By 2050 there will be around 9 billion people on Earth. How will we feed them all? This is a question that Francesco Majno wants to help answer. As co-founder of Crické, who produce savoury snacks from cricket powder, he is attempting to be at the forefront of a sea change in our diet here in the west.
Locavore caught up with Francesco, and talked about squeamishness, lobster as prisoner food, and the positive environmental effects of eating insects.
How did Crické begin?
We’re four friends – Andrea, Edoardo, Guglielmo, and myself – who decided to start our own new-food company to give real shape to the idea of crickets as tasty snacks. We established the company just a few months ago, but the idea has a longer history. It came from our common passion for innovative food and more sustainable ways of eating.
Crické was born whilst Edoardo and I were working together in a social enterprise startup accelerator: Edoardo as business analyst and me as a service designer. We then met Andrea – a communication designer – and Guglielmo, who is an investment analyst.
We tried insects for the first time during a trip to Thailand – it was love at first bite! Thanks to FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN) reports, we found out about their incredible nutritional and environmental benefits. We were pretty sure that not everyone was ready to bite on scorpions and tarantulas in Europe, so the challenge has been how to produce insect-based food that is attractive for people. We believe that the best way to achieve it is to incorporate insects into a familiar and reliable form: everyday snacks.
We decided to establish the company in the UK due to the vibrancy of the snack market. After some months creating recipes and setting up production, Crické is finally ready to hit the market.
Do you breed your own crickets, or source them from elsewhere?
It’s quite a complex business in itself, and very capital-intensive. So we source our cricket powder from certified suppliers. It’s guaranteed to be human grade, for human consumption. The farming of the crickets, and all the steps involved in the production, take place in a controlled environment in order to obtain the best quality powder. They are killed by lowering the temperature, which avoids any type of microbial contamination. Our partner is in Thailand, where there are now more than 10,000 cricket farmers.
What products do you currently make?
We make high-in-protein, low-in-impact savoury snacks with cricket powder! They are outrageously tasty. After months of testing (and tasting) we are extremely proud to offer a delicious snack which still maintains a super-short and 100% natural ingredient list: wheat flour, crickets, flax seeds, oil, salt. Our Cricket Crackers for example contain just wheat flour, cricket powder, linseeds, extra virgin olive oil, and salt. There are no artificial flavourings, colourings, or preservatives added. The two products currently available are: Cricket Crackers and Cricket Tortilla Chips. For the tortillas, we follow a traditional Mexican recipe. But we don’t fry, we bake them. So they are are less greasy, more healthy.
All our products are high in protein (more than 20% protein), high in vitamin B12, dairy-free, with no added sugar, and made with crickets! The cricket powder we use is super-high in protein – 76% in fact – with a complete quality as it contains all the essential amino acids. It’s also high in iron, phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium.
What do crickets taste like?
Although flavours can change according to various factors such as the cricket species, the diet, the type of culinary preparation, the taste of crickets is similar to hazelnut. The cricket powder has a fine light brown colour with a taste like roasted nuts. The aroma is pleasant, a bit like toasted grains with hints of grass. More than 2,000 different species of insects are consumed in the world and each of them has a particular flavour: from bacon to cheese to wood, honey, even shrimp.
Insects have been touted as the future of food. Why is this?
Crickets are an excellent food, rich in protein, minerals, vitamins, and essential fatty acids. For years the FAO has been promoting the consumption of insects because, besides being highly nutritious, they have a low environmental impact. The breeding of crickets requires much less in environmental resources than traditional meat.
According to the FAO, the world population will reach 9 billion by 2050. Food consumption will grow by 70%, and meat consumption will double. Currently, in order to satisfy the demand for meat, a third of the world’s lands, and 70% of agricultural land is used. The meat industry is responsible for 20% of greenhouse gas emissions. Cricket farming is far more sustainable. To produce one kilo of beef, for example, 15,000 litres of water and 200 m2 of land are used. For one kilo of crickets you only need 10 litres of water and 15 m2 of land. This also goes for food, energy, and greenhouse gas emissions. With cricket farming, consumption and emission are drastically reduced.
Do you think consumers in the western world can overcome their squeamishness in eating insects?
If you consider that more than 2 billion people around the world eat insects, and that our food choices have always been changing during human history, then yes! And it won’t take ages. Insects are highly nutritious and have a low-impact factor. Introducing them into our diet could really help in finding effective alternatives to high-impact traditional animal-based protein. In a decade I think we’ll look back and say: we weren’t eating insects for real ten years ago?
Something similar happened not long ago with raw fish, and a while longer ago with lobsters which were seen as food for prisoners. And with all the ‘new food’ that came from the Americas, like tomatoes, potatoes, cocoa, coffee beans…
Do you think there are still animal welfare considerations in insect farming?
On this topic a I would like to share some articles with you below. I agree with the main thesis: the neural system of crickets is so simple that they are almost certainly unable to feel pain, and their welfare in cricket farms is respected – considering the overall conditions in which they live.
What are your plans for the future?
In the next weeks we’re launching our completely renovated brand identity and a full range of new products. Our new Cricket Crackers flavours will be Nigella & Onion, Chilli & Ginger, and Super Seedy. Our new Cricket Tortilla Chips flavours are Sea salt, Chilli, and Blue Corn & Lime.
To make our plan and route to market real, and to position Crické in the UK market,we are closing an investment round in the coming months. We will then consolidate the business in the UK and start selling our delicious products into supermarkets in other European countries (Germany, France, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Italy, etc.)
Finally, why do you do what you do?
I strongly believe in the positive impact Crické will generate. I see a world massively engaged in creating social impact. The food system is the first that has to be changed and insects have a great chance to gain a leading position. Tasty insect-based food – like Crické’s – even more so.
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