Insect protein meals hit European shelves

The growing interest in insects as a mainstream source of protein has seen some commercial realisation in Europe recently, with launches in the Netherlands and Belgium.

Jumbo is the first supermarket chain in the Netherlands that will offer edible insects in all its stores. Besides being healthy, a meal made from insects is also claimed to provide the ability to do something about global food shortages, according to the company.

Jumbo stores in Groningen and Haren started selling products made from insects earlier this month, with a retail price of €5.95-6.79 per serving. Products available are “buggy balls” (mealworms), “buggy citizens” (buffalo worms) and “buggy crisps” (waxworm larvae) in pepper and salt flavours.

The perception on edible insects is changing. “Many people have become very excited and find them delicious. But the insect product must then have been well prepared,” says Wageningen professor of entomology, Marcel Dicke.

Following a federal ruling by AFSCA, the Belgian food safety authority, in December 2013 to allow the sale of ten different types of insects for human consumption, two of the leading Belgian multiples, Delhaize and Carrefour, have entered this new protein segment.

Delhaize were first out of the starting blocks with the launch of Green Bugs savoury sandwich spreads and Damhert Nutrition’s Insecta chilled insect snacks in mid-September (pictured) to Belgian supermarkets; a line of burgers, schnitzels and nuggets, all created using Dutch-bred buffalo worms. The worms reared specifically for human consumption are applied as an alternative high protein, meat substitute.

The production process for the Insecta products is simple: first insects are dried in the freezer, and then they are ground into a homogeneous paste, and finally the necessary ingredients are added in order to optimise the taste.

The Insecta line includes a 150g of vegetable burger with buffalo worms, in a plastic tray held in a cardboard sleeve. Damhert Nutrition Insecta Nuggets With Buffalo Worms are 160g packs of buffalo worms nuggets with salt and white pepper. The ingredients are listed as follows: water, ground buffalo worms (14%), vegetable oil (sunflower oil) (14%), wheat gluten (13%), wheat flour (13%), salt, white pepper, chicken egg protein in powder, inulin, wheat starch, potato fibres, starch (corn, wheat), emulsifier (guar gum), yeast, paprika powder, turmeric.

Damhert is planning to expand breeding sites in Belgium and also develop production with crickets, grasshoppers and mealworms.

Carrefour, meanwhile, in partnership with importer Deli Ostrich, followed suit in early October launching the Conbuggie range. In contrast to the initial Delhaize range, the recently launched Carrefour range includes whole mealworms, so there is no ambiguity about what you’re eating. This range includes burgers (Buggie burgers), croquettes and aperitif balls (Buggie balls).

In both multiples, the new ranges are merchandised in the poultry category alongside exotic meats like ostrich and kangaroo.

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