Interview with Grame Lee Rose, CEO of ThailandUnique
Tell us shortly the story of ThailandUnique
ThailandUnique was stablished in 2003 by Graeme Lee Rose and his wife Warunee Rose, and now offers Asia’s largest selection of edible insects and bug-related products for both the retail and wholesale markets.
Together, they run the business from their home location in Udon Thani, Thailand, where they have built a private food factory and office onsite. The product line is constantly growing by popular demand and has been well received by customers and companies internationally.
ThailandUnique.com is the go-to site for the world’s growing numbers of entomophagists, especially considering the health benefits associated to the edible insects consumption, as recently documented by the FAO. In fact, over 1,000 species of insects are known to be eaten in over 80% of the world’s nations. These folks know how to get their vitamins and lysine, courtesy of Mother Nature.
ThailandUnique believes that edible insects are the food of the future and aims to be part of this revolution. The products contain all the nutritional goodness of bugs without looking like them: for example soy-insect textured meat in ready meals, crackers, pasta, protein shakes and many more items in the development process.
Our food products are completely natural, organic and contain no artificial flavors, preservatives or colours. We are also working alongside professional chefs and nutritionists to help guarantee that the products we produce are of the highest quality and standard possible.
ThailandUnique has come a long way since its humble beginnings offering a few lines of packaged bugs. Many new, exciting, and definitely unique food products will be rolling off our lines in the near future.
Do you rear your edible insects? If not, where do you get them from?
We rear some crickets ourselves and the other insects we buy from farms across the country.
What’s your best-seller product?
The Cricket Powder.
What’s your main market?
The United States.
Do you have many customers from the West (in %)?
100% of our customers are from the West. We do not sell any products in Thailand.
Many western companies are rearing insects (or buying them) in Thailand, do you think that from an economic point of view this is a “good fact” or that you’re “feeding” your competitors?
I think this is good for the economy. It’s a relatively new market and many more farms will be needed in the future to keep up with the demand.
What’s your communication strategy? Do you think that showing the whole insect is something to avoid?
I don’t think showing the whole insect is necessary. At this stage I think it’s important to present the insects in most appetizing ways possible e.g. foods made with insect powders and promote their health benefits. I don’t think the mainstream market is ready for scorpions on sticks or skewered worms.
Do you think that in the western world entomophagy will be largely practiced as it actually is in countries as Thailand?
There’s a common misconception about how often insects are consumed in Thailand. We are led to believe that Thailand is the world leader of insect consumption and a place where insects are eaten on a daily basis. This may be true for a small percentage of people but is not as common as we think. Insects are mainly sold as snacks at local markets where the average person may buy them as a snack or as a side dish for other foods. The average person may only buy them once or twice per month. They are more common in the rural parts of Thailand where insects are caught in the wild and consumed on a more regular basis. That being said, the main foods are still fish, chicken, beef and pork, insects are consumed on a relatively small scale.
With that in mind I don’t see insect consumption catching on in a big way back in Western countries. People will still buy them mostly for their novelty factor but I don’t think we’ll be seeing them at major supermarkets and restaurants any time soon.
There is an argument that Sushi was once considered a revolting dish in the west but is now being sold everywhere in the world. I think this is a little different because it was already being eaten on a large scale in Japan and fish is very versatile. How many insect restaurants do you see in Thailand? I haven’t seen one except for a restaurant that caters for curious backpackers in Cambodia.
So to sum up, I don’t see whole edible insect dishes catching on in the West, however I do see a lot of potential for insects to be used as protein powders in the health and fitness world. I’m positive Insects will eventually become part of peoples diets in the future but will most probably be hidden amongst other foods.