A short talk with Massimo Reverberi, founder of Bugsolutely (Thailand) and Plento (Singapore)
Ciao Massimo, it’s been a while we don’t chat about how things are going on there, in Thailand. What about the edible insects market development?
Not much of a development, unfortunately. North America and Australia seem totally flat, and Europe is still struggling after the first novel food approval by the EU. This is probably the reason why some start ups are turning to dog food with insect powder.
What about the market in South East Asia in general?
There are a few new products but not much is going on, and it is my personal opinion that South East Asia is the right place for farming and processing, but not for selling edible insects. The fact that some people use to eat whole insect as a tradition does not help, they would never buy a processed food product containing an insect flour as an ingredient, it’s a different consumer with different reason-to-buy. I call these new products PPI (Packaged Processed Insect Food).
What are the challenging issues?
Regulation is number one. The EU problem, of course. But in general, most of the food agencies in the world still have no position or acceptance for edible insects.
Price is a factor, too. The western distaste for whole insects as food is not a big obstacle in my opinion, in the case of PPI products.
You’re trying to hit the chinese market with Bugsolutely’s products. Tell us about this project.
Actually Bugsolutely Cricket Pasta cannot be sold in China. Only silkworms are a legal food, while crickets and any other insect would require a complicated novel food approval process. The fact that many chinese traditionally eat whole insects is tolerated, but once you have a PPI to be sold on shelves, legality matters.
My project in China was a joint venture with a local food group to develop the first silkworm powder-based snack. Just after product launch, I sold my shares in the company to my Chinese partner and left to Singapore, where with new partners we are creating a plant based and insect based snack, Plento (www.plentofoods.com). Launch will be in 2022.
Did you change your mind on the industry perspectives in your geographical area?
Except for Japan, South Korea and Australia, there wasn’t and there isn’t a market for PPI in Asia. But it’s still a place with competitive prices for the cricket flour and also for the manufacturing. What we need is the possibility to export to the EU, which in my opinion is the only market with a great potential for PPIs.