Entoview with Gathr Foods

Not many of us can say that we played a significant part in the start of an idea or concept that shapes the way the world works. Even for those in the right place at the right time, such as for the web innovators of Silicon Valley in the 90s, the next leap forward is often an unexpected one. As many are now beginning to realise, global population growth and food security issues have forced us to the cusp of a new agricultural revolution – only this time, everyone sees it coming.

Christine Spliid, founder of Gathr Foods, is originally from Denmark, but is based in London. CROBAR cricket flour energy bars started out as an idea that combines Christine’s passion for endurance running, healthy food, travelling, and sometimes, the unconventional. In her lifetime she has travelled to more than 40 countries and was fascinated by the number of people, especially in South East Asia, who eat insects on a daily basis.

Christine Spliid | Gathr Foods
Christine Spliid | Gathr Foods

EBF: Why are you passionate about edible insects? 

Christine: The first time I saw people eating insects and had my own first taste of crickets was in Cambodia in 2014. They tasted great! It was only later when I started researching the topic that I realized how widespread entomophagy really is and how much sense it makes.

The fact that insects are eaten by a third of the population already, and that we don’t do it in the West despite the enormous environmental benefits, inspired me to start this trend in the UK. I intuitively thought the best way to go is by making the first hurdle of eating insects easier by using pulverised crickets. This approach proved to be correct. I have been eating natural snack bars for years myself, so the product really appealed to me on a personal level.

Many edible insects look similar to shrimp so it seems strange that eating insects is almost unheard of in the West. Learning about the health benefits let me explore the idea of introducing insects back at home, and having studied Psychology & Business at Warwick University, I was immediately fascinated with the challenge of changing people’s perceptions and attitudes towards eating insects.

Can you tell us about the creation process?

I love cooking and was experimenting a lot in the kitchen, thinking about which flavours would go well with the earthy flavour of crickets. Peanuts are great and so are dried fruit as they lend some sweetness to the overall product. Cricket flour is extremely versatile though so it actually goes with many ingredients.

So far CROBAR has Cocoa and Peanut flavours. What’s next?

We are launching a Coffee & Vanilla and a Raspberry & Cacao bar at the end of May.

World Food Innovation Awards 2016 Winner
World Food Innovation Awards 2016 Winner
CROBAR at Food Matters Live 2015
CROBAR at Food Matters Live 2015

How has the public responded?

In generally the response has been very positive. By now most people have heard of the trend in the West from several news sources which is great and makes my challenge slightly easier. One of the most amazing things has been the feedback from so many vegetarians and even some vegans, who have told me that after considering especially the sustainability factor, they are on board with ea ting insects. I find that really amazing!

Is farming crickets truly humane?

This is a tricky question. My long-term aim is to reduce meat consumption and replace part of it with insect based food products. I don’t think it is realistic to turn the entire population into vegans, so therefore my answer is yes; insect farming is more humane than the current situation of farming only livestock.

What are the legal issues with serving insects as food in the EU?

We are still facing the legal challenges of getting insects approved as Novel Foods. Since eating insects was never relevant in the EU before now the legal situation was unclear. But the European Parliament announced in October 2015 that the law is being revised, so together with the Woven Network, the UK network for insects as food and feed, for which I am on the management committee, we are applying for approval. I am confident that we will get the approval, but until then we are allowed to sell our product.

There are many start-ups in the field. How do the various entrepreneurs work together?

As mentioned earlier about my involvement with Woven. It is made up of both academics and business people and we are a pretty tight community here in the UK. Perhaps partly because whoever chooses to get into this business cares about the wider aspects especially relating to sustainability, so it’s a nice bunch of people. We agree that we want to grow the sector together.

How does Gathr Foods stand out from the competition?

I won’t compromise on the quality of my products and the flavour always has to remain top priority. We are considering other cricket flour products apart from bars, so stay tuned…

Here’s Christine in the video for her now successfully funded Kickstarter campaign!

You can find out more about Christine, Gathr Foods and CROBAR on her website or by following her progress on Twitter and Facebook.