Interview with Déborah Schäfer, CEO of Ihou
Tell us about how you get involved in the edible insects sector
Initially, we were 3 founders, involved in the agri-food sector (food safety consultant, agri-food engineer). We reviewed with interest FAO’s opinion (among others) regarding environmental impact of traditional way of producing and consuming proteins, mainly in western countries. It appeared to us that insects could be part of a global solution, coherent with our values. A few companies in Europe existed, producing low quantities of insects aimed at human consumption. It seemed to be a good opportunity, due to this emerging, but promising market, with evolving needs: a very exciting challenge! It was important for us to be coherent with our values, that’s why we have drawn up strict specifications and processes including: the exclusive use of organic feed with a farming environment as close as possible to cricket natural behaviour, the exclusive use of organic and simple raw material in the final products without any added preservatives nor artificial flavoring.
What products are you marketing?
Ïhou’s activity includes all manufacturing steps: from farming to distribution. Our insect-based product range is only made from crickets born in our farm. We propose different kind of products for different types of customers:
Insectes à croquer: natural, salty or sweet snacks, the better way to make a first step in entomophagy (childrens can’t resist our choco grillons), and perfect in aperitives, pastas, salads, etc.
Energy bars: a range of bars aimed at sporting consumer, or to replace a meal.
A professional range, aimed at food processors: bakers, school catering, traditional restaurant, aperitive snacking manufacturer, pasta manufacturer, chocolate maker, etc.
Where do you get your insects from?
We are cricket farmers: no insects come from outside now. Our zero generation went from different european farms. These insects were our first and only insects who weren’t born in our farm.
What do you expect in terms of market growth in the next couple of years?
Insect as a fad phenomenon slown down, for the benefit of a more “occidental” way to use insect as raw material. That’s a positive sign, the sign we expected. From our point of view, agri-food processors’ needs (from traditional bakers to industrial food manufacturers) are about to explode.
What’s the best market strategy to persude consumers that edible insects are just a normal food?
To develop partnership with food manufacturers, who are the first to convince. They are the able to play a role of prescriber for their consumers, they are the best placed to impact consumption habits, and the best placed to make insects a delicious food.
Are you planning to develop new products?
Yes of course! It remains so much to explore, and our team’s creativity has no end. But a big step for us this year will be to switch from pilote stage to industrial phase, without compromising our values, our products’ quality, or our ethics as farmers concerning our animals welfare.