FOUNDING THE UK’S FIRST FOOD COMPANY WITH EDIBLE INSECTS

October 18th, 2016|

Would you try food made out of insects? If you’re thinking ‘no’, spending time with Christine Spliid will most likely change your mind. Forever seeking new challenges, the Danish entrepreneur founded Gathr Foods in 2O15 and was the first company to bring cricket based food products to the UK. Under the brand Crobar, she launched three different flavoured health bars with added cricket flour. Not only do the bars taste delicious, the addition of crickets actually makes their nutritional profile more interesting as they are rich in protein, iron and vitamins. They’re also great for the planet too, requiring significantly less water than cattle. We met with her to understand what it takes to get Brits to eat creepy crawlies.
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ROOTS

Can you tell us about your background and how you started Crobar?

I have been into healthy food for a long time and I really wanted to start a business that had a bit more meaning than what I did before, which was selling interior items. Whilst travelling extensively in South East Asia I tried insects for the first time – crickets more specifically – in Cambodia. When I came home I started researching the health and environmental aspects around them. I realized that some American companies and a few companies in the Netherlands had slowly started to incorporate insects into food products. In the UK no one had done anything like that yet, so I decided to be the first one to launch a cricket flour product, and that’s how it all started.

What was your initial reaction when trying insects?

I am a foodie, so I would eat anything, but I first had to get over the idea of eating a whole insect. This is the reason why I thought that it was too early to introduce a whole insect product. I don’t think people are ready for that and that’s why the cricket flour makes a lot more sense as a functional ingredient.

Why did you launch your business in the UK?

I initially came to study in the UK, so I knew the market and all my friends were there. Also, the UK is quite far ahead in terms of health food so it was kind of perfect to launch an innovative food product.

You are from Denmark, what is the health food scene there?

I think Denmark is very far ahead and forward thinking in terms of healthy food, especially when it comes to organic food. I am also trying to push the whole idea in Denmark and we do sell our products there, but it’s obviously a much smaller market, so our focus remains the UK.

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CRITICAL DECISIONS

What was the moment that propelled you to go ahead with your idea and start your business?

I wanted to create something that was more meaningful to me in the health food space. I am now proud to have created a sustainable company, which means that we’re actually doing something good and giving back to society – and to the whole world in the end.  On a personal level I found it great, as it’s something that I can think about everyday, but at the same time the wider consequences make it even more worthwhile.

How did you start your company?

I started it a little over a year ago, in April 2O15. I set up a Kickstarter campaign and raised the initial £10’000, I then got private investment over the summer.  That meant that we could launch at a much bigger scale, improve the brand, improve the publicity and start participating in trade shows – and that’s what I have been focusing on for the past year. I enjoy trade shows and events as I find it very encouraging to see people’s reactions to our products. Generally people see our cricket flour as a flour product rather than as a whole insect. On top of that, I see a huge improvement in the number of people who have heard about this trend compared to three weeks or twelve months ago. There is really a lot happening in this area, which makes it even more exciting.

Why did you choose to do a bar?

The reason for creating bars is because it is a healthy product whilst also being an indulgent snack, which we thought people would be happy to try. It is relatively easy to develop as well.

Did you create the recipes for the bars yourself?

Yes, I started experimenting in my kitchen, as I love cooking. I came out with a selection of ingredients and flavor combinations and also talked with our manufacturer about what actually worked with our target audience. It was a dialogue between us before we reached a decision and eventually just went for it! We had no idea whether it was going to work or not because the manufacturer had never worked with cricket flour before. Nevertheless, it turned out pretty well in the end!

Where do you manufacture your health bars and source your cricket flour?

Our manufacturer is based in the UK and we import our cricket flour from insect farms in Canada.

How many people are working with you right now?

I have two part time people that are working with me: someone for social media and someone for field sales.

How are you building your brand awareness?

Social media is hugely important to us and we try to make it fun with competitions. The trade shows are also really important for us. Additionally, we have a PR campaign running at the moment.

Have you thought about exporting Crobar internationally?

It is really a matter of the price point being a problem to be honest. As the price can’t really come down we would only be able to sell to the elite of those countries. It is something that I would think about in the future though because lots of segments of people are already very wealthy and the middle class is getting wealthy, so it’s definitely something that I would love to do if possible.

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CRITICAL CHALLENGES

What has been the biggest challenge with Crobar?

It is always a challenge to convince shops to stock the product. Especially because the health food space in the UK is traditionally vegan & vegetarian. Even if the customers want the product you have to convince the retailer that he or she has to give it a try. Every now and then you also get one person that is completely against trying our products, but with a little explaining they usually change their minds within 30 seconds. Explaining the product is something that’s probably going to be the biggest challenge for the next years to come.

Is being the first one to have developed such a product in the UK a challenge as much as it is an advantage?

Yes, definitely. We are completely new and we have to have rational arguments and convince people that it is actually something that you can eat and not something disgusting! It’s all about changing people’s mind sets and perceptions. I studied psychology at University and found it fascinating. Today I enjoy nothing more than meeting a person who’s never heard about cricket based products and when after a bit of explaining they taste it and you’ve already converted them.

What has been the most upsetting thing that has happened to you since you started your business?

Obviously, when customers are unhappy about something it is always upsetting, or when shops say they’ll stock us and then change their minds. But things like that can happen.

What has been the biggest risk you have taken so far?

At the moment I am devoting my whole life to this business so the biggest risk is that it doesn’t take off! I do believe though that the business is going to take off, as I can see that there are huge shifts in consumer perceptions already. I would be quite proud about it if it’s a success!

SUCCESS SECRETS

What has been your biggest success so far?

Winning the first prize at the World Food and Innovation awards.

How do you manage to balance your personal and professional life?

Having your own business does take over your whole life. In order to do not-urgent or mundane things over the weekends I will do urgent or interesting things, like connecting with people during the week. I also never reply to emails that can wait until Monday. It is really difficult in the first two years and you probably need to be around for longer and have a few employees that you can count on.

Did you ever consider having a partner with you to build your business?

The private investors have been helping out a lot with financial strategic advice, so we are in a way partners.

Where do you see Gathr Foods going in five or ten year’s time?

I think we’ll be selling in supermarkets next year, which means that we will get the food products out to more people, who don’t necessarily shop in health shops.

What are other products you intend to develop under the Gathr Foods umbrella?

We intend to launch products under the Gathr Foods brand such as crackers, crisps, flours and bread, early next year.

Why do you think that consumers’ perceptions are gradually evolving?

I believe many more people have heard about the benefits of consuming insects from different sources in the media, such as news articles. Nowadays there is also an increasing amount of companies offering insect based food products which means that few people have not heard about it one way or the other.

REBEL WRAP UP

Have you always had an entrepreneurial mindset?

I’ve always been kind of quirky, and up for challenges. Pretty much straight after university I knew I wanted to have my own company.

What kind of advice would you give to someone who wants to start his or her own company?

It’s a lot of ups and downs, that’s for sure. You just really have to believe in yourself, no matter what. You have to try to connect with people who are similar to you. You need lots of energy. You have to enjoy what you do, and start something that really interests you, or you won’t get over the downs. Those are some of the most important things in my opinion.

Do you think that people are going to continue eating more insects and sustainable foods?

I do think so, definitely.

Finally, do you have a favorite insect based recipe?

My favorite recipe has got to be cricket flour pancakes.

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Founding the UK’s First Food Company With Edible Insects

Bugs & Insects: The Future For High-Protein Diets?

July 19th, 2016|

Insects are now pretty much readily available to buy in the UK.

Yeah, they aren’t in your local Tesco, but with a quick search online you can find pots of ‘ready to eat’ insects from somewhere like Musclefood quite easily.

Crickets, grasshoppers and mealworms are particularly popular, and at the moment in their raw form are being marketed as something you’d perhaps take to a party for a bit of fun, or use to prank your mates.

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Mealworms on a pillow is a particular favourite of mine.

Pranks aside, the reality is that we’re looking at a pretty dire farming system at the moment, relying on effectively factory farming that simply won’t be sustainable once the earth’s population reaches a certain point.

We need feeding from animals, but they need feeding too – creating a losing situation for both sides.

Farming chickens, pigs and cows will be very hard once the population reaches a certain point, and it’s highly likely our children will be eating a diet quite a lot different to ours.

And, yes, this still applies if you voted out of the EU, you big wally.

Farming insects is sustainable, ethical and takes up hardly any land or feed.

In fact, for every pound of meat produced a cow needs over 1,000 lbs of feed, compared to insects that would require only around 100 lbs.

Are bugs a worthy food source?

So, why eat insects?

And what types of insects can we include in our diets?

Over the last few weeks of writing this article and trying out the insect snacks on my work-proximity-associates and out-of-work-associates I’ve had nothing but looks of disgust.

Turns out most people too “freaked out” to eat dried crickets.

However, when you consider it, many countries like China, Brazil, Thailand and Ghana consider insects a standard part of their cuisine.

Perhaps it’s just that everyone in the UK is a bit of a fanny about this sort of thing.

Eventually we’re going to have to get used to eating them, so why not start now?

When it comes down to detail, insects are actually crazy-high in protein.

Let’s take a look at some of the insects you might eat and their potential for gains:

Insect Protein (per 100g)
Crickets 69g
Mealworms 45g
Grasshoppers 28g

Now compare these stats with some more traditional protein-rich foods:

Food Protein (per 100g)
Beef 26g
Chicken 27g
Eggs 13g
Soybeans N/A because I’m not a complete sissy

Perhaps that has piqued your interest!

Not only are critters high in protein, but they’re full of vitamins and minerals too.

It’s known that various parts of an animal we traditionally don’t eat, such as the bones, are full of minerals.

Well, with insects you get to eat the whole damn thing every time – nothing wasted!

What do they taste like?

Alright, I’ll admit insects don’t taste all that great.

They’re by no means horrific, but having a handful of mealworms is pretty damn dry, and they taste kinda like peanuts but without the fat.

Not too appetising.

But there are other ways to include insects in your diet without having to eat them dried or raw.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to use insect flours – particularly mealworm or cricket flour – which can be used as an ingredient to make something a bit more tasty.

You can also add the insects to a Domino’s Meat Feast, but I’m not going to go into that right now.

Insect bars

Let’s take a look at a couple of insect-containing products that are available on the market right now.

Zoic Mealworm Bars

zoic insect protein bars

Zoic bars are handmade and use mealworms as their primary protein-boosting ingredient.

They are essentially snack bars with added protein, and I found them to be perfect for keeping in my bag and snacking on when other options are things like shitty sandwiches.

The bars themselves are made from 100% natural ingredients, actually only five: dates, mealworm flour, cashew, cacao and coconut flour.

This makes them perfect for a post-workout carb boost with some added protein from bugs!

Personally I really loved the taste; as they are all natural it’s really earthy and actually quite filling for a bar, although I expect it’s not for everyone.

Basically if you’re only used to super sweet bars full of crappy artificial sweeteners you’ll struggle with this one.

If your diet aims more towards a paleo/natural approach then these are spot on.

You can pick up Zoic bars from their website priced at £10.90 for four bars.

Crobar Cricket Bars

crobar protein insect bars

Crobar energy bars are made with cricket flour and come in three flavours at the moment, my favourite being the ‘Coffee & Vanilla’.

They aren’t as high in protein as the Zoic bars, and are much more of a snack than a proper go-to post-workout bar, but many people will prefer their more sweet taste.

You can grab Crobar’s from their website priced at £26.99 for a box of 12.

The good thing about both of these bars is that they are made from all-natural ingredients yet can be chucked in your bag for later.

What do you think?

I’d probably go for bars over actually just noshing down on a bucket of bugs, but what do our humble readers think?

 

Bugs & Insects: The Future For High-Protein Diets?

Eco Eats: BBC Good Food Show by Hello Eco Living

June 13th, 2016|

 

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An award-winning natural energy bar containing cricket flour, as well as nuts, seeds and fruit, crobar is the first product from UK company Gathr, founded by Christine Spliid.

Amidst the recent health implications linked to red meat and the sustainability issues around livestock farming, insects are becoming a more viable and accepted source of nutrition in Western culture and have long been a staple of diets across the world.  Insects are already available to buy as food in the UK, but Gathr takes things one step further by using them as a key ingredient and incorporating them into their energy bars.

At the show, two new flavours were launched – Coffee, Vanilla, & Cricket Flour, and Raspberry, Cacao & Cricket flour. These are in addition to the existing flavours of Peanut & Cricket Flour made with peanuts, sultanas, dates, sunflower seeds and cricket flour, and Cacao & Cricket Flour, an energy bar made with cacao, chia, goji berries, cranberries and cricket flour.

If you’re wondering about the taste, you needed worry, all flavours are delicious, and with crickets containing twice as much iron as spinach as well as a good dose of vitamin B12, they’re really good for you. But they’re also great for the planet too.

Up to 80% of a cricket is digestible, compared with 40% for cattle, which means less food waste. Crickets also emit 80 times less CO2, require 12 times less feed than cattle and require significantly less water than cattle rearing – to produce 1lb of crickets takes just four litres of water compared to 9000 litres for 1lb of beef! They are also farmed without the use of antibiotics, hormones or pesticides offering additional environmental, health and economic benefits.

One word of caution though – whilst the bars are gluten free, dairy free, free from added sugar and Paleo friendly, crickets are arthopods, just like shrimps, and some people who are allergic to shrimps have also shown allergic reactions to insects. Until more studies are done, it is probably best to avoid insects if you know you are allergic to shellfish/ crustaceans. For more information visit Gathrfoods.com.

http://helloecoliving.com/eco-eats-bbc-good-food-show/#.V16GFJPR-u4