  So what was the secret?  Well for starters Sushi was introduced as a work of art rather than a foreign cuisine.  It is fascinating  to watch the artistic chefs produce these sculptures of fish and rice in an open, clean kitchen with their slick knife skills and amazing attention to detail.  Sushi is also healthy and the Japanese are known as having one of the healthiest diets in the world.  Introducing a product that is expensive also puts it in that exclusive bracket, a bracket that we all want a bit of but it's just a bit out of our reach.  But it wasn't out of reach for celebrities or rich, trendy foodies who all want a low fat, high protein, exclusively expensive cuisine to keep their size zero figures.  As soon as sushi became more popular it was made more available and there you have it!  The success story of sushi in a nutshell.

So that brings me to Eat Ento!  Eat Ento is a food start up company based in London run by four friends who met at the Royal College of Art and Imperial College London studying Innovation Design Engineering.  They started a project to look at a creative approach to sustainable systems for food and food security and the outcome is really great.  You may have even seen them at various festivals and markets around the country in the past year or two.  Their mission is to change people's preconceptions about insects and to do this they are being creative with their product and design and are creating a stylish experience for consumers.  To hear about their innovative design and their future plans, check out this video:





video



Not only have they got a great product, representing sushi in it's cool art form and in its easy to grab Ento boxes complete with chopsticks but they are tackling our preconceptions with these healthy and intriguing cubes.  But what is really interesting about Eat Ento is their business plan.  They have recognised that this product needs to be accessible and easy to prepare so that people feel happy to try it AND they are looking to the future and planning to launch insect farming in the UK.  Eat Ento have also trialed a pop up shop in London which featured a wider variety on the menu.... with great success.  It might not be long before insect on supermarket shelves is as normal as a packet of bacon.... but without the guilt!


Eat Ento Caterpillar Cubes

Eat Ento Caterpillar Cubes







Thursday, February 19, 2015

Protein Supplements for the Adventurous

Hopefully this puts another interesting spin on edible insects for you!  Just in case you weren't already convinced!

One of my blog posts mentions the nutritional value of insects and explores the difference between some of our current proteins sources and available insects, for example crickets and mealworms.  It can't be denied that they are healthy and provide us with a great source of protein as well as providing us with essential vitamins, minerals and fatty acids.

 Another product that is talked about a lot at the moment is cricket flour.  As a really high protein product, cricket flour can be added to cakes or cookies to provide an extra hit of protein in your diet.  Don't be mislead here as the cakes and cookies aren't going to suddenly become good for you, despite you wishing that was the good news.  But if you're going to eat them, you may as well get some goodness in the process.

There is an important audience who would really benefit from insect protein supplements and that's athletes and bodybuilders!  There are a lot of fitness fanatics out there who pay attention to their diet, you might drink protein shakes or need to build up a lot of protein before an event.

Crickety Kale Salad.
Courtesy of Joel Butkowski
This article by   otherwise known as Girl Meets Bug is about why insects should feature in protein shakes, following a talk she did at the Society of Sports and Nutrition in Las Vegas.

Martin reminds us of the nutritional value of insects, particularly due to the fact that they are eaten whole and therefore we benefit from things such as calcium due to the digestion of the exoskeleton.

Martin's experience revealed a very enthusiastic audience, claiming that extreme athletes and body builders are keen to try new high protein food trends if it means optimizing performance.  Could this be the bridge to entomophaghy in the West?

It isn't just extreme athletes who will benefit.  Trekkers, rock climbers, mountaineers, anybody who needs healthy, protein rich food on the go.  There is an Icelandic company called Crowbar who started making noises back in September 2014 but their product list seems to be a work in progress.  Definitely one to watch!  There are a couple of great companies in the US and Canada too called Exo and Chapul.  It makes perfect sense, especially for those who are squeamish about eating insects in their whole form and these protein bars look really tasty.  It is worth reminding you that we all eat insects in our food already.  The Food Standards Agency gives an allowance for unavoidable insect fragments in the food we eat so why not add a little more and make it worth while.


As a thru trekker, I needed a lightweight, high protein diet for a 4 months trek and insects would have been perfect.  Bug Grub have packets of mixed insects with various different flavours that would keep a backpack light and make a nice change from nuts and seeds.  However, this company also seem to be a work in progress with lots of products awaiting images and showing as sold out.   However, it is a UK based company which is very encouraging.  Keep an eye on their website as things progress. Although I do have to add that they appear to currently source their products from Asia.  This may not be sustainable but it is supporting poorer economies so I'll leave that choice up to you!

Enjoy checking out these really exciting products!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Eat Grub


edible mealworms


If you haven't already checked out Eat Grub then you really should.  Talk about leading the way in Entomophagy! 


These two friends were inspired into the world of edible insects for very different reasons.  A combination of their media, marketing and charity backgrounds seems to have been a winning combination!  They understand that importance of sustainability and nutrition but they are also committed to making food tasty.  

The insects are currently all sourced from a farm in The Netherlands (although Eat Grub will be starting their own farm very soon - watch this space!). 

The products available include mealworms, crickets, grasshoppers,  buffalo worms and for the sweet toothed out there, there is some milk or dark chocolate fudge made with crickets.  The fudge is made here in the UK!  They even do a starter pack where you can have one of each of the four insect packets (minus the fudge) and save 10%.  This is a great way to try them all, experiment with some cooking!  The packets are quite informative about the flavour which is great when you are just starting up!  



Unfortunately, they may seem a bit expensive to some but that is the same with any product that is new on the market and prices include shipping from The Netherlands.  However, there are exciting new murmurs coming out of Bristol and other little corners of the UK about various insect farms which I will be sharing with you very soon.  If you want the prices to come down then the best thing is to buy lots and support the market!  



I mentioned earlier that Eat Grub are also keen to make the sustainable and nutritious food we eat even tastier and for that, they've only gone and got their own Chef!  Their website contains some amazingly useful information from the beginners guide to roasting insects to a recipe for curried tempura grasshoppers with sweet chilli sauce.   I have to admit to being a bit lazy with my recipe as I was simply using up the things in my fridge.  I fried up half an onion, added some kale and some of Jamie Oliver's Super Tomato and Olive Quinoa that I had started the night before and added the smallest amount of pesto and a squeeze of lemon. 




 I then gently fried some crickets in lemon juice separately so as not to hide the really lovely nutty shrimp flavour and voila!  It was REALLY tasty and I was pleasantly surprised out how flavorsome the crickets are.  



And just in case you think i'm being biased, you should check out their blog.  They opened their own pop up restaurant in March last year and it was a crazy success with positive reviews all over the media.  For those of you who still think this is a strange fad, think again!  It won't be long before we are all eating insects as a normal part of our diets so it's time to be brave, order a packet of crickets and get experimenting.  Let's face it, Eat Grub provide you with all you need, the ingredients, the recipe, the information and the inspiration!

Just when you thought Eat Grub couldn't get any cooler, they also support the charity Border Consortium, to help Burmese refugees make a living from cricket farms.  I'd be keen to know how you get on so please let me know.