BITE THE BUG!

IF LEAH BESSA, CO-FOUNDER OF GOURMET GRUBB, HAS HER WAY, THE WORDS “I’D LIKE SOME ENTOMILK™” WILL BE ON EV­ERY­ONE’S LIPS SOON.

In Flight Magazine - - BITE THE BUG - { TEXT: LISA WITEPSKI | IM­AGES © SUP­PLIED }

But what, ex­actly, is EntoMilk™? It’s the key in­gre­di­ent in her com­pany’s ice cream and it’s made from – wait for it – in­sects.

WE’RE LAG­GING BE­HIND THE TREND

Be­fore you swear undy­ing al­le­giance to Häa­gen-Dazs, think about this: South Africa is one of the few na­tions in the world where in­sects aren’t part of the daily diet. Our neigh­bours in Zim­babwe love crunching down on mopane worms; grasshop­pers, silk­worms and crick­ets are part of any street ven­dor’s stall in Asia; and even Europe has come on board, with Swedish dé­cor gi­ant Ikea re­cently adding meal­worm meat­balls to menus in its in-store cafes.

For Ikea, the switch from beef to bug burg­ers was mo­ti­vated by sus­tain­abil­ity – an is­sue which Bessa re­lates to. Al­though not averse to tuck­ing into the odd steak, grow­ing up with a veg­e­tar­ian mother made her keenly aware of the need to ques­tion the prove­nance of one’s food. She started con­sid­er­ing this is­sue, and its im­pli­ca­tions for sus­tain­abil­ity, more in­tently when she started study­ing, and two years ago com­pleted her Masters in the vi­a­bil­ity of in­sects as an al­ter­na­tive source of pro­tein.

WE ALL SCREAM FOR ICE CREAM

As she says, “It just makes sense. Yes, peo­ple need pro­tein – but we are cur­rently us­ing up gi­gan­tic tracts of land to pro­duce just a small amount.” In­sects, on the other hand, are easy to farm and grow quickly.The only prob­lem is that un­de­ni­able “ick” fac­tor – which is why she and part­ner, Jean Louwrens, whom she met dur­ing her stud­ies, hit on ice cream as the ideal ve­hi­cle for in­tro­duc­ing peo­ple to EntoMilk™. After all, ev­ery­one loves ice cream, and now more than ever with the trend for ar­ti­sanal and gelato de­lights push­ing new flavour in­no­va­tions. And, they reckon, once you’ve per­suaded peo­ple to try one in­sect-based prod­uct, they’ll be more will­ing to ex­per­i­ment with oth­ers, es­pe­cially if they en­joyed it.

This is how the idea of Gourmet Grubb be­gan, Bessa ex­plains. That said, as with any en­tre­pre­neur­ial ven­ture, it didn’t all hap­pen

quite that smoothly. First came Bessa’s de­sire to com­mer­cialise the find­ings of her stud­ies; then came her part­ner­ship with Louwrens and, later, Llewellyn de Beer, now re­spon­si­ble for the com­pany’s art and mar­ket­ing di­rec­tion. They’ve been joined by Thomas Bartle­man who, hav­ing ex­pe­ri­enced the prod­uct at a mar­ket, shared their pas­sion for push­ing it be­yond the pro­to­type phase.

IN­SECT IN­GRE­DI­ENTS

Al­though in­sects have great po­ten­tial as a food source in al­most any area, the team de­cided to fo­cus on the dairy in­dus­try be­cause of the in­cred­i­ble pres­sure it faces in terms of sus­tain­abil­ity, and be­cause of the lack of real al­ter­na­tives that cur­rently ex­ist for con­sumers. “In­sect milk is rich in both pro­tein and fat, which gives it a creamy con­sis­tency that’s per­fect for ice cream. It’s also high in iron, cal­cium and zinc, so it’s a good sub­sti­tute in terms of nu­tri­ents, too,” Bessa notes. And, no, they don’t phys­i­cally “milk” the black sol­dier fly lar­vae on which their prod­uct is based. Nor is the ice cream made from their se­cre­tions. Rather, the grubs go through a patented process that leads to the for­ma­tion of the milk.

But what does it taste like? De­li­cious, ac­cord­ing to will­ing sam­plers at the De­sign Ind­aba, where the brand first launched in Fe­bru­ary this year.With her back­ground in food sci­ence, Bessa is re­spon­si­ble for recipe de­vel­op­ment and qual­ity con­trol, and the team has set­tled on four flavours: peanut but­ter, chai, banana bread, and choco­late. It’s a com­pletely nat­u­ral prod­uct, with no added sta­bilis­ers or preser­va­tives.

DON’T LET IT BUG YOU

Bessa ad­mits that she ex­pected a lit­tle re­sis­tance when in­tro­duc­ing con­sumers to the prod­uct but, to the con­trary, most were drawn to the fact that it’s some­thing new.She puts this down to the cur­rent in­ter­est in any­thing gourmet – if char­coal can be­come a sexy in­gre­di­ent, why not EntoMilk™? Add to this the fact that even avowed meat eaters are be­com­ing con­cerned with where their food was raised and how it was treated, and the stage is set for a re­cep­tive mar­ket­place.

This has given Gourmet Grubb the courage to start scal­ing up. At present, the com­pany has been pro­duc­ing just enough to sell at mar­kets like Earth Fair Mar­ket, but the in­ter­est dis­played in the prod­uct has prompted the team to launch a crowd-fund­ing ini­tia­tive so that it can start man­u­fac­tur­ing greater vol­umes.

Hav­ing demon­strated the ver­sa­til­ity of EntoMilk™ with Gourmet Grubb’s ice cream, Bessa ul­ti­mately wants to ex­pand the range of prod­ucts, and in­tro­duce the brand for in­dus­trial use, too. “We’re not sug­gest­ing that EntoMilk™ is one day go­ing to re­place chicken or beef in peo­ple’s fridges, but it can – and should – form a greater part of our di­ets. It’s an ex­cel­lent so­lu­tion to the ques­tion of food se­cu­rity, and it’s healthy.”

And, re­ally, can any­one say no to ice cream?

To con­trib­ute to Gourmet Grubb’s crowd­fund, please visit thunda­fund.com/project/gourmet­grubb.

Open­ing Page: Who doesn’t like ice cream... even if it is made out of in­sect milk. That was the thought process be­hind the cre­ation of Gourmet Grubb - an ice cream made from a far more sus­tain­able form of pro­tein. This Page Left: Gourmet Grubb’s ice cream comes in four flavours, in­clud­ing ev­ery­one’s favourite, choco­late. This Page Right: The Gourmet Grubb team (from top left), Llewe­lyn De Beer, Thomas Bartle­man, Jean Louwrens and Leah Bessa.

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