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.
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.
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.