With more Americans being open-minded in the types of food they eat, entrepreneurs are taking advantage and are venturing into innovative startups such as selling bugs as food.
Fear Factor, along with other TV shows popularized bug eating, maing it less taboo to some Americans. Human consumption of insects, or otherwise known as Entomophagy, is popular in various cultures around the world. In the U.S., there are some companies earning quite a following with their innovative idea of selling bugs for human consumption.
An example of a company that sells bugs for food is World Entomophagy. Harman Singh Johar, student of the University of Georgia and owner of World Entomophagy, raises crickets and mealworms in his apartment and sells the insects to as much as $40 a pound. He feeds the insects with whole-grain oats and organic fruits and vegetables. According to him, insects fed with organic food are heavier and tastier.
Mr. Johar opted to breed organic bugs instead of catching them straight from the wild due to health and safety reasons. Wild insects may contain pesticides or parasites, which are dangerous when ingested. His closet in his apartment located off campus is temperature and humidity controlled. The insects are housed in boxes, and each box is well-organized and labeled with date of harvest and cleaning.
Mr. Johar’s company is just one of the many companies that sells insects as food. The number of Americans who expressed interest in eating insects has increased based on the number from the past years. David George Gordon, renowned author of “The Eat-A-Bug Cookbook,” said that the number of U.S.-based chefs cooking insects has increased and the number of companies supplying insects for human consumption has increased as well.
More Entrepreneurs Selling Bugs for Human Consumption
Hotlix, the original creator of edible insect candy, has been in business for 20 years. It specializes in outrageous confections such as candies and chocolates with edible insects inside. According to the company’s marketing manager, business is good, with a considerable amount of people calling to ask if the company sells insects in bulk. The company has been featured in popular magazines such as Newsweek and Forbes.
Sweet Whimsy, a French-inspired pastry store in Long Grove, Illinois, has recently joined the Entomophagy-mania and included bugs in its baked products. Owner Joshua Baudin started using caramelized mealworms as toppings for some of his goods, and he orders the worms from World Entomophagy.
Etom Foods, founded by University of Chicago sophomore student Matthew Krisiloff, is a fairly new insect-for-food business. Mr. Krisiloff positions his company differently than other companies’ selling bugs for food. In order to maintain a competitive advantage, he offers bugs in their less bug-like form, making the bugs for appealing to eat. Last April, he won a grant worth $10,000 from his school to develop a technology to extract the edible meat from grasshoppers and insects. The technology used is similar to taking the shell off a shrimp.
Another company in the business of selling bugs for human consumption is BugMuscle. The company has a pending patent for nutritional supplements derived from insects. According to the founder Dianne Guilfoyle, her recipes include ants, mealworms, crickets and pupae of a housefly. She sees her products as very marketable to athletes since insects are classified as a legal source of steroids.
Benefits of Eating Bugs
Advocates of bug eating have cited numerous benefits. According to a study conducted in a university in Netherlands in 2010, raising insects produce less greenhouse gas compared to raising livestock. Insects require less food and do not require energy for them to stay warm. It is also easy to take care of insects, since they are small and do not need a lot of space. Insects are also nutritious because they are rich in fats, amino acids, vitamins and minerals. A perfect example is a stinkbug. Compared to steak, a gram of stinkbug has similar protein content and 6x more iron content.
Although Americans are still far from being ready to have worms or insects in their dining table, there are entrepreneurs who are seeing the business of selling bugs as a potentially lucrative venture.
Kimberly is a researcher, writer, business woman, and contributor at entrepreneurweek.com blog network. She may be reached at email@example.com.
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