A New Food Frontier – Cricket Pasta
Bugs in the pantry are usually unwanted invaders gnawing through packaging and devouring contents before humans can get to them. Ant super highways up the walls offer telltale signs that are often registered too late. But would you put insects on your shopping list? Would you knowingly stock them in your cupboards? Would you serve them to your children? It may soon be the norm if one enthusiast has his way.
Massimo Reverberi is an entrepreneur who wants to make bug consumption more palatable and widespread through his company Bugsolutely. For the past year he has been developing the world’s first cricket pasta. It contains 20% cricket flour, which packs a powerful nutritional punch with increased protein, calcium, iron, vitamin B12 and Omega 3 levels compared to standard pasta offerings. Crickets are 70% protein and are tipped to be the super food of the future.
Food is currently a hot topic and many are questioning their food sources as well as the impact production has in the broader scheme of things. On a global scale how can the planet feed our fast-growing population? It turns out that bugs may have more to offer than the pest factor.
Farming insects is incredibly sustainable and presents a powerful argument for human consumption. They need little food and 1,000 times less water than a cow, according to Bugsolutely’s promotional literature. They’re also fast growing and don’t require as much space.
Eating bugs in Thailand is nothing new. Street vendors in Bangkok and upcountry offer a moving feast of crunchy crickets, grasshoppers, bamboo caterpillars and giant water bugs. They can also be found widely in markets. As well as being caught in the wild they are also farmed for human consumption and animal feed. According to a 2013 FAO report ‘over 200 edible insects are consumed in Thailand’.
Bugsolutely’s packaging wouldn’t look out of place on a supermarket shelf. There are no gross bug pictures that feed the ‘yuck’ factor. The question on the tip of your tongue – how does it taste? Before serving it to unsuspecting dinner guests I was keen to taste the cricket flour in it’s raw form. Crunching on a whole bug is still a little ways off though.
‘Crickets are the gateway bug’, explained Massimo with a wry smile as he spread an array of small, clear sachets on his office table on a recent visit. Each contained a small amount of cricket powder or flour as it’s referred to in the industry. Massimo offered tasters of each on small wooden stirrers. The flavour was something akin to roasted rice with varying tastes depending on roasting times. There was nothing disconcerting about the texture or taste of the raw product. The relatable mouthfeel and compelling nutritional argument for crickets also inspires new applications like sprinkling it on yoghurt for a protein boost.
Bugsolutely’s fusilli pasta has definitely ‘normalized’ the cooking and consumption experience. Cooking from scratch with whole insects wouldn’t be an easy sell. The pasta alone tasted like…… pasta! The texture was the same and there was a slight nutty flavour. The addition of pasta sauce made it seem like a regular dish. Second serves were requested.
So how did this former advertising industry exec find himself working with bugs? It can all be traced back to an adventurous purchase by his tourist nephews on Khao San Road. They wanted to sample crickets from a street stall and Massimo followed suit. Extensive research, chance meetings and being a networker by nature led to the founding of Bugsolutely in 2015. Just last month he co-founded the South East Asian Edible Insects Association and is rapidly discovering more fellow ‘entopreneurs’ (insect entrepreneurs) who are trying to popularize insect farming and consumption.
Bugsolutely’s cricket pasta is gaining international attention. It was served at the ‘Future of Protein Dinner’ at the Museum of Food and Drink Lab, New York in June this year and has been shortlisted as a finalist for the upcoming Manchester GAMA Innovation Awards in October. Massimo is also working to open up export markets in South Korea, Japan and New Zealand. No doubt education and exposure is needed to take the product mainstream but the current consumer appetite for super foods may mean that we don’t have to wait very long before cricket pasta is widely stocked on supermarket shelves everywhere.
Address: 20/19, Soi Sukhumvit 39, Khwaeng Khlong Tan Nuea, Khet Watthana, Bangkok 10110
Phone: +66 (0)95 809 5068
(Images: supplied by Bugsolutely)