Francisca Castellanos
Founder & CEO
Crick Superfoods
Startup Contributor

Can Insect Protein Be the Basis of Human Nutrition?

By Francisca Castellanos | Wed, 10/28/2020 - 09:05

Over the years, insects have been considered as a nuisance to humans and even as a threat to agriculture due to pests that have destroyed crops. Yet, internationally, more than 2 billion people consume insects (FAO, 2013), either because they are part of the local traditional diet or because insects are contemplated as a sustainable protein. As a result, some startups, like Crick Superfoods, are innovating in the food industry and launching products based on protein powder derived from crickets. 

Since 2003, the Edible Insect Program at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has been researching entomophagy, or the consumption of insects by humans. Insects are a highly nutritious and healthy food source that are high in protein, vitamins, fiber and mineral content (FAO, 2013). Insects are evaluated as a sustainable protein because they require less space, water and food, lead to fewer CO2 emissions and are a principal source of nine essential amino acids, including lysine, threonine and methionine. 

You may ask yourself, are all insects edible? No. FAO has established 1,900 edible insects. It recommends the consumption of insects raised on indoor vertical farms where food safety levels are controlled, just like any other animal farm. In its research, FAO indicates which insects are the most demanded: beetles (Coleoptera), caterpillars (Lepidoptera), bees, ants (Hymenoptera) and crickets (Orthoptera) (2013). Some studies have suggested that insects could ensure future human food and animal feed security because their positive contribution to nutrition and low environmental impact. The main reason is that there will be neither enough food resources nor space for mass animal production to meet the population’s demand.

Mexico itself is characterized by having a variety of edible insects based on the pre-Hispanic cultural influence on its gastronomy. In Mexico, people consume maguey worms (gusanos de maguey), bees, ant eggs (escamoles), which are deemed as Mexican caviar, and crickets (chapulines). There are different ways to prepare these insects but dehydration is the most common for crickets. The heat dehydration process includes the entire skeleton of the cricket. Once dehydrated, the cricket is dried and reduced in size, almost everyone adds chili sauce, and it is eaten in a single bite. Mexico is considered the Latin-American leader in entomophagy. It has influenced some startups to use protein from powdered insects as an ingredient in the formulation of certain products. 

Crick Superfoods is the first Ecuadorian startup to launch tortillas and nachos: sea salt and chili based on protein powder derived from crickets. The design process of the product was based on strengthening the attributes of Mexican culture and gastronomy. When you eat tacos or listen about crickets, or chapulines, you may be transported to Mexico by an associative memory to a country with a unique and captivating gastronomic diversity. That influence of insect consumption as part of the Mexican culture shaped my idea of creating a healthy brand with crickets protein powder.  I lived in Mexico for five years and I did some research into the nutritional uses of crickets to combat child malnutrition in vulnerable areas of the Bajio region in Mexico. Taking into consideration the assimilation process of living in a country with the highest consumption of insects and the experience of doing some research about the advantage of the nutritional value crickets offer to improve the quality of life in vulnerable communities encouraged me to create Crick Superfoods.

As the first startup to incorporate a new product based on insect protein in the Ecuadorian market, where people do not eat crickets, or nachos and tortillas became strategic products to create a sensory association with a Mexican recipe in the Ecuadorian territory. Crick Superfoods was created to solve a key problem in the market: there were no products with sustainable protein. For the most part, products in the market that are high in protein, had sugar, had preservatives to lengthen their useful lifetime and there was no use of crickets powder, leaving out all the advantages of insect’s iron, calcium, omega6, vitamin B and nine amino acids. Crick Superfoods is a gluten-free, high protein, low fat and no preservative brand with five times more protein than any other brand in the market. Crick Superfoods complies with all the sanitary requirements of the Ecuadorian government for the indoor production of crickets and the commercialization of products based on ground cricket protein. Our philosophy relies on providing a clean label with well-known ingredients that benefit the body, unlike brands that use chemicals that you can’t even read on the packaging’s nutrition facts.

If it is your first time to read something about edible insects and a brand that uses cricket powder for nachos and tortillas, you may be surprised. You may take into account that if you dare to try an insect, it is recommended that you investigate if the process of raising the insect took place in a controlled-environment farm and, therefore, if they are edible insects. We invite you to take a closer look at startups like Crick Superfoods, which are innovating in the food industry with sustainable protein and the use of cricket powder. Are you ready to become part of this new challenge to save the world by eating insects?

Bug Appetit!

Photo by:   Francisca Castellanos