Crunchy crickets are headed into a UK grab-and-go chain for the first time, with all 23 Abokado stores set to stock the insects as part of the new spring menu.
Supplied by Eat Grub, the whole crickets will be available as part of the brand’s customisable toppings for salads, poke bowls and hotpots. They will also be included in its snack range, alongside other staples like nuts, edamame and popcorn.
The sweet chilli and lime roasted crickets will complement spring dishes such as the Nutritious Noodles salad range, which includes Katsu, Miso Chicken and Cali Crab, together with superbox salads and all-day grazing pots, according to Abokado.
The company said it had made the decision to stock the insects because they were good sources of protein, iron and calcium and were great for gut health, as well as being environmentally friendly.
“Abokado is all about customisation and offering our customers a variety of different options to enhance their meals. We currently have around 12 unique toppings and dressings on offer, and this is an exciting addition to the range,” commented Abokado’s managing director Kara Alderin.
“Quirky maybe, but packed with flavour and protein, these little crickets are the way forward in healthy, sustainable snacking. Abokado has always prided itself on paving the way with new ideas and this is a natural step in our innovation.”
Alderin predicted that in a few years’ time, insects would be normalised and incorporated into people’s everyday diet.
A Mexican munch
Eat Grub’s co-founder Shami Radia first discovered roasted termites while working for a water charity in Malawi, before launching the brand in 2014. “It’s great to have Abokado supporting us in spreading the grub love. The fun way they approach food and innovation is exactly what we need to make the eating of insects more mainstream,” he said.
The company made a big splash in November after Sainsbury’s became the first UK grocer to stock edible insects: Smokey BBQ Roasted Crickets were introduced into 250 stores and aimed at consumers looking for an exciting snack or garnish.
Pops Reid, marketing and account executive at Eat Grub, tells Food Spark that quite a few companies got in contact after the Sainsbury’s launch but Abokado was the first one brave enough to launch insects on the menu.
“We are looking into the Mexican market at the moment. We think that would be a good area and have a contact who seems to be really excited about it. I think trying to get into Wahaca would be ideal,” she says. “It’s a massive positive sign with Abokado. We weren’t really expecting to see it happen so soon.”
According to Reid, the range in Sainsbury’s is performing well, with sales “going through the roof” during periods like Christmas and Easter, as people look to put interesting things on the table – with occasions like these an aspect Eat Grub wants to target in the future.
A study by Sainsbury’s and Eat Grub found one in five shoppers said they can see the advantages of eating edible insects, particularly as an alternative protein source (25%) as well as for the health and nutritional benefits (15%).
Next up: pubs and bars
While the brand already has energy bars, it hopes to focus next on high protein bars, Reid adds.
“We are looking at partnering up with big brands like whisky brands, so we can collaborate on new flavours and offer quite customisable products for them, and target the bars and pubs area,” she says. “Partnering with alcohol brands would be fantastic for us, so that’s what we are pushing for.”
While Eat Grub is best known for its cricket products, its range also includes buffalo worms, mealworms and grasshoppers – but there are no plans to move beyond these “four little heroes” at present.
“We are obviously pushing the crickets as they are the most familiar looking out of the 2,000-odd edible insects out there. They look like prawns, so we are pushing them and trying to tackle that market and then we can try and do more things with them,” says Reid. “We are just trying to get the crickets mainstream at the moment.”
She notes that as the world looks for more sustainable sources of protein, Eat Grub is confident that insects are a serious alternative that will be part of the future, particularly as Brits are becoming more open-minded.
What’s buzzing around the insect space?
Players that have emerged in the market:
Cricke: Sells cricket crackers and tortilla chips in trendy flavours at selected food shops in London.
Bear Grylls: Launched a range of insect powder snacks bars made from buffalo worms grown on European insect farms. Varieties include Fig & Dark Chocolate; Apricot, Chia & Cranberry; Orange & Dark Chocolate; and Apple & Cinnamon.
Jimini’s Edible Insects: This French outfit had packs of sweet mango crickets, paprika grasshoppers and smoked onion BBQ crickets available on Ocado, but now appears to have been delisted.
Grub Kitchen: Claims to the UK’s first dedicated insect restaurant and is based in Pembrokeshire. Dishes featured have included a bug Wellington, sweetcorn chowder with a grasshopper crumb, smoked chipotle cricket and black bean chilli, and bug burgers made from a blend of toasted crickets, mealworms and grasshoppers. It has plans to launch a recipe book.
Wholifoods: A Danish brand that has a gluten-free crispbread created from cricket flour, chickpea flour and organic seeds. It has also developed a snack bar made with cricket and buffalo worm flour.
Bugfoundation: This Belgian start-up is creating burgers made from buffalo worms and organic soy, which it sells in supermarkets in Germany.