SOME­THING TO CHIRP ABOUT

Chomp­ing on crick­ets is noth­ing new in Thailand, but a global mar­ket for the crit­ters could turn ed­i­ble in­sects into a ma­jor in­dus­try in the re­gion

Southeast Asia Globe - - Flavours - Colin Meyn

When Massimo Re­ver­beri thinks about crick­ets, cook­ies come to mind – as well as pasta, bread­sticks, muesli, drinks and dip­ping sauces. His Bangkok-based com­pany, Bug­so­lutely, is part of a niche mar­ket of pack­aged foods us­ing “cricket flour” – in­sects ground into a pow­der – to pack in the pro­tein.

“I think you can mix crick­ets with a huge num­ber of ex­ist­ing food prod­ucts,” Re­ver­beri said. “It's all about food tech­nol­ogy. There's a lot of R&D to be done.”

When it comes to in­sect farm­ing, the ma­jor in­dus­try of the fu­ture is an­i­mal feed – an area that is al­ready at­tract­ing in­vest­ment from ma­jor multi­na­tion­als. How­ever, Re­ver­beri is con­vinced that there is plenty of busi­ness in hu­man food too, es­pe­cially if com­pa­nies can “change the per­cep­tion of peo­ple”.

“The en­tire world for­got about in­sects as a food cat­e­gory,” he said, which means that both ex­port­ing and im­port­ing coun­tries need to draft new reg­u­la­tions be­fore they let the bug-in­fused food pass through.

If the cricket in­dus­try is able to ex­pand, Re­ver­beri said, it could be a wind­fall for farm­ers in Thailand and Cam­bo­dia, where crick­ets have long been part of the diet but never a par­tic­u­larly lu­cra­tive trade.

“In Asia, they don't know it's a su­per­food,” he said of the in­sects, which are al­ready pop­u­lar with health-con­scious con­sumers be­cause they have three times the pro­tein of beef, are low in fat and high in vi­ta­mins. “On the farm­ing side… it's a side ac­tiv­ity be­cause you only need a lit­tle bit of space,” he added.

Re­ver­beri imag­ines thou­sands of farm­ers in South­east Asia rais­ing crick­ets to meet ris­ing de­mand. Although com­pa­nies in the US and Europe are al­ready grow­ing crick­ets for con­sump­tion, the in­put costs are com­par­a­tively huge.

A kilo­gram of cricket flour costs about $20 in Thailand, he said, as op­posed to as much as $200 com­ing from a man­u­fac­turer in the West.

While Re­ver­beri must deal with the added cost of ex­port­ing his Cricket Pasta to sales points across the world, he said that scale would even­tu­ally give South­east Asi­abased com­pa­nies an ob­vi­ous ad­van­tage. While Bug­so­lutely China got the back­ing of an in­vestor to cre­ate its Bella Pupa silk­worm chips, it has yet to find fi­nan­cial back­ing for its pasta.

“But three years ago there was noth­ing about ed­i­ble in­sects,” Re­ver­beri added. “So I think it's pro­gress­ing fast.” –

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