By John Heylin (C13)
In the summer of 2011, I was forwarded a link to a video that would forever change my life. The talk was by a professor who is spending considerable time and resources to research how to get Europeans to start taking the consumption of insects seriously as a food source. For some reason, this idea made perfect sense to me, and the following semester I began working on ways to implement the idea for the American consumer.
My reasoning for a food product was this: If Americans can’t stand the sight or idea of eating insects, why not get rid of the sight aspect of this aversion? When dried out, crickets are approximately 65% protein, a statistic that made me think that an energy/protein bar might be the best avenue for the consumer market. By grinding the crickets into a powder I was able to add them to energy bar recipes much like whey or soy protein isolates to boost the protein content of the bars. Additionally, you couldn’t see the insects.
The greatest challenge facing me now is overcoming the cultural perception that insects are gross and dirty. Despite 80% of the countries in the world including insects in their diet, Americans are still mostly disgusted by the idea. And yet food preferences change. They can change culturally much like the explosion of the sushi craze, or they can change according to the lack of resources available like natural vanilla or maple syrup. Alternatives will have to be found because of the increasing volatility of the food markets in the world. Insects are a great way to do that.
InFoods has found many successes though: we’ve been hired to cater corporate events, pre-sold cases of energy bars, won the Madrona Business League competition, and are currently raising funds through Kiva Zip, which will allow us to further explore just how much demand there might be out there for insect-based food. If demand is large enough, production will ramp up at a much faster scale.
As of today, InFoods will be changing its name to Chirp. A designer has been hired, partnerships with people experienced in the food industry are being formed, and packaging is being sorted out. Find out the latest information here.
If you asked me in 2007 what I would be doing after graduating from PGS’s MBA program, I never would...