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Eating insects: the future of sustainable nutrition is already here!

THEn an era of climatic imbalances and environmental crises, it becomes necessary for man to embrace alternative ways to live, create a new and more balanced symbiosis with the earth, and feed naturally. To find unexpected food sources with low environmental impact leads to creativity and the development of new ambitious but deeply grounded projects.

Supplementing our diet with foods made from insects can it be an opportunity? We are convinced of this and to find out more we turned to Lorenzo Pezzatoco-founder of 21bites and Fucibo, who made this idea a project in rapid and concrete expansion.

Cricket flour

How did the idea for 21bites come about?
It was 2015, the breeding and consumption of edible insects in Italy was a very misunderstood subject, but reading online I understood people’s growing curiosity towards this type of diet. Together with others, like myself interested or experts in the field, I decided to create an idea that envisaged overcoming mistrust and making insects a cornerstone of the new concept of nutrition, normalizing it and making it more increasingly popular and widespread. The project then expanded and from England it arrived in Italy, resulting in the opening of the first Made in Italy food production company based on insect meal (Fucibo), aimed at domestic and foreign markets, where Italian cuisine is highly valued. (and huge sales volumes).

Indeed, in the meantime, the regulations have changed…
Yes, and the arrival on the market of the first insect meals authorized by the EU allowed us to start production in Italy. The first products on the market were crisps and cookies, pasta will arrive in the fall and for the new year we have much more in the pipeline.

The good life

What products do you research the most?
Recipe research and development is a natural process we apply to all of our products. Insect flour, among other things, has a composition quite different from that of cereals, so a whole study is also needed to adapt the recipes to industrial machines that until now have always worked with traditional cereal flours.

What is the manufacturing process?
We start from the breeding, where the insects are raised in stackable boxes (vertical breeding) which contain a habitat designed specifically for the different species and where they find a comfortable living environment; they are then collected and cooled at low temperature, thus undergoing a completely painless process, finally crushed to obtain flour. Very simple (in appearance). From there, the production processes are very similar to those used for traditional productions.

Seaweed pasta with worms Eating insects: the future of sustainable food is already here!

Seaweed paste with moths

This allows us to meet the need of many to follow an ethical diet.
Of course, this is now a very important value. In addition, from an insect it is possible to obtain approximately 80% of an edible and protein-rich product, compared to 40% from a bovine, and with an exponentially lower consumption of water, energy, soil and food.

So is it also a very nutritious food?
Absolutely yes, therefore also suitable for the diets of athletes (amateurs and professionals) and all those who are particularly attentive to nutritional values.

Insect-based products Eating insects: the future of sustainable nutrition is already here!

Insect products

Is this your target consumer?
There is also a large slice of onlookers, people attentive to environmental issues and passionate about “exotic” cuisine, but it must be said that the public is very large. The indisputable qualities of these products are beginning to be perceived by everyone. The typical customer is moderately to highly educated and willing to try new products. Also in Italy.

Italy has a deep-rooted and seemingly insurmountable culinary culture: has that been a hindrance?
Indeed, it is proven that countries with a stronger culinary tradition have more resistance to trying new products. However, a strong counter-trend, the result of several concomitant factors, is also observed in our country.

Pasta Fucibo Eating insects: the future of sustainable food is already here!

Fucibo Pasta

Do many people have trouble tasting an unusual food like insects?
Yes, it’s a normal, natural mechanism known as “food neophobia,” which has atavistically defended us from the dangers: resistance to unfamiliar foods. It is much more pronounced when the insect is fully visible, but experimenting with products made on insect meals and not on whole insects is much easier to accept. Many say bugs taste like roasted peanuts – it’s true. This is due to a processing step, roasting during drying, very similar to that of cereals.

I have never tasted one of your products: which one do you recommend me to start with?
The crisps absolutely! They have a social aspect: try them in company, during an aperitif, where you are among friends and therefore more willing to go out to discover new flavors. And then they are fragrant and delicious!

Snack Fucibo Eating insects: the future of sustainable food is already here!

Fucibo snack

I can not wait ! Where can we find your products?
Currently on our e-commerce 21 bites and on Postalmarket, but we expect to land in mass retail by the fall.

This will allow you to reach an ever wider audience: how do you imagine the future of our food?
I imagine it quite different from today. It is now clear that the system with which we produce and consume food has come to an end and we must take new paths. Edible insects alone won’t save the world, that’s for sure. We need a global solution made up of local solutions, there is no single solution. Insects can play a fundamental role, considering their potential as a sustainable source of alternative proteins, but it will also take rethinking fishing, breeding mammals, etc., to really make a difference. A healthy and sustainable food future is certainly within our reach, we just have to pursue it with determination.

Focus: food neophobia

It is a psychological state that involves reluctance, fear and refusal to try new or unfamiliar foods. It is a pathology that has evolutionary origins with many causes, including genetic, dietary and cultural component, and generates the common repulsion in consuming insects. They aren’t appetizing to the eyes, but what if they change in appearance? In this case, the psychology of the form comes into play. Chips, breadsticks, crackers made from insect meal arouse interest and curiosity. Why? They are less scary because they take on a form that is culturally common and appreciated by us. Clever communication, captivating packaging and bright colors are certainly an excellent strategy to encourage consumption.

Food trend: insect meal

Insects are the “novel food” of the moment. Protein source insect meals look to the future as a sustainable alternative to traditional protein sources. Locusts, grasshoppers and larvae are the most durable and innovative on the market. Easy to store, they can replace conventional flour obtained from cereals, in any preparation. Not only proteins, but also fibers, vitamins and minerals enrich the qualities of this product. Plus, it’s gluten-free, so it’s suitable for everyone!

5 alternative foods to try

  • Locust and lard rolls: sauté in a pan for a few minutes with a drizzle of acacia honey, wrapped in thin slices of thyme-flavoured lard and held together with kitchen twine. Browned and served still hot.
  • Cricket and Chocolate Cookies: Once the chocolate has melted, add the grilled crickets and leave to cool. Mix the cricket flour, baking soda, salt, butter, sugar, eggs and flour, obtaining a homogeneous mixture. Finally add the crickets to the chocolate and shape the biscuits.
  • Silkworm Risotto: Fry the garlic and the onion with the butter then add the rice and deglaze with the white wine. Add the coconut milk and the silkworm pupae, leave to cook and finally whisk with the cheese and butter.
  • Larval cookies: mix the egg yolk with the oil until the mixture is frothy, add the previously browned mealworms in a pan with a drizzle of oil and a pinch of salt. Add the chopped garlic and chives and sprinkle the crackers with the sauce.
  • Avocado Roasted Larvae: Larvae roasted in a pan with a drizzle of oil and seasoned with Tabasco. Cut the very ripe avocado into thin strips and wrap it around the larvae, stop everything with a skewer.

Word of the month: plastbanta

Swedish word, literally “plastic diet”. It indicates a new ecological way of life based on the maximum reduction of this difficult to eliminate material.

Like and follow: “Il Mangiatutto” by Carlo Spinelli

Carlo Spinelli guides us into the world of alternative food: a journey to discover the most unusual and extreme food trends. Listening is believing. Available on Spotify.

For information: www.jacleroi.com

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