Entrepreneurs starting businesses to feed growing appetite for crickets…

Posted April 27, 2015 4:49 am by Comments

edible-insects

An increasing number of entrepreneurs are launching businesses to feed a growing appetite for crickets, mealworms and other edible insects.

These upstarts are trying to persuade more Americans to eat bugs, which can be produced with less land, food and water than other sources of animal protein.

But it could be a tough sell for Westerners who are more likely to squash bugs than savor them.

“Insects are viewed as what ruins food — a roach in your soup, a fly in your salad. That’s the biggest obstacle — the ick factor,” said Daniella Martin, the “Girl Meets Bug” blogger and author of “Edible: An Adventure into the World of Eating Insects and the Last Great Hope to Save the Planet.”

Inside San Francisco’s La Cocina, a commercial kitchen for food entrepreneurs, Monica Martinez empties hundreds of live mealworms, each about 2 inches long, into a plastic container. She uses chopsticks to pull out dead ones before pouring the squirming critters on a tray and sliding them into an oven.

Martinez started Don Bugito PreHispanic Snackeria to entice American consumers with treats inspired by popular snacks in her native Mexico. Among her specialties are spicy superworms and chocolate-covered, salted crickets.

Don Bugito snacks are sold online or at a La Cocina kiosk in San Francisco’s Ferry Building, where retail workers recently offered free samples of chocolate-covered crickets and spicy superworms.

In San Francisco inside a kitchen in Berkeley, Megan Miller and her assistants shape clumps of orange-ginger cookie dough, carefully arrange them up on a tray and slip them in an oven. The key ingredient: flour made from ground-up crickets.

Miller’s start-up, Bitty Foods, sells its cricket-based cookies and baked goods online and at upscale grocery stores. Many of its customers are moms looking for a healthy snack for their kids.

“We like to say our cookies have twice the protein and half the sugar of a regular cookie,” said Miller, a former journalist and tech entrepreneur.

Big Cricket Farms, one of only a handful of North American companies producing crickets for human consumption, is struggling to meet fast-growing demand for the chirping insects, said CEO Kevin Bachhuber, who launched the warehouse farm in Youngstown, Ohio, last year after getting his first taste of bugs in Thailand.

Bachhuber’s start-up produces about 8,000 pounds of crickets a month. He hopes to increase capacity to 25,000 pounds per month but still doesn’t think that will be enough to meet demand from restaurants and health food makers.

“We’re constantly slammed by orders. We simply can’t keep up,” said Bachhuber, a Wisconsin native who has had a long interest in urban farming. “The speed at which people have been willing to eat bugs is crazy. It’s cool.”

Read more here: Jsonline.com

Original article by Terence Chea, Associated Press

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