28.12.2022 - Bioeconomy, Innovation

Insects in food: no longer a shocking Halloween novelty

As the number of people in the world grows, the issue of food supply is becoming more and more relevant. Carlos’ Bugs is one of the first companies to offer products that contain insect protein powder, which was only introduced as a new food in Europe in 2021.

The brand’s first product is something that everyone can understand: chocolates. However, the founder of the company, Edīte Ligere, has ideas for more.

Ligere found out about insects in food by accident in 2017, and was fascinated by the idea. She began researching the topic, and it seemed interesting that people were fine trying insects as food when travelling in Asia, and bringing them back home as souvenirs, but were not happy including insects in their daily diet. Back then, insects had not yet been included on the list of new foods as part of EU regulations.

Ligere seeks to work to develop this industry, because insects are rich in various proteins, and they can be grown sustainably.

Everyone likes chocolate

Ligere’s master thesis is about using insects as food. In a survey she conducted, she found that 36% of 913 respondents were ready to have insects in food. The challenge is to offer insects as part of everyday food and package them in a way that is understandable for and acceptable to the average European. Insects are more acceptable to humans if they are invisible, and she uses a powder added to other foods that everyone is familiar with.

The first Carlos’ Bugs product is chocolates with insect protein. “Most people don’t know what insects taste like. However, everyone knows the taste of chocolate: people have a clear idea of what to expect from chocolates that also contain insect protein. The insects we add provide not only protein, but also omega, iron, and vitamin B. Of course, sweets don’t count as a food supplement, but why can’t they offer some added value?” Ligere wondered.

Living in Germany, growing a business in Latvia

Right now, Ligere lives in Düsseldorf, where she moved a few years ago because of her husband’s career; he studies vascular surgery. It was clear from the very beginning that the family would one day return to Latvia, so they kept the finger on the pulse of the country. This led to Ligere picking up on the Investment and Development Agency of Latvia’s pre-incubation programme intended for Latvians abroad. Ligere had previously had ideas about foods with insect protein, but always thought that she would start her own company after returning to Latvia.

The purpose of the pre-incubation programme was for people to take the first steps towards building their business and for researching ideas; she was not required to create a product. But Ligere had a clear vision for her product. She contacted the founder of the sweets brand Caps! Chocolate, Ilze Garanča, who agreed to partner up. Garanča knew everything about chocolate, and Ligere – about insects. Together, they created a completely new product.

Huge potential on a global scale

“This is not just one person encouraging others to eat insects. Everything encourages it: food demand, overpopulation, global warming, the European Green Deal. The insect industry is in its infancy, but has huge global potential. I hope that insects eventually become a common food, much like sushi is now. It’s a question of time, because everything depends on how open people are to the idea,” Ligere said.

Foods with insect protein are new not only to the Baltics, but also to all of Europe. That is why she is working on exports. Samples have already made their way to potential customers in Norway and Austria. Negotiations with potential partners in Germany have also begun.

Ligere has ideas for new products, to be introduced next year, but even before that, she will start to offer insect powder that everyone can add to meals, such as pancakes, sauces and smoothies, at home.

This feature is reproduced from Baltic Business Magazine by kind permission of the German-Baltic Chamber of Commerce in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. You can see the official website and read the Baltic Business Quarterly magazine on App Store or Google Play.

Author: Baltic Business Quarterly (labsoflatvia.com). Photo credit: Carlos’ Bugs

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