Asian insect protein industry cites scaling up and negative misconceptions as top barriers

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At the recent ThaiFex-Anuga Asia 2022 in Bangkok, the insect protein industry received strong interest as a potential alternative source of protein, with many award-winning related innovations and in-depth interest from consumers and companies from various parts of Asia. and the Middle East.

That said, industry stakeholders remain well aware that negative consumer perception of insect-based products is a major step to take, with companies such as Cric-Co of Thailand having attempted to address this issue. by creating them in a cricket-based snack-crispy format. brownies – to make them visually more appealing to consumers.

However, it would not be possible for all companies in the industry to focus on snack products, as many are turning to insects as a more sustainable source of protein that can potentially replace animal sources – and for this, the development Insect protein powder still seems to be the most effective solution at this point.

“Adding insect protein powder can increase the nutritional value of food products with traditionally lower nutritional values, such as pasta or dumpling wrappers or even beers,”Stefan Jarhelm, Director of Strategic Development for Global Bugs Asia, said FoodNavigator-Asiaat the show.

“We know there’s always a ‘disgust’ factor that comes into play that consumers associate with eating insects, and we see the use of protein powders as the best way around this problem right now.

“These negative preconceptions can only be managed by making products attractive and palatable and by educating, especially about the nutritional benefits.”

This was supported by Tal Ozeri, the factory manager of Flying SpArk’s Thailand site, based in Israel.

“Focusing on the nutritional aspect of things is very important [to winning over consumers] – Get past that “yuck” feeling and realize that in insect proteins like Flying SpArk fruit fly larvae, there’s a lot of nutritional value like amino acids, iron, magnesium, calcium [will open them up] to a truly nutrient-dense source of protein,”he said.

“So it’s really understanding [and educating] so people can move past that and accept it as food.

Jarhelm also pointed out that while Asia has enormous potential in terms of insect production and breeding, the European market is currently ahead in terms of consumer demand – and despite Asia’s production potential, a lack of funding and organized support means that this demand is not systematically or effectively capitalized.

“We know that the main market right now is in Europe, with Japan and the United States also growing, and right now we really need to scale up and grow to produce enough volume to meet that. request”,he said.

“Thailand is one of the greatest cricket-breeding countries in the world. [with some] 20,000 small local farms in Thailand – but going from a small farm to a large one capable of exporting globally takes much more than farming and processing, it takes funding and coordinated support.

The future is bright

That said, both remain extremely convinced that the future of insect protein is bright, thanks to the growing demand for alternative proteins as well as health and nutrition requirements in the region.

“The insect protein industry has been growing for quite some time now, but in the last three or four years the focus has been on animal feed and using black soldier flies for that – it’s now time for the movement towards human consumption to really grow,”said Jarhelm.

“We have already seen an increase in demand from large companies wanting to integrate insect proteins into their products to improve the nutritional profile, so I am convinced that the future is positive.”

Ozeri added that the relative newness of the industry is why awareness is still low, and that it’s only a matter of time and education for it to become mainstream.

“Once this becomes mainstream and people understand that it’s a really good food source, then I think the industry is going to explode,”he said.

“It’s still a relatively new industry, no one considered insects a real alternative source of protein before – so the industry of raising chickens, beef or pigs has been around for decades, [but] we are reinventing the wheel, reinventing an industry and I believe that over the next decade we will see a lot of improvements [that drive its development further].”

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