agtech, foodtech, insect protein, edible insects

Industry Focus: Insect Protein

With the constant growth of the earth’s population, there has been a lot of pressure to come up with alternative sources of food using food tech. This is especially true when it comes to animal protein. Due to this pressure, insect protein has been suggested as a viable option.

Even the United Nations agrees that ingesting insects will help feed the growing population of the world. A report by the United Nations titled Edible Insects delves deeper into this matter. This report argues that since the world population is estimated to be up to 9 billion people by 2050, it is time to come up with alternative food sources.

Insect eating is suggested as a good way to fight world hunger. Not only are we humans encouraged to eat insects but it is also suggested as a good source of animal feed. Due to this, the insect protein processing industry is expected to have an influx of employment opportunities.

What are the advantages of insect protein?

Insects occupy less space, need less water and even produce less green house gases as opposed to livestock. Insects also have the added advantage of being able to thrive on organic side streams like manure and compost.

Insects also have a high feed conversion rate. When all of these factors are considered, it is more sustainable to pursue insect farming than livestock keeping. Moreover, insect protein has been found to be more nutritious than animal protein.

Fortunately, there is a variety of edible insects to choose from. Here are some:

  • Ants; these include honey pot ants, leaf cutter ants, and lemon ants
  • Agave worm
  • Bee
  • Beetles
  • Locusts
  • Caterpillars
  • Cicada
  • Cricket
  • Grasshopper
  • Cockroach
  • Termite
  • Bamboo worms
  • Dragon fly
  • Horn worm
  • Meal worm
  • Silk worm
  • Wax worm

These are just a few of the edible insects, but there are many more. However, nutritional value varies from insect to insect.

agtech, food tech, food innovation, edible insects, insect protein, caterpillar

Caterpillars are just one type of many edible insects that could function als viable sources of protein in the future.

Which insect has the most protein?

According to Precision Nutrition, termites top the list of insect protein sources. They are closely followed by grass hoppers. Flies, crickets, locusts, and caterpillars are also really good sources. Beetles, on the other hand, tend to have more fat than protein.

The insects with higher protein levels have lower fat levels and vice versa. Apart from protein, insects are also known to provide a variety of nutrients like zinc and sodium.

Where can you buy insect protein?

In some countries where insect eating has become more mainstream as in Asian and African countries, you can easily find these bugs in the local food market. However, in most western countries there has been a lot of resistance to insect eating.

Insect protein products can, however, be easily found on the internet on websites such as Amazon. These products come in the form of fried insects, insect flour, energy bars and snacks made from insect flour. There are also websites dedicated solely to selling insect foodstuffs.

These websites include EntoMarket and Edible bug shop.

Market research and growth

According to Global Market Insights, the global edible insects market was valued at over $33 million as of 2015, and it is expected to grow exponentially to over $520 million by 2023 giving it a CAGR of more than 40%.

This is attributed to an increase in demand due to rising health awareness among the general population. Edible insects are rich in protein, iron, zinc, magnesium, and sodium which have numerous health benefits.

Moreover, these insects have very low concentration of carbohydrates. They also contain oils and fats rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids. These insects would be a good source of proteins for bodybuilders. The growth of this market is also highly contributed to the low production costs.

These low production costs are due to low prices of transportation, deployment and raw materials. Of the many types of insects, beetles register the highest value. They were valued at more than $9 million as of 2015. Grasshoppers, on the other hand, are expected to grow a CAGR of 42% up to 2023.

Asia- Pacific (APAC) has the largest edible insect market with China leading while Thailand closely following behind. The edible insect market in APAC is estimated at over$10 million as of 2015.

Companies that produce edible insect products

As time passes by, the number of companies specializing in the insect protein industry is gradually increasing. However, there are some companies that are almost synonymous to insect protein. The companies which are influential in this market include the following.

  • Chapul Incorporation: This U.S based company is known for its award winning Chapul Cricket bars made from cricket flour. This is one of the most successful companies in the edible industry business and has won several awards. This company was founded in 2012 by Patrick Crowley, and he is known for introducing the first cricket energy bar to the world.
  • Exo Protein: This company was founded in 2014 and is based in New York City. It is one of the pioneers when it comes to insect protein. It is known for its delicious protein bars, and it uses crickets as its source of insect protein.
  • Gathr Foods: This company is based in London in the United Kingdom. It pioneered production of edible insect protein bars in the K, and its protein bars have gained popularity. It was founded by Danish entrepreneur Christine Spliid in 2015, and it uses cricket flour to make its protein bars under the brand name Crobar.
  • Six Foods: This U.S based company was founded in 2013 and came up with the first chips made up of cricket flour. Their tortilla chips are known as Chirps and are gaining popularity.

Job opportunities

Job opportunities are steadily increasing in this industry. Several opportunities are listed here.

Research technician at University of Arizona

The University of Arizona Entomology department needs a research technician to help them to continue with their research on insect protein as an alternative source of food. The technician will be expected to help in managing of rearing of insects as an alternative source of protein for human consumption.  You can learn more about this position and apply for the job here

Insect rearer

This job involves rearing of insects that are then used as a source of protein. This job usually requires an education in Entomology or environmental sciences. Such job opportunities are available at insect farms like the Next Millennium Farms.

Chefs

Every company that sells insect protein products usually has an in house chef to prepare the insects. The chef does all the cooking to ensure the best outcome with regards to flavor. This will require skills in the culinary arts.

University programs

To work in the edible insect industry, you will typically need some education in entomology or environmental studies. This is especially important when you are dealing with the rearing of these insects and researching.

However, during the manufacturing process of the food many other degree programs will prove useful. Here are some programs that will get you out.

Undergraduate programs

Auburn University (US): Minor in Entomology

University of Arizona (US): Minor in Entomology

Harper Adams University (UK): Bachelor of Science in Zoology with Entomology

Masters programs

Auburn University (US):  Masters of Science in Entomology

Keele University (UK): Masters in Entomology

University of Reading (UK): Masters of Science in Applied Entomology

University of Reading (UK): Masters of Science in Entomology

Doctorate programs

McGill University (CAN): Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Entomology- Environment

Conclusion

The insect protein industry is rapidly growing and is one that offers endless possibilities while giving a healthy and sustainable solution to the problem that is world hunger. This is definitely an industry to watch out for, especially with the rising health awareness among consumers.

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If you liked this article, you might also be interested in our feature on meat or egg substitutes.

Theresa Kern

Theresa Kern

Business Development at beta|careers
Theresa is a management student and team member of the 2017 class at beta|careers.

Her responsibilities include growing and nurturing our platforms and, occasionally, taking care of bus tickets for the team. In her free time, she can be found on horseback out in the woods.
Theresa Kern

Agtech, Ecosystem Basics, Foodtech