Insect Companies Are Lazy On Social Media

Eating insects is a big thing, even a super trend according to many studies and articles. But there are many obstacles to overcome before we change our attitudes towards the crawling things we many of us consider disgusting or even scary.

Social media is undoubtedly the best forum to spread understanding of the more ethical protein compared to meat-eating that is destroying our planet. But how good are the insect companies in their social media actions? Not so good, it seems.

Underhood (underhood.co) is a Finnish startup that is measuring social performance of thousands of brands. Currently, there are about ten thousand companies, organizations or other brands analyzed daily on the service. Each brand gets a daily social score based on data.

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Underhood sat down together with insect-business expert Ilkka Taponen to see how the most prominent ento-companies or brands are performing, and here are the results as in 23th of August 2018. You can see daily updating score here:  http://rankings.underhood.co/insect-companies/

Brands are analyzed by their social performance (language analysis, engagement numbers, and visibility) and given a social score. The scale is from 1 to 10 and you can click on any brand to see the full social analysis. The scores are updated daily.

 

Underhood ranking

Underhood’s ranking as in 23th of August 2018

 

The best performers (as in August 23rd) are Jimini’s and Wilder Harrier. They are both selling customer products from insects. While Jimini’s focuses on serving humans, Wilder Harrier makes sustainable insect-treats for dogs.

According to Underhood’s algorithm, Jimini’s is reasonable active on social media – they update their Facebook every second day on average, but Wilder Harrier has something to say to their Facebook audience only once in ten days. That is not enough. Preaching should be louder when the best performing brands on Underhood update their Facebook more than twice a day.

Follower counts need work too. There are only two brands with five-figure follower numbers, Exo (55,000 followers on Facebook and Twitter) and Jimini’s (27,000 followers on Facebook and Twitter). As a rule of thumb, customer brands need large follower bases on social media to boost their sales and spread the knowledge of their products.

So, why are these companies so quiet and modest on social media? Is it because they do not have good communication professionals to help them or do they feel that they don’t have interesting things to say? On social media, it is essential to keep noise. No one remembers the quiet ones when everybody is shouting.

As we see it, it is crucial that brands of this new industry get active on social. There is no way we can change people’s attitudes towards eatable insects if we do not spread the word in the most personal media, meaning Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other platforms. It seems the industry players are wasting an excellent and cost-effective opportunity to market their new and exciting products! Revolution needs to have evangelists.

So, what to post? Here are some best performing posts from the listed companies ranked above.

 

 

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Industry Insights, Interview with Ilkka Taponen

The interview below was done by International Insect Centre and published in their newsletter in May 2017.

After completing an internship at Ynsect involving his thesis paper titled Supply Chain Risk Management in Entomology Farms Case: High scale production of human food and animal feed, Ilkka developed a keen interest in the insect industry, setting up a blog dedicated to developments in this sector. Combined, the success of his blog as well as his activities in market potential projects for insect products has given Ilkka significant insights into the current market for insects, especially in scaling up production in the novel foods sector. He is now employed at Green & Gold Foods based in Finland, developing alternative protein products for the consumer markets.

Speaking about the growing interest in the insect sector, Ilkka explains that since news of new EU regulations has been clarified, interest in this business has greatly increased. “Last summer there was a real lack of contact on the blog, but since November I have received a lot more emails from interested persons, possibly because news of EU regulation [regarding insects in feed and food] has become clearer”, explaining that this could’ve rejuvenated interest in the sector.

However, although growth seems to be positive, Ilkka explains that the role that insects will play in the future is a little more obscure; “It is hard to say; some companies are working on feed whilst others say that there is no sense in this, with food being the main goal. Considering that these are often companies with significant resources behind them, they are approaching this business very differently so it is impossible to say who is right and who is wrong.” Having worked both in the insect protein sector and the plant-based protein sector, Ilkka points out that insects must compete with plant-based alternatives and that this may result in them having more potential for feed applications than food based. “For example, one place in which insects are clearly the best option is in animal feed. However, taking salmon farming as an example, the demand for the quantities that are needed to enter the market are huge, whilst the profit margins are very low. It’s a difficult combination.” Ilkka explains that economies of scale will be needed in order to bring the cost of insect-based feeds down. “Increasing the scale and automating the process is key, but it’s difficult to say how long it will take for the costs of fish raised on insect feed to meet the price of conventional products.”

Another factor that is also involved in the development of the insect sector is risk. According to Ilkka, due to the novelty nature of insects as an ingredient in both feed and food, many companies are reluctant to carry out R&D using them due to the risks that this can entail. This is further amplified by the current lack of insect suppliers; “this makes it very risk intensive for companies to introduce insect ingredients because suppliers end up with all of the [negotiation] power.” Continuing, Ilkka points out that there also needs to be research into the end consumers that would be interested in buying sustainably raised fish fed on insects. “Who is going to buy these products? Generally, the people that would be interested in buying these products will most likely choose a plant-based alternative.” Ilkka explains that therefore, fish fed on insects cannot be sold based on this value added sustainability aspect alone. This suggests that in order to be viable, insect fed fish must become the ‘norm’ and not a speciality product. “The fish farmer has to pay 5% extra [to use insects], as do their clients, having a knock-on effect down the supply chain. The real question is; are consumers willing to pay for this?”

However, with regards to feed production in particular, insects have one major benefit over many non-fishmeal alternatives; they are live animals. This makes them suitable for feeds aimed at carnivorous and omnivorous animals, an advantage that plant-based alternatives cannot compete with, according to Ilkka. “I think that this is the key that will determine the future. This is one of the only places where using animals [for feed] is very advantageous; for feeding other animals. In this situation, insects are most definitely the most sustainable choice.”

Continuing on the subject of sustainability, Ilkka clarifies his thoughts on insect proteins. “We must also take plant-based proteins into consideration, especially when looking into feed conversion rates. As I have said, insects are the best option for animal-protein based feed, but for food purposes, plant based proteins offer the same benefits but in a more culturally acceptable and cheaper way at this moment.” Despite this, Ilkka remains positive that there will be significant growth within the sector for edible insects, however compared to alternatives, it is uncertain whether they will be able to compete long term. As for the animal feed sector, Ilkka expects that insects will play an important role in the market with regards to the future of sustainable animal feed, beginning in the aquaculture sector.

Thank you IIC and Poppy Eyre for putting my thoughts nicely into text! Visit IIC at http://www.insectcentre.com/

Cricket Is Just a Better Chicken

One of the main arguments insect food companies bring out in their communication is comparing the environmental impact of  insects to conventional meats like beef, pork, fish and chicken. There is no denying that insects are clearly the best choice from this group, but in most cases comparing insects to other animals is not relevant.

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The example picture above is from LEAP Pure Cricket Powder- Facebook page. 

The most relevant category to place insects is not “the environmental impact of animal based foods”, but wider “environmental impact of high protein foods” that includes a large variety of plant based foods as well.

In this more relevant category, whether the comparison is about consumption of water, creation of green house gases or feed conversion rate, crickets show up just as a better chicken. From environment’s perspective best options are plant based options like pulses and plant based protein products. Additionally, plant based proteins clear out of many other issues like ethical questions related to animal farming, use of antibiotics and cultural acceptance.

It is important to understand that we are now talking about industrial scale farming where using of bio waste as insect feed is not possible for multiple reasons. For low scale farming where using of bio waste is possible insects are excellent option even over plants.

You might have noticed that in the given infograph it is said that insect consume less water than pulses. This might be true, but it depends on how the water is delivered to crickets. Is it open water or through feed? When comparing the water consumption of animals the combined impact of drinking water and the water used in the farming of the feed should be considered.

There are plenty of reasons to eat insects, but if you are looking for the best environmental choice, industrially farmed insects are not the one.

Further reading:

Starter Kit for Ento-Entrepreneurs

Lately, quite a few people have reached out for me for tips for starting a new Insect for Food and Feed- companies. I am very happy to see the industry growing and it is my pleasure to help out. To make your starting easier I have here collected some links and tips on how to get started and how to avoid some of the pitfalls.

I believe strongly in the Lean movement, not only in daily work but also larger projects that starting a new company is. To prevent unnecessary work and loss of resources, start by collecting data and objectively evaluating the potential of your business plan.  To learn more about Lean and modern business management check out the great Lean Startup- book by Eric Ries.

Study the literature. Unfortunately, there are only very few publications on the business side of IFF- business, biological knowledge can be found much easier. My thesis that I wrote in 2015 is still one of few publications looking at the production and supply chain side of this specific industry. The thesis comes with full list of references that can you use to dig deeper into all the discussed topics. Here below are some links I recommend you to read. Other than the links listed here you might want to check also the Directory from the menu bar, from there you can find all my blog posts e.g about how to choose the best species to farm.

Get connected with insect entrepreneurs. The largest database online with contact information can be found from this website, just click the “Entomology Company Database” from the menu bar. I also recommend that you will contact your local association of IFF companies, here are some links:

By getting connected you will get essential tips from more experienced people and you can team up to work on topics that you the concerns about (health of genetic pool, fighting horizontal integration issues etc).

Contact your local Food Safety Authority. In the USA it is the FDA, in EU- level its EFSA. In other words, the one that interprets the national laws regarding food and feed. They are there to serve you and they will tell you the status of insect food and feed in your environment. A nice collection of the legal status’ can be found here.

Stay up to date. The following links are for news sites and social media channels that keep you up to date with the latest news in the field.

  • 4ento is a news center for everything around the topic.
  • Robert Nathan Allen is the founder Little Herds- association. Follow him on Twitter for the latest especially in North America.
  • Food Navigator is news center for Food & Beverage industry, follows closely also IFF- industry.
  • All About Feed is similar to Food Navigator, just with the feed aspect.
  • Facebook-group Food Insect Newsletter.

2016 Was a Successful Year!

It is the time of the year to look back and anticipate a little bit the future as well. The amount of visitors and pages viewed on this site more doubled even though I was able to contribute less on writing. The reason to the slowing pace of blog posting was that I started my current full-time job at Gold & Green Foods Ltd. G&G Foods is company in search for the perfect protein and so far we have brought one product to the market: Pulled Oats. If you are interested to learn more, see our website at http://www.goldandgreenfoods.com

Here below are some graphics and numbers from this blog. I am really happy Finland is not anymore the number one country from which the visitors are coming from (can’t say anymore its just my mom reading my posts). Numbers that I not did put here are the downloading rates of the files I offer: Patent database was downloaded 120 times, the company database 540 times.

Other than working at G&G Foods I did few consultation works and I gave few speeches, maybe most interesting one was Woven network’s event in Nottingham. Link to the speech: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8V74_exxTGY&t=14s

Also, I published my thesis as audio book. I explained the publishing process in this blog: https://ilkkataponen.com/2016/05/08/how-i-created-and-published-an-audiobook/. What is crazy about this audio book is that in Audible, the most recognized audio book platform in the world, I am the most sold Finnish author with 34 books sold between April and November. What explains this status is that there pretty much aren’t any other Finnish books available there. That facts takes something out some of the fame, but anyway its a nice title, right?!

In the coming year I have already agreed to take part to one nice insect related publicity campaign here in Finland. I am also thinking of taking this blog more and more away only from insect-related topics towards the wider whole new-proteins, food security and climate change issue. Let’s see what happens!

Happy new year!

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