Editor's Spotlight: Startup Focus

Startup Spotlight: German duo catch the bug for cricket protein

By Nikki Cutler contact

- Last updated on GMT

The co-founders at an insect farm
The co-founders at an insect farm
Two sports nutrition enthusiasts are creating a buzz around cricket protein in Germany after bringing insect snacks into stores.

Industrial design graduate Timo Bäcker and behavioural and experimental economics PhD Chris Zeppenfeld, have finally seen their dream become a commercial reality with ‘Swarm’ cricket protein bars going to retail in October 2018 after three years in the making.

The guys became obsessed with the idea of bringing the benefits of bugs to the Western world during their eight-week road trip around Vietnam, Laos, and Thailand in 2015.

Zeppenfeld told NutraIngredients: “Before going to Thailand, we already heard of the idea of edible insects from the FAO report ‘Edible insects’. This was in 2013. Initially, we regarded this as a kind of interesting but slightly odd food source. But we were intrigued by the idea of insects as an alternative protein source and in 2015 decided that we have to research it ourselves.

“This became the start of the most exciting time of our life. After experiencing the tradition of eating insects and visiting the farmers, we knew that we wanted to bring this novel food source to Europe. Albeit, in a more accessible way.”

Back home, and amped with antennae-filled bellies, Bäcker, an industrial design graduate and Zeppenfeld, an experimental economics PhD, teamed up with Dani Falkner, an old classmate turned sports researcher and nutritionist.

Government funding

Swarm insect bars

They funded product development with an Exist Start-up Grant from the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) and the European Social Fund (ESF).

They then carried out a funding round on Startnext in August 2017, which reached 1205 supporters and superseded the goal of 50,000€.

This allowed them to source the crickets from small farmers in Thailand therefore boosting the earning opportunities for the rural population. It also allowed them to produce the powder in Thailand, import it to Germany and produce the insect bar in three flavours in Germany.

Wrapped in a metallized plastic foil and packed in an uncoated paperboard box, all three flavours are now available in 100 Budni shops in Hamburg, Germany and online at: https://swarmprotein.com/​.

The team plans to expand retail to other supermarkets and online stores. Chris adds that expanding into other EU countries is ‘naturally the next step’.

“Our insect bar is ideal for recovery after your workout. It offers a balanced ratio of carbs to protein of at least 2:1,”​ says Zeppenfeld.

“Carbs come from dried dates and protein comes from dried crickets that got ground into a fine powder in Thailand. This powder is then incorporated into a high-quality fitness bar in Germany. Of course, we only use natural ingredients.”

He believes the main hurdle for consumers will be in their minds but people’s feelings can change quite rapidly.

 “In the end, the decision for or against innovative food is just in your head. However, there are plenty of examples that eating habits can change rapidly. Sushi is a good example here. While sushi is nowadays available in basically every major city, this was inconceivable a few decades ago. Raw fish just did not belong on the plate.”

Factfile

  • 60% of all mammals on Earth are livestock, mostly cattle and pigs, 36% are human and just 4% are wild animals.
  • Since the rise of human civilisation 83% of wild mammals have been lost
  • The world’s 7.6 billion people represent just 0.01% of all living things. Yet humanity has caused the loss of 83% of all wild mammals and half of plants.
  • Farmed poultry today makes up 70% of all birds on the planet, with just 30% being wild.

(The biomass distribution on Earth​, published ahead of print May 21, 2018, Authors: Yinon M. Bar-On, Rob Phillips, and Ron Milo doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1711842115

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