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Edible insect industry primed for growth

Edible insect industry primed for growth

By Jenna, Blumenfeld, New Hope Network

Ever since New Hope editor Todd Runestad wrote about cricket bars in 2013, the edible insect industry has exploded. While in 2014 just one insect protein product exhibited at Expo West (Chapul), now dozens of companies have hatched business plans focused on entomophagy. From cricket chips to mealworm protein to bitters infused with toasted crickets, now swarms of products feature winged, six-legged critters.

“The industry is less than five years old, but it’s astounding how many companies brought products to market and received significant investments,” says Robert Nathan Allen, president of the 2013-founded educational nonprofit Little Herds. Indeed, the edible insect industry is garnering generous support from influential investors. Both Bitty Foods, makers of cricket-protein cookies, and Tiny Farms, a supply company dedicated to scaling insect farming, received investments from Arielle Zuckerburg (Mark Zuckerberg’s sister). And in March, cricket protein bar EXO raised $4 million in its Series A funding round.

But investor interest is just one aspect of the recent tide of bug-focused events, products and initiatives that indicate this industry is primed for growth. Here’s why we think this food trend has true potential.

First edible insect conference

The first conference in the United States entirely focused on entomophagy took place in Detroit from May 26 to 28. Hosted by Wayne University, the three-day Eating Insects Detroit conference aggregates edible insect manufacturers, researchers, nonprofits, nutrition experts and more to “provide everyone, whether experts or novices, with a better understanding of the culture of insects as food so that we can each go forward and inspire change,” according to the conference materials. Also on the agenda: sampling insect-containing products, of course.

Edible-insect documentaries abound

A slew of new documentaries have recently debuted, including “The Gateway Bug,” a Kickstarter-funded movie that garnered nearly $20,000. Likewise, the documentary“Bugs,” which depicts how insects can appeal to those interested in sustainability, policy and cooking, made rounds in the Tribeca Film Festival.

Like Food Inc. impacted the food industry—highlighting the proliferation of GMOs and factory farming—edible insect documentaries can help normalize entomophagy on a large scale, and can make the practice more palatable.

Nonprofit involvement

Consumer education is a large hurdle facing the edible insect industry. Many adults are conditioned to view insects as pests, rather than food, and believe they carry disease or bacteria.

Aptly named Little Herds is a nonprofit that focuses on education and being a resource to the public. “A big limiting factor to eating insects is of course the psychological taboo,” says Little Herds President Robert Nathan Allen, who says the organization participates in family friendly events like festivals and children’s museums. “The littlest kids—the ones who are three, four and five years old—grab a roasted cricket and start chowing down. The parents are the ones freaking out. This is a great opportunity to speak out and educate that insects can easily be incorporated into a variety of foods your kids love.”

DIY innovations

Mostly possible via crowdfunding campaigns, innovations for home insect farming systems are increasing in popularity. One such company, the Livin Farms Hive, even shattered their goal of $100,000 by bringing in $45,429 more. These companies help grow the edible insect market by empowering consumers to grow their own protein (and in many cases, feed their food scraps to insects), which helps make eating insects more mainstream.

 

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A.J. Ali

A.J. Ali, "The Wellness Motivator!" is an award-winning writer, producer, actor, host, voice over artist, emcee and creative visionary. He is the Founder and Executive Producer of EclipseVSC since 1999. A.J. is currently producing and hosting the multimedia wellness entity "Wellness 101" with a vision of helping to change the focus of healthcare in America from sickness to wellness (www.wellness101life.com). To launch the Wellness 101 brand, A.J. did the impossible. Starting with only $500, he traveled through all 50 states in 101 days June 16 through September 24, 2014 -- starting in Melbourne Beach, FL and ending up on a sun soaked beach in Hawaii after changing lives in all 50 states. His "True Champion's 30-Day Challenge" book is transforming lives nationwide (www.TrueChampions30DayChallenge.com). Now, Wellness 101 is taking human transformation to another level through holistic wellness. A.J. has more than 30 years experience in sports and entertainment as an athlete, artist and social entrepreneur. He has founded and owned two pro soccer teams and has spearheaded hundreds of successful projects. A.J. created and starred in the TV show "Good Fellas of Baltimore" on Fox in 2011, which raised more than $250,000 for charities in Baltimore and inspired fans to join the cast to help people in need. As an on-air talent and voice over artist, his enthusiastic love of people makes him believable and inspirational. As a wellness speaker and emcee, he is inspiring. An accomplished writer with a conversational style, his work is transformative. His 2007 song "Through the Darkness, Into the Light," compilation music CD "Survivor Celebration" and Survivor Celebration campaign helping cancer survivors won the coveted Hollywood FAME Award for National Community Service. As a philanthropist and entrepreneur, A.J. has raised more than $25 million for charities. He teaches his charity event success methods through a workshop called "MAKE IT RAIN." He is proud to be a U.S. Air Force Veteran (83-87). His mantra is "LOVE is the answer." He is an avid golfer.

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