Moves this week by Canadian-based pig and poultry processor Maple Leaf Foods to invest in north America’s largest insects for human consumption business highlight the growing interest in alternative protein sources.
Maple Leaf Foods is providing Series A funding to Entomo Farms, which views whole-roasted insects as a more sustainable alternative to meat.
Among Entomo’s exotic products are Chilli Lime Crickets, Bug Bistro Flavoured Crickets, BBQ Mealworms and Cricket Powder Blueberry Muffin.
Insects are promising feedstuffs for animal feeds as they contain not only valuable nutrients but also particular compounds that seem to be able to modulate animal microbiota and to optimise animal health.. Photo: Jan Willem Schouten
Suitable protein for human and animal consumption
Entomo said in a statement that it would use the cash to expand production of cricket and mealworm ingredients, which are used in pasta sauces, protein bars and smoothies.
For Maple Leaf, the investment is down to its vision to be the most sustainable protein company on earth.
Michael McCain, President and CEO of Maple Leaf Foods, said: “Entomo Farms and Maple Leaf’s products will be separate, but we are excited to help foster their continued leadership in insect protein and aspiration to become the largest insect protein supplier in the world.
“We see a long term role in this form of sustainable protein delivery, both for animal and human consumption, as it is elsewhere in the world.”
Maple Leaf has also, in the recent past, acquired Lightlife, a company that makes products such as plant-based hot dogs. Dan Curtain, president of alternative protein at Maple Leaf, said he felt plant protein was among the fastest growing categories across the retail sector.
“Plant protein categories are experiencing double-digit growth and in some categories high double-digit growth. Consumers are still eating meat, but they are also looking for additional protein choices, and plant protein is the natural solution to meet that demand,” he added.
Other poultry companies that have invested in this area include:
- Tyson Foods, which was part of a $55m round of investment in Beyond Meat, a plant-based companies that producers burgers
- Cargill has purchased a stake in Memphis Meats, a company that is growing sustainable cultured meat from cells
- Nestle has acquired Sweet Earth Foods, a natural, hand-crafted vegan/vegetarian food producer making plant-based protein products such as Benevolent Bacon.
Bruce Friedrich, executive director of the Good Food Institute, a non-profit that supports the plant based and clean meat industry, said recently: “I think we’re going to see huge research and development based improvements in plant-based meat in the very near future.”