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.

IMG_0922

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!

FullSizeRender(2)

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.

FDA Guidance on Edible Insects as Foods

I just want to follow up with a more detailed analysis of the FDA’s response to inquiry on edible insects. The documents are very helpful to the industry and provide insight into the FDA’s perspective.

One thing to keep in mind when referencing the documents is that they are Guidance Documents (even though that is not explicitly stated). In other words, the statements represent the FDA’s current think on the topic. As a reference, the FDA’s seafood guidance document has the following language in the preface and throughout the document:

This guidance represents the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) current thinking on this topic. It does not create or confer any rights for or on any person and does not operate to bind FDA or the public. You can use an alternative approach if the approach satisfies the requirements of the applicable statutes and regulations. If you want to discuss an alternative approach, contact the FDA staff responsible for implementing this guidance. If you cannot identify the appropriate FDA staff, call the telephone number listed on the title page of this guidance.

Secondly, some of the statements in the response do not appear as thoroughly research as one would expect from the FDA. Or maybe the statements reflect a conservative stance due to a lack of information on edibles insects and their novelty in the U.S. My comments are below.pic122

  • “bugs/insects are considered food if that is the intended use” – This checks out! Here is the actual verbiage in the code for Sec. 201(f): The term “food” means (1) articles used for food or drink for man or other animals, (2) chewing gum, and (3) articles used for components of any such article.
  • “The label should include scientific name” – Unfounded in law. Listing crickets as ‘Cricket’ or ‘Crickets’ or ‘Cricket Powder’ on the ingredient declaration is not false or misleading and it does not fail to meet any of the other criteria listed in Sec. 403. Shrimp, for comparison, is listed as ‘Shrimp’ on most ingredient declarations even though there are hundreds of different species.
  • “must be raised specifically for human food following current Good Manufacturing Practices” – I don’t think its coincidence that raised for human food and GMP’s are grouped together. My understanding is that most farms raise insects for pet feed and do not follow GMP’s. Keep in mind they are not mutually exclusive. If you follow GMP’s for human food, you are OK to distribute for food or feed. Commodity corn is diverted every which way. If current insect farms use GMP’s they can distribute insect for food and divert to feed if needed. To recap: Must use GMPs? – Yes, and therefore it is suitable for human consumption a long as other requirements are met.
  • “They cannot be ‘wildcrafted’ – Unfounded in science. Regulations state that food must be wholesome and not contain any deleterious substances. Disease and pesticides can be measured analytically, and if found, the product can be removed from the supply stream. Specifically, a risk assessment can be performed for common hazards such as pathogens, natural toxins, pesticides, and other contaminants and a monitoring program can be established. Seafood provides another great point of reference. There are a lot of hazards associated with wild caught fish and the risks are managed accordingly. The Fish and Fishery Products Hazards and Controls Guidance document can be applied to wild insects! For example: a plot of land can be disengaged for wild grasshopper farming. With the surrounding area monitored for pesticides, a farmer can reason that there are not any pesticides in the cultivated area or in their grasshoppers.
  • “The manufacturer also needs to demonstrate the “wholesomeness” of the product” – Yes… insects have an outstanding nutritional profile.
  • Allergens comment – Unfounded in law. The FDA requires only the ‘Big 8’ allergens be stated on the label. It is not scientifically conclusive that insects are an allergen. But because they likely are, the industry best practice is to include an allergy warning statement.

Next Step: As I feel that the FDA’s responses are akin to a guidance document, Im going to email the FDA and request an update. I think you should too.

80+ Edible Insect Products You Can Buy Now

Hotlix has been around for many years. Until recently, the only other source for edible insects in the U.S. was to buy live insects directly from farms (where they raise bugs for feed, not food). Now, there are a variety of sources and products available. I put together a list of products that are produced in the U.S., Canada or Mexico and available for sale.

Hotlix

Chocolate Covered (4 varieties)

HotLix chocolate

Snacks – Whole insects (6 varieties)

hotlix candy

Candy (4 varieties – multiple flavors)

hotlix lolipop

Suckers (4 varieties – multiple flavors)

hotlix candy

Chapul

Bars (4 flavors)

chapul bars

Cricket Baking Powder

 chapul baking powder

Cricket Powder (pure)

Chapul Protein Powder

Exo

Bars – Classic (5 varieties)

exo classic bars

Bars – Savory (4 varieties)

exo savory bars

Jungle Bar

Bars (1 flavor, multi-pack)

Screen_Shot_2016-02-04_at_12.50.25_grande

Hopper

Granola (3 flavors)

Cacao&Cayenne_cropped Crenberry&Almond Toasted+Coconut_cropped

uKa Proteine

Bars (2 flavors)

barre-cerise-the-ukaproteine

Bitty

Cookies (3 flavors)

bitty_3cookie_large

Baking Powder

41F32EmgcjL._AC_UL160_SR80,160_

SixFoods

Chirps – Chips (3 flavors)

all three

Crickers

Cracker (3 flavors)

IMG_4021_Seasalt_8oz

Entomo Farms (Independent Farm and Processor)

Powders – Pure (4 varieties)

entomo powder

Whole Roasted (5 varieties including meal worms and super worms)

entomo whole roaste

Whole Roasted Seasoned (6 varieties)

entomo whole seasoned

Aspire US (Independent Farm and Processor)

Cricket Powder Pure

IMG_0460

Frozen Raw Crickets

IMG_3503_large

Whole Dry Crickets

IMG_2848_large

Cricket Flours

Cricket Powder

7c5177d794df519009c150c53bc0efc0_Cricket-Flours-100-Pure-Qtrlb-Packaging-370-600-c

Cricket Oatmeal

b8098e99b2a8792ca7180970fe04b4eb_Cricket-Instant-Oatmeal-Single-370-600-c

Meal Replacer (crickets, 2 flavors)

95ca9ad2abee4cc3320f057574405384_Cricket-Fuel-CPB-5-Pack-370-600-c

Cricket All Purpose Flour

f2e43661be487de9ab8092c81103fb57_1lb-All-Purpose-Baking-Flour-370-600-c

Bug Eater Foods

Jump – Cricket Protein Shake (2 flavors)

sampler+isolation

Crik Nutrition

Protein Shake Dy Mix (1 flavor)

Vanilla-Cricket-Protein-Powder-Front

Don Bugito

Seasoned/Chocolate Covered (5 varieties)

il_170x135.590355912_3fqv il_170x135.590353296_qos6

Sal de Gusano

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Almond and Cricket Flour

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Gran Milta

Sal de Gusano (worm salt)

100grams

Sal de Chaplulin (grasshopper salt)

100-Chapulin

EntoVida

Whole sale but available on Ento Market

ento vida

Ento Market

Ento Market has just about all of the above available in one place!

Honorable Mentions

Gryllies

pastajar

Bugsolutely

Bugsolutely-6OK

All Things Bugs – Cricket powder, domestic, whole sale only

Big Cricket Farms

Thinksects – cricket powder from Thailand

Wild Bakery – cricket powder from Thailand

Thailand Unique – They offer variety of imported products

LEAP – North American cricket Powder via Amazon but I could not find their website

Critter Bitter – available for pre-order

What else is out there?

Let us know on twitter!

Cricket Powder Tasting Notes

Akketa and Cricket Flours were fresh samples and had the most flavor. The flavor and aroma were characteristic of cricket flour. Crustacean/shrimp-like, nutty, beany. All Things Bugs cricket powder was distinct having a mild flavor that was somewhat malty. The sample I have from World Ento is about a year and a half old and was mild in flavor; the flavor profile is characteristic and no other defects.

Samples of cricket powder were evaluated strait up and in water.

Akketta Cricket Flour (Aspire US)      IMG_0460

  • Strong aroma; Crustacean/shrimp-like, cooked beans (legumes like soybean or peas), Earthy
  • Strong flavor; Characteristic crickets flavor, crustacean/shrimp-like, soy nuts, nutty, cooked beans, roasted, earthy, roasted
  • Brown in color and slightly lumpy (likely due to being vacuum packaged)
  • Some coarse particulates visible
  • Recently purchased via direct online
  • Farmed and processed by Aketta in Austin, TX

Cricket Flours Cricket FlourIMG_0458IMG_0457

  • Medium strength aroma; Crustacean/shrimp-like, Fishy, cooked beans (legumes like soybean or peas), Earthy
  • Strong flavor; Characteristic crickets flavor, crustacean/shrimp-like, cooked beans, roasted, earthy, nutty, roasted
  • Dark brown in color
  • Some coarse particulates visible
  • Recently purchased via direct online
  • Crickets are raised in North America
  • Based out of Portland, OR
  • Species- Gryllodes sigillatus


All Things Bugs Milled Cricket PowderIMG_0459 IMG_0455

  • Low aroma; Crustacean/shrimp-like, malty
  • Mild flavor; Crustacean, malty, cooked beans, cocoa,
  • Pale off-white/Taupe in color, very fine powder
  • Chalky texture (The other samples were slightly gritty)
  • Cloudy in solutions (The other samples had particulates sink and float)
  • Sample from August last year (its about 5 months old or more). Opened and stored in ambient conditions.
  • Product of USA
  • Based out of Athens, GA
  • Species – Acheta domesticus

World Ento Pure Cricket PowderIMG_0454

  • Low aroma; Crustacean/shrimp-like, cooked beans (legumes like soybean or peas), Earthy
  • Mild flavor; Characteristic crickets flavor
  • Light brown color
  • Particulates visible
  • Sample is about 18 months old. Opened and stored in ambient conditions.

IMG_0461 2