Blog Innovate UK

Organisations:
Innovate UK
Innovate UK

https://innovateuk.blog.gov.uk/2019/10/02/should-we-be-eating-insects/

Should we be eating insects?

There’s a bit of a buzz around entomophagy (eating insects) at the moment.

In the last couple of weeks, you may have seen Bug Farm Foods open a UK first insect protein R&D lab in West Wales and launch VEXo, a meat alternative product made from insect and vegetable protein (featured on Good Morning Britain).

Woman sitting in a restaurant holding a menu with a thoughtful expression on her face.

You may also have seen the launch of the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Industrial Strategy Challenge (ISCF) food production systems competition, which includes insect protein in scope.

What’s behind the increasing interest in entomophagy? Let’s look at VEXo in more detail:

Photo of the founders of Bug Farm Foods Sarah and Andy, looking at a tray of mealworms.

VEXo

VEXo was developed by St Davids-based Bug Farm Foods in response to a 2017 Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition by Welsh Government, which set the challenge of tackling childhood obesity.

Companies were invited to provide solutions which focused on reducing the levels of salt, sugar and saturated fats, as well as increasing the levels of vitamins, minerals and fibre in food and drink for children, whilst also driving down costs.

Bathroom scales on a wooden floor background.

Working together to tackle childhood obesity

Childhood obesity is a significant UK challenge, and addressing it will have a positive effect on the long-term health of the individuals and the huge associated healthcare costs, hence Innovate UK provided additional funding to the competition; a great example of UK Government and Welsh Government funding working together to tackle a common problem.

Potential solutions from two award winning Welsh companies

Two Welsh companies, Bug Farm Foods and Pennotec (Pwllheli), were awarded funding to develop their solutions; Pennotec worked with Bangor University’s Biocomposites Development Centre to develop MilaCel, a fat-replacing ingredient made from the cider industry’s apple waste.

Apple cider vinegar in a glass bottle against a rustic background of a wooden table and apples.

Bug Farm Foods developed VEXo. Taste and perception tests of products made with VEXo proved really positive with children – there aren’t many children who don’t like bolognaise ! It is, however, the nutritional value and the environmental implications that astounded me:

  • Insects require 12-25 times less feed compared to cattle, and 50% less than chickens, to produce the equivalent amount of protein
  • It takes about 22,000 litres of water to produce 1 kg of intensively-farmed beef, whereas it takes just 1-10 litres of water to produce 1 kg high-welfare edible insect protein
  • VEXo bolognaise contains almost 80% less saturated fat, and almost 40% more protein than the equivalent meat bolognaise, whilst delivering more than 50% of a child’s recommended intake of iodine, phosphorus, riboflavin and zinc

A place setting showing a plate of VEXo spaghetti bolognese on a white plate on a wooden table

Tasty, nutritional and sustainable

The nutritional benefits are clear, the sustainability case is strong, and children seem to love the food (along with current and former Innovate UK staff, including Ruth McKernan, Ian Campbell, Jon Hazell and myself).

If it looks like meat bolognaise, tastes like meat bolognaise and is much better for you, would you be convinced to try eating insect protein?

Small child in a restaurant with an adult choosing food from a menu.

Expertise at a local level

Pennotec and Bug Farm Foods are great examples of innovative UK businesses, using their knowledge and understanding to help tackle societal challenges and, in doing so, grow the local economy.

The two companies have developed these products using facilities and expertise at local Universities and Welsh Food Technology Centres.

Small businesses with a huge impact

Pennotec and Bug Farm Foods are very small businesses, but the products they’re developing could have a huge societal impact, and they’re not alone – the UK is home to thousands of amazing small businesses, and countless world-leading researchers and facilities.

Woman in a small business restaurant smiling and adding information into an ordering point while on the phone.

Support and funding

UKRI exists to fund the UK’s best and brightest researchers, and to ensure that research can drive UK economic growth through business.

If you’re a public sector body looking to solve challenges with innovative ideas please get in touch to discuss how SBRI could also help you.

If you working at the cutting edge of technology, developing new products, processes or business models, then why not take a look at the support and funding available from Innovate UK and Welsh Government (see below for links)? We’d love to help.

Contact

You can go to the Innovate UK website

Find out more about SBRI

You can go to the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) website

You can go to the Enteprise Europe website

Find out more about Business Wales

Find out more about Milacel

Follow Innovate UK on Twitter

Find out more about our diversity and inclusion work here

You can find out more about the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund here

For more Innovate UK videos subscribe to our YouTube channel here

Sign up for email notifications on funding, connections & support opportunities

Follow Innovate UK on Facebook

 

Sharing and comments

Share this page

Leave a comment

We only ask for your email address so we know you're a real person

By submitting a comment you understand it may be published on this public website. Please read our privacy notice to see how the GOV.UK blogging platform handles your information.