A DELICIOUS, HEALTHY AND SUSTAINABLE CRIKET BAR, 100% MADE IN BRUSSELS
A DELICIOUS, HEALTHY AND SUSTAINABLE CRICKET BAR, 100% MADE IN BRUSSELSCicadas, crickets and larvae..may be available in Italy in the coming years: I’m not talking about our gardens, I’m talking of our dishes.
During 2018, this whole “insect affair” has generated a heated debate in Italy and now we are waiting to get the clearence from the EU Commission to commercialize edible insects while still maintaining a high level of food safety for Italian consumers. Lovers of "novel food" could soon rejoice.
“Seeds & Chips”, known as the largest food innovation event in the world (held in Milan from May 7th to 10th), gave us the chance to interview a brother and a sister who have already made insects their business: the Brussells Michiel and Anneleen Van Meervenne.
These two young guys are very motivated: their enthusiasm as they talk about their product "Kriket", the first Belgian locusts bar, is contagious. Their goal is not only to show how insects are healthy and rich in protein, but they are also striving to change the mentality and the ordinary approach, to break down the resistance and show how insects can also be delicious.
Michiel could you describe your product?
Kriket is a snack bar which is first of all delicious, but on top of that it’s also convenient GUILT free. Basically Kriket is Belgium’s first ever cricket bar. So what we did was try to create the perfect snack in our minds which has to be sustainable that’s why we used the crickets: first of all, we all know that insects are one of the important protein source of the future; second it has to be healthy, so we worked together with the university to make a really nice balance recipe in terms of calories, vitamins, minerals, nutrients and third, that’s the most important point, it has to be really delicious, because if you want to convince people to try something new for the first time, you have to pull out curiosity from them and maybe they will try it but once you have tried it, you have to really like the product to eat it again. For us, the priority was to create something really nice and that’s the reason why we had put a lot of effort in the recipe.
We are planning to launch the products in June online, with an ecommerce platform, and later in some stores in Belgium. We really hope that lots of people will like it.
Anneleen how did you come up with this idea?
We were frustrated about the existing snack market. We both love good food and from that, the urgency to create something healthy: all these foods are so full of sugars, full of unhealthy things and it makes you feel guilty just eating them. So we started testing different materials in our own kitchen. My brother was working as an agricultural journalist before this and he not only came in touch with the benefits of cooking with insects because of their nutritional values but also the because of their sustainability.
Everybody is always talking about insects and why we should eat them, but nobody is actually eating them. So I thought ok, If it is really that amazing, why aren’t there products that are already mainstream?
So that’s why we started thinking how we could convince people to eat it: the best way was to make them try it first. We have learnt that, once people had tried it, they would be more transported from the whole food experience, because food is tasting , smelling, seeing and, yes, hearing. In the end they would forget the insects.
So that frustration that was for me also the starting point to create this new product, how can we make it as accessible as possible and how can we make it attractive and how can we create a product that actually can convince people to try this amazing ingredient, because we really believe that is a really amazing ingredient.
What do you want people think about your product?
I would love – say Michiel – if people could think about crickets as something normal, an ordinary ingredient just as shrimps, let’s say, or any kind of seafood. These little animal might look a little bit “scary”, too. If you look at an oyster or at a shrimp it could be a little bit weird. But one day, people started eating them and they thought that they were nice and delicious.
I think that our last mission is to make eating crickets the new normal.
Did you have any struggles in starting your own business?
Well, – confirm Michiel – legislation is the first difficulty.
In Belgium we can produce our product and then we can sell it but it’s not the same in other countries: for example in Italy this is not allowed.
But legislation is changing the European institutions and the European institutions are changing the law. Hopefully by next year we will be able to bring our product in other countries.
Supplies are part of our difficulty too, we work together with a cricket farm based in Brussels. This is really important because insects’s industry is still not that big. We are lucky we found one!
Moreover, crickets are very expensive: that’s another problem!
So you have to look how you create your business model around it.
And do you receive any support from the government?
Not yet in this moment. We are applying for some government support.
We did a crowdfunding last year to see if people were interested in our product and also to get a capital to start.
Michiel do you think there is a big difficulty for a business like yours in Italy because Italy is a traditional country?
Yes! And that’s why it’s really interesting to be here. I love how passionate Italians are about their own food culture and I am a fan of it too. There is a strong local food tradition. Italian food culture holds many different beautiful values, but I feel like Italians should have a more open approach to innovation, they both can exist at the same time: you can create something with Italian products and mix it up with brand new ingredients.
Anneleen would you give any advice for someone who wants to kick-start his own business?
My advice is: go and test the market as soon as possible: it’s where you get the real feedback.
Your product could easily be sold in any shop but, if it doesn’t match with what the customer wants, then you are dead from the beginning.
Go out of the building, that’s my advice.
Just try something and test it out really quick. Go out of the building and ask people: do you like this?
Take the initiative. Do it yourself. Just Go for it!