FIVE years of research paved the way for a group of friends to realise their dream of producing a protein-rich range of food products sourced from crickets.
Kanitsanan Thanthitiwat and her friends began exploring how to develop their business idea in 2013. Now, with their products brought to the market this year under the Entopowder brand, they are aiming for sales of up to 312,000 euros (Bt12.14 million) for 2018.
“We took five years to research and develop a protein-intensive product line made from bugs by focusing on crickets,” Kanitsanan, co-founder and chief executive officer of Global Bugs Asia Co Ltd, said in an interview with The Nation recently.
“We began a pilot project on a site of 400 square metres in Prachuap Khiri Khan province. The project comprises a closed-end cricket farm, a research and development centre, and a processing plant for whole crickets and cricket powder.”
The plant under the pilot project has a total production capacity for 12 tonnes a year of both whole crickets and cricket powder, she said.
Kanitsanan said that among her friends who collaborated on the project are Swedes, who are experts on innovative ways to produce a protein source from bugs, and another partner who had more than 10 years’ experience in breeding crickets in Thailand, and had been exporting whole crickets to Europe for more than five years.
The friends worked together over the years to study how to produce a powder from the processed insects.
The partners aimed to tap rising demand for an alternative, rich source of protein in markets such in Europe and the United States.
To back their research and development efforts, Kanitsanan and her friends set up a joint venture firm with Sweden-based Global Bugs AB, which holds a 49 per cent stake in Global Bugs Asia Co Ltd, with the rest held by Kanitsanan and her friends. The joint venture was established with registered capital of Bt22 million in 2013.
“We spent five years on research and development into how to feed crickets in a closed-end farm and on developing products from them, until we succeeded in developing our pilot project for the processing of whole crickets and cricket powder that enabled exports to begin this year,” she said.
According to the company’s research, the market value of protein sourced from bugs will grow by up to 7 per cent this year, compared with last year. This would see the global market value for this niche sector reach about US$400 million this year, before hitting US$700 million in 2024.
The main markets for insect-based protein are the Asia-Pacific, with a share of 33.7 per cent, the Middle East with 28.4 per cent, Latin America with 19.4 per cent, and Europe 12.3 per cent.
Demand for this form of protein in Europe has shown impressive growth.
As a result, the company is focusing on sales to that region, including the Scandinavian countries, Kanitsanan said.
“We expect to sell about 6 tonnes of the whole crickets and cricket powder in our first year of operations, priced at between 40 and 52 euros per kilogram, by focusing on the Europe market,” she said.
Kanitsanan said the company also is looking into developing protein-rich food from others types of insects and as a food source for animals. These expanded product lines could come in later stages of the company’s development, she said.