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The secret to making insects a snack staple? 'Make a shareable, social product,' says Jimini's

Jimini's meal worms ©iStock

Alternative proteins are in high demand, but can consumers stomach the thought of eating insects whole? French start-up Jimini’s is on a mission to put crickets, worms and grasshoppers on our everyday menu.

Over the last five years, Jimini’s has been developing Europe’s own home-grown insect products, which began as a line of high-end gourmet snacks and are moving into staple meal time ingredients.

Jimini’s insect products were listed on Mintel’s most innovative food and drink products 2015, and its founders are hoping that insects soon become a normal, accepted and central part of Western cuisine.  

FoodNavigator spoke to Jimini’s communications manager Raphaëlle Browaeys about the future of insect protein.

How did Jimini’s begin and where did the idea come from?

“It started in 2012 when we had access to health reports which said that insects are a great source of protein, but we realised that people were not actually ready to eat insects. No product was really tasty enough or had effective marketing.

"Being with friends helps you challenge yourself and we realised we needed to make it more like crisps and so on - a social food – and when people try it they always like it.

"For this reason it became focussed on crispy snacks which people could share and would be a novelty. In 2013 we sold the first products after a year of developing the brand and market and finding a warehouse.”

What is it about insects that make them a great source of protein?

“Insects contain on average 63 g of protein to every 100 g of dried product – that’s more than beef or chicken. But it is also a question of the environment, in 2050 there will be 9 billion people on earth and need a sustainable source of protein. You need 22,000 litres of water to produce one kilo of beef – and you need 7,000 litres for one kilo of chicken – but we only need 100 litres for a kilo of insects, which get all their water from their food.

“There are two thousand edible insects available on earth. It takes two months to get insects ready and it takes two years to get meat ready – everything involved requires less. We kill them through freezing which is like an anaesthetic and they die very quickly. In any case they don’t have a nervous system so they don’t feel pain – a grasshopper could live half a life with no leg and not feel anything.

“Also, farming insects produces around 99% less greenhouse gas emissions, and insects have such different DNA to humans that the spread of diseases like avian influenza and mad cow disease are not an issue.”

So is Jimini’s as much about spreading the cause of insect protein as it is a business?

“At the moment we are very much a business but would love to get more involved in education and debate, which is why FoodVision and events like it are so valuable.

“We are working on a project at the moment to teach young children about insects in schools. Kids usually love them, as they haven’t had time to learn the idea that it is ‘disgusting’.”

FoodVision is a three day interactive conference organised by William Reed, publisher of FoodNavigator. It is held from March 1 - 3 2017 in London. 

What is the biggest challenge you face?

“The main challenge is culture, which is why we need to reach children before they develop this taboo. But even my grandmother, who is 90 years old, also loves eating crickets, so it is just a matter of getting people to try it. It is a matter of patience.”

What does the future hold?

“We already sold more than 250,000 products across all countries, and have been based in London since January since last year. We estimate the number of people who have tried our products to be over a million.

“Last year we sold three times more than the previous year – yes we increased the market but mainly it’s about people becoming more accepting of course. The grasshoppers are the most popular product so far – it’s scary and it’s a big one and people like to challenge themselves.”

Interested in learning more about Jimini's? Then join other food and drink industry leaders at Food Vision from 1 – 3 March 2017 in London. Organised by William Reed, the publisher of FoodNavigator, this industry event brings together CEOs, academics and top scientists for three days of interactive conferences and networking sessions on how to drive sustainable growth and profitability in global nutrition, food and beverage markets.

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