“We did a study on Europeans and [concluded] that the "fear" of an insect in the capsule is lower than, for example, in protein bars,” Jacek Janicki, CEO of Ronzo, told NutraIngredients-USA.
With an increasing demand for nutrient-dense food products and more consumer consciousness about environmental welfare, Janicki added that cricket powder supplements geared towards bodybuilders has all the makings to break the insect ingredient out of the niche and into the mainstream.
Established in 2015, the company has launched protein bars and cereals with limited distribution in Poland. Its products and concept has won the startup many accolades, winning first place out of all of Poland’s entries for the EU-wide Climate Launchpad competition in 2015, as well as winning a spot as one of Poland’s top 23 startups.
A starting plan
According to Janicki, the biggest farmed cricket market is in the US, and during the product development phase, they found a US cricket farm that met their specifications for quality, and signed them on as the supplier.
“It has to be mentioned that crickets contain nine essential amino acids,” Janicki said, highlighting the ingredient’s health benefits. These amino acids are: Histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. Cricket flour is also reported to contain another eight non-essential amino acids, according to a 2005 paper in the Asian-Australasian Journal of Animal Sciences.
As of now, Ronzo is still tweaking with its formulation for the capsules. The first product slated to launch in the near future will purely contain cricket powder, Janicki said. After that, they plan to increase calcium and vitamins into the mixture “and make a product even more digestible for the body,” he added.
No official date has been announced, but the company’s website indicates that a crowdfunding effort on Kickstarter will come out in September, with plans to launch the supplement product in Europe and the US soon after their fundraising goal is met (which is still being determined).
What Ronzo is highlighting in its awareness campaigns is the environmental stewardship that comes with opting for insect-derived ingredients instead of bovine-derived (which whey comes from).
“Breeding insects uses less food and water than livestock. Insects also release fewer greenhouse gases and less ammonia into the atmosphere,” the company said on its website. “Our products are a combination of the demand of people for nutritional and healthy diet along with the improvement of the environment.”
Janicki is counting on the ingredient’s low carbon footprint and high nutritional value for consumer awareness, and he thinks bodybuilders (and anyone keen on building muscle and staying active), are the key consumers—early adaptors of new ingredients that have clout in the fit and active community.
“Our aim is to promote crickets as a substitute for artificial dietary supplements,” he added. “If we want to break barriers, we, as part of the food industry, have to continue promoting eating insects—until one of the big players finally invest big amounts, it will be hard to popularize products based on insects in a big scale.”
Crickets in the USA
A craze for all things crickets have swept startups in the US in the past five years, but it remains to be seen if it will be picked up by consumers. Companies like Exo and Chapul have paved the way for protein bars containing the nascent ingredient, positioning themselves as an active lifestyle product.
But demand and investor interest reported by the manufacturers signal promise that cricket consumption is expanding. After only one year of its existence, Exo secured $1.2 million of seed funding, and its founders witnessed surprising demand. In March of this year, Exo secured an additional $4 million through the accelerator AccelFoods.
The association’s founder, Robert Nathan Allen, had this to say about edible insects in the US: “We are forming the North American Edible Insects Coalition trade organization because the ‘OMG, eating bugs!’ phase is done and most consumers have heard of consuming crickets as an alternative protein.”