Cricket challenges: Can format innovation help Asia’s insect-based snack sector go global?
Although entomophagy – or insect consumption – is known to be part of many traditional diets in various South East Asian, this mostly remains limited to frying the whole insect and selling these at roadside stalls, with little opportunities for branding or appealing to a wider, more modern audience as a mainstream food product.
Interestingly, despite a longer history in this region, the innovation and modernisation of insect consumption has been gaining traction somewhat faster in Western markets, garnering appeal as an alternative protein source that is more sustainable than animal-based protein.
This sustainability factor has much less influence here in Asia, which means that it is much more difficult for firms looking to expand this sector here to attract consumers.
This is particularly the case in Malaysia or Singapore, where the ‘ick’ factor remains strong towards insect consumption.
And even in markets such as Thailand or Vietnam, where consumption is more common, bringing insect protein to the level of mainstream acceptance is still a major challenge.
“We understand that eating a whole insect is not particularly appealing to many younger urban consumers and in many markets too, so we wanted to make the acceptance easier by incorporating the insect-based protein into snacks and bakery products,” Cric-Co Director Nuttathida Tantianon told FoodNavigator-Asia at the recent ThaiFex-Anuga Asia 2022 show.
“Even here in Thailand where insect consumption has been around for a long time, we know that competition is very stiff [from an international point-of-view] – we have just launched this cricket-based crispy brownie, but in places like Europe or the United States, this kind of product is actually not new anymore.
“Over there, things like insect crispy brownies, insect-based chips and snacks, insect protein bars and so on are pretty common, [and as an industry] we have much work to do in terms of innovation [as] competition is definitely very intense.
“For now, our first launch product in Thailand is this crispy brownie made from 100% cricket powder – most of the crispy brownies or products made from cricket powder in the market use maximum 30% to 40% of cricket powder, but ours uses 100%.”
She added that to stand out, Cric-Co’s marketing strategy is also to emphasise its localised supply chain.
“So we are buying from the local cricket farms, adding value to the products, selling to the world, and giving back to the local community from the profits made – so Thai consumers can see we are sustainably helping local farmers, and this sustainability will hopefully also resonate with international consumers,” said Tantianon.
Watch the video above to find out more.