Media Coverage

Below are links to media coverage on Incredible Foods (aka this blog) related to regulations:

Bloomberg – A Mouth Full of Crickets? Lobbyists Speak Up for Edible Insects

Food Navigator – Edible Insects: Beyond the Novelty Factor

KMOX News Radio – Edible Insects: Why Won’t The FDA Label Them A ‘Safe Food’?

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Grasshopper Wild Harvesting Using a Net

Grasshoppers are commonly consumed in Mexico and regions of Africa. However, they are hard to come by in the States. (Unless, you live next to some tall grass and its the right season. Being in Texas, there are plenty of grasshoppers to go around.)

Lets get right to the interesting stuff… what did I catch and what did it taste like!

5 different grasshopper species.

From Phone 308 From Phone 306 From Phone 309 From Phone 304 From Phone 305

Preparation: The insects were frozen then rinsed. They were cooked in butter/oil until they changed color and held for an additional 2 minutes.

After cooking:

From Phone 318 From Phone 314From Phone 315 From Phone 317 From Phone 316

Flavor

The flavors were very mild. They have a brothy flavor that is sort of like vegetable broth but non-descript. They didn’t taste like any particular protein or vegetable. The closest flavor I can think of is seaweed with a little bit of asparagus. I tried just 3 of the varieties and they were all similar in flavor.

The textures were pleasant. The exoskeletons broke down upon mastication. They were pretty dry; not a meaty texture.

How and where the insects were harvested:
Choice of Net

There are two main types of nets used by entomologists (Texas A&M video on nets). The aerial net and the sweep net… I choose the somewhat DIY way. I picked up a heavy duty leaf rake for pool cleaning and the local department store. The big advantage, it turns out, was the 8 foot pole!

insect grasshopper net pool entomophagy

It worked well as is. Once a grasshopper was in the net I just grabbed it and put it into the jar. I could only catch one at a time this way. Im thinking about cutting open the bottom of the net and adding netting from a mesh laundry bag. It would make it more difficult for them to jump back out (yes, this happened a few times).

Location

From Phone 296

I found a nice patch of uncultivated lane ‘behind a gas station’. The grass varied in density, type and height. The best spots were where the grass was dense and near a ravine. I knew I found a good spot because they were pretty loud.

Season

I set out in the early afternoon on a hot Texas day in August.  I probably should have waited until the evening as they are less active when the temperature drops. My understanding is that they are less active in cooler temperatures. The large ones can fly up to 20 feet making them really difficult to catch.

What I learned from the Eat Insects Detroit conference

Eat Insects Detroit was the first conference in North America solely dedicated to edible insects. It was held at Wayne State University from May 20-28, 2016.

Consumer Perception:

Improving consumer perception is a huge area of focus.

Only about 30% of the people polled in North America were willing to try edible insects. I took away 2 main hurdles.       stats

Consumer perception is that insects are not safe to eat. They largely associate insect with pests. The general public is not aware of how insect are farmed, processed and used as food. The lack of knowledge leads to the consumers feeling that the products are unsafe. They also don’t know that humans have been eating insects for thousands of years. How can this obstacle be address? Little Herds and educational groups are doing a great job educating people about the benefits of eating insects. A key message for consumers is that insects are just like any other food we eat.

The other hurdle I would like to mention is taste. One study (I don’t believe it is published yet) reported that people did not want to eat insect because they taste bad, even though they never have tried them. Insects do have their own unique flavor that people may be unaccustomed to. Who can people trust? Chefs are a great resource for the industry. People would be relatively more comfortable eating insects at a local restaurant that they have been at before and enjoyed their food. Chefs know how to make food taste great. Startups should get chefs involved with their product development to ensure the flavors are balanced and have just the right amount of seasoning.  The #1 deciding factor for why people choose what to eat is taste. If it doesn’t taste delicious, people won’t want to eat it.

Special thanks to ‘The Bug Chef’ David George Gordon for years of excellent work with edible insects.bug chef

‘Insect Cuisine’ as an alternative to ‘Edible Insects‘ was presented by Kiah Brasch. “‘Edible insect’ sounds like they are just barley acceptable as food”. I think ‘insect cuisine’ is great for consumer facing communications. #InsectCuisine!

Regulations

Featured speaker, Ricardo Carvajal, provided an overview of the regulatory frame work in the US. He had a post on his blog from 2013 that really jumped out at the industry. Move Over, Cricket! Lickets: Edible Insects are On the March

His advice was to work with in the current regulatory frame work. More regulations are not needed and should not be wanted.IMG_0919

Ricardo referenced the definition for food from the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act (Title 21 sec. 321(f))

The term “food” means (1) articles used for food or drink for man or other animals

The must be a “reasonable certainty of no harm” according to Ricardo. I searched the Food Drug and Cosmetic Act and did not find this phrase. What it does relate to is the definition for adulterated food in sec. 402.

‘A food shall be deemed to be adulterated… If it bears or contains any poisonous or deleterious substance which may render it injurious to health’

My assessment is that the phrase “reasonable certainty of no harm” is a succinct interpretation of the law.

I felt a collective sigh of relief from the attendee’s after the presentation. There was a general consensus that we don’t need edible insect specific regulations in the US.

Incredible Foods: Sal de CricketIMG_0940

I was signed up as a vendor with Incredible Foods! It was a lot of fun having a booth at the expo. I received a lot of positive feedback on Sal de Cricket. The concept was well liked and everyone loved the flavor. I had samples of seasoned beer cup and also on tortilla chips.

Thank you every one who organized, presented and attended. It was really great meeting everyone.

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Food Safety – Message to Consumers

Food safety is a key concern when consumers make food choices. Most westerners are unfamiliar with how insects are used as food which casts doubt on their safety. Here are some key points of discussion.

  1. Insects are harvested and processed just like any other food.
    •  The insects are harvested specifically for human consumption
    • They are free from filth and extraneous material.
    • They are handled and processed using Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) and in compliance with food laws.
  2. People have been consuming insects as food for thousands of years.
    • Insects have been an important part of our evolutionary diet.
    • Today, insects provide necessary protein in some native diets.
    • In certain places, insects are considered a delicacy.
  3. Over 2 billion people consume insects on a regular basis.

Some other thoughts…

Not all insects being consumed are farm raised. Imported products and even domestic insects are sometimes wild harvested. So a blanket statement saying that the insects we are distributing/promoting are all farm raised would not be accurate. Imported products are also more difficult to audit due to geographical and language barriers. Id love to hear more thoughts on how insects are being demonstrated to be wholesome and what documentation is available to support that.

Sal de Cricket Technical Bulletin

inspection gradeEdible insects are sensitive to regulator disapproval so it is especially import to have documentation on your edible insect products readily available. Insect are not commonly consumed in western cultures so auditors my be surprised to discover that they are being intentionally added to food. I hear this an issue that occurs at restaurants. Local health inspectors may need to be educated on insect cuisine.

There are two types of documents that I recommend that establishments have in their foods safety dossier. First is an executive summary about insects as food (which I will talk more about in a later post). Second is product specific documentation on each edible insect item being used. As an example, I drafted a technical bulletin for Sal de Cricket.

Key items: Product name, Company name, Contact information, Statement of regulatory compliance. I also suggest some specific information about the insects.

Technical Bulletin

Product Name: Sal de Cricket, 3 oz jar

Product Number: 1001

1001 sal de cricket jar seasoning

Description:

An edible insect seasoning made with organic roasted crickets and blended with sea salt, chili peppers and other spices/ingredients.

This product shall meet standards for food and comply with all provisions of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and Amendments.

Ingredient Declaration:

Sea Salt, Organic Roasted Cricket Powder (Acheta domesticus), Chili Pepper, Smoked Paprika, Lime Peel, Spices

Allergen Information:

Contains Crickets (people who are allergic to crustacean shellfish may also be allergic to crickets)

Pack Size

Net weight – 3 oz (83 g)

Gross weight – 0.5 lbs

Master case – 24 jars

Storage:

Store in a cool dry place away from direct light (50 – 70°F).

Shelf Life:

Best if used by date shall be on the bottom of the jar.

Manufacturing Location:

Produced in Texas.

Insect Information:

The insects shall be clean and wholesome, and produced/packed/stored under sanitary conditions. The insects shall be farmed, harvested and processed using Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs). The insects shall be farmed specifically for human consumption in the US.

Contact Information

Mark

Incredible Foods

Fort Worth, Texas 76137

Mark@incrediblefoodscompany.com

Phone:  (817) 945-3117

That is it for now!

Sal de Cricket

Sal de Cricket is almost ready to launch. Here is snap shot of the decisions and details that went into the commercialization process.

The Primary Packaging-

Capture jar

I looked at a few different bottles and sized. The straight sided 4 oz volume-metric jar was selected in part because its different than the typical seasoning/ spice jar. Sal de Cricket is a premium product so glass was chosen over a plastic option. Glass looks really nice but also weighs more. Fortunately, my estimates puts it in the lowest weight class, even when full, for pre-paid shipping. Products geared toward online sales tend to have minimalist packaging. I do aspire to distribute via whole sale and I also feel the packaging adds value for the consumer.

Smaller bottles have constraints with the amount of info that can be on the label. There are other options like a secondary tag or box but it does added a step to production.

A white cap was selected by family vote. I’m also using a clear shrink band and a 1 x 0.375 in. label on the bottom for the expiration date.

The display panel  is approximately 15 sq. in. and provides just enough space for product branding and communication.

The Label Artwork –

The primary display panel contains the brand and product name, general description, potential uses and the mandatory pack weight.

Capture sal de cricket draft label

The right panel has additional product information.. the what and why, how to use it, and where to get more information. Also a bar code. I selected to purchase the bar code through a reputable re-seller instead of through GS-1 to save on the initial commercialization costs.

The left panel contains the nutrition fact panel, ingredient declaration and the company identification. The nutrition panel is the linear format to save space on the label. This is allowed as the label surface area is less than 40 sq. in. The simplified format and “Not a significant source of ____”exceptions are used. The other option was to not include a nutrition facts panel because sales are below the quota but I choose to include it as its more professional to do so.

Bob the Cricket was designed by a freelance artist and I added the Incredible Foods banner and the rest of the artwork.

I spent a lot of time and revisions to get it just right!

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The Seasoning –

Cricket powder, the key ingredient, is currently being sourced from Aspire in Austin, Texas. The drivers for selecting Aspire is that its a regional supplier to where I am located and it is also organic. I was also satisfied with their answers to the edible insect supplier questionnaire. I had also sampled from Entomo Farms and Cricket Flours and found them to be comparable in flavor and particle size.

Unlike most ento products on the market, Sal de Cricket celebrates the unique flavor of dry roasted ground crickets. Flavors of earthy, brothy notes and slight crustacean aroma are prevalent. Cricket powder is high in protein which adds rich umami taste.

seasoned rim sal de cricket crop 2

Sea salt makes the bulk of the blend. The salt has a medium particle size distribution that will work well for a variety of applications. A relatively bright chili was selected for the spice component. Cricket powder has a deep earthy note so a bright chili compliments it well. Additional paprika was added to provide additional pepper and natural smoke notes with out heat. Lime peel for additional brightness and bulk. A small amount of ground spices finish the blend for added character.

Legal –

Business registration is complete!

I also compiled a food safety dossier for Sal de Cricket.

Manufacturing –

An initial run is set up with a local food manufacturer.

Website –

See more about Sal de Cricket at IncredibleFoodsCompany.com

Distribution –

3rd party logistics is set up. Because its a food product, storing at my home is not permitted.

Marketing –

  • Visit me on twitter at twitter.com/incrediblefoods
  • I’m setting up a vendor booth at Eat Insects Detroit May 26-28, 2016
  • Local specialty store sales visits
  • Friends and Family calls seeking ambassadors
  • I have a lot more to learn in this area!

 

Follow Incredible Foods on twitter to stay in touch.