Ento Foods was set up by four former students following a university design and engineering project on the subject of insects as food. It has ambitious plans to introduce insects to the western diet as a delicious, healthy and sustainable food. The goal is to see insects in supermarkets by 2020.
The London-based company has spent the past two years working with top chefs to come up with a range of foods currently based on insects such as house crickets (Acheta domesticus), field crickets (Gryllus assimilis) and mealworms (Tenebrio mollitor), which look appealing to eat and taste good, while overcoming the ‘yuck’ factor of munching whole insects.
“Insects are a fascinating and quite fun source of food,” said Aran Dasan, director and co-founder of Ento Foods, at Leatherhead Food Research’s food innovation day last month. But he recognised the big challenges he faces; not least the misconception about insects carrying diseases and being dirty.
Ento is currently providing specialist catering services to events around the Capital and next plans to use crowd funding to develop an insect-based cooking kit, “allowing people to develop their very own insect dishes”, said Dasan. “What we want to do is create a really safe environment for you to play and experiment with.”
Ento wants to overcome the obstacles to consumer acceptance, by developing a range of foods – many based around processed, bite-sized colourful snacks that look similar to canapés or sushi – and go beyond the novelty chocolate covered ants, insect crisps and similar products.
“There is a lot of research in insect farming and processing, but the resulting foods do not look appetising,” remarked Dasan. “That is really what Ento is about; deconstructing the decision process on what we decide to eat.”
The merits of consuming insects as an alternative source of protein are several, he noted. Their feed conversion efficiency is much higher than, say beef, and they are very low in fat. They also have environmental benefits and would also reduce the pressure on land devoted to livestock farming.
“Health and sustainability are always there, but we are not promoting insects on those values,” said Dasan. “They have to have taste and excitement.”