For all those within the growing entomophagy community, 2015 brings with it excitement and anticipation of things to come. However, Europe is still facing legislative delays in categorising insects as a food source for human consumption. Most countries lie in a legal grey area and some have even banned the sale of edible insects until things become more clear. The Netherlands, however, is ever at the forefront of the industry and, along with Belgium, are among the most progressive on the continent. Here are a few of the leaders of the Dutch revolution.
It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say that today’s growing global entomophagy industry might never have taken hold in the first place without the advocacy and research of the academics from the Laboratory of Entomology at Wageningen University. Spearheaded by Professors Arnold van Huis and Marcel Dicke, TED talk veterans and authors of “The Insect Cookbook”, the University has paved the way for academic research on edible insects.
Professor van Huis has been an advisor to the United Nations Food & Agricultural Organization (UNFAO) on a number of international projects promoting the use of insects as food. He was the lead author on the 2013 UNFAO 200+ page book, “Edible Insects: Future Prospects for Food and Feed Security”, arguably the single most important catalyst for the global spread of entomophagy in the West and a source of inspiration and encouragement for all those now involved.
In May 2014, the University, in conjunction with the UNFAO, organised “Insects to Feed the World”, the first international conference on insects for food and feed, bringing together academics, the feed industry, insect farmers and NGOs. I will let the following highlight video speak for itself.
2015 also sees the release of the first volume of the Journal of Insects as Food and Feed, brought to us by Wageningen Academic Publishers and covering “the whole chain of edible insects from harvesting in the wild through to industrial scale production, including the development of sustainable technology”.
As far as commercial insect farming goes, Kreca is one of the largest in Europe and has been operating since 1978. They are partnered with Wageningen University and according to the video to the right (again, featuring Professor van Huis), Kreca works with 10 insect species that they sell to the animal feed sector. With the rise of entomophagy, they now farm food-grade mealworms for human consumption and certainly have the potential to diversify.
Kreca, along with other Dutch commercial insect breeders such as NGN, Meertens and The Van de Ven Insect Nursery, and research institutions like Wageningen, make up VENIK, The Dutch Association of Insect Breeders. VENIK works with TNO Innovation for Life on a project in Kenya and Uganda called “Flying Food”, educating locals on the benefits and practicalities of raising insects for their own food.
Although established commercial insect breeders such as these are having a huge impact and are crucial to supply-chain infrastructure, the real driving force behind both breaking the cultural taboo of entomophagy and creating a market for insect consumption are the numerous start-ups popping up all over The Netherlands.
Insect Europe BV and their brand, DeliBugs, led by Ger van der Wal, successfully raised €100,000 in their 2014 crowd investment campaign. They raise crickets, mealworms, buffalo worms and locusts for sale in their whole form, and have a new line of cricket meal available for pre-order. Another company selling these four popular types of insect is Insectable, who also make rather delicious-looking buffalo worm chocolates. For the sake of variety, however, there are several other webshops to choose from, including Insecten Eten and Entowarehouse, the “world’s first insect warehouse”.
The other arm of entomophagy promotion is the “insects as a delicacy” movement, driven by the restaurant industry. There are a few Dutch restaurants such as Specktakel and Tante Truus that include insects on their menus, but perhaps the most interesting venture of this ilk is the Amsterdam-based De Insectenbar by Rens Spanjaard, who, as shown in the clip, takes edible insects to the streets in an admirable attempt to break the taboo and share the diverse flavours insects have to offer.
Bugalicious is taking a slightly different route, producing snack bars containing dried fruit, nuts, seeds and buffalo worms which they sell at various festivals and promotional events. Their bars were used by Jumbo supermarket in a media giveaway when the supermarket chain announced the forthcoming 2015 release of insect-based products in over 400 of their stores. Jumbo recently featured in a BBC News report, showcasing just how far ahead of the game the Dutch are, not just in their willingness put edible insect products on supermarket shelves, but in terms of general consumer acceptance.
Let’s just hope that the rest of Europe doesn’t take too long to follow suit!