'Insect cookie tastes like almonds’ and even Jun, Somi of I.O.I. loves it.2017-08-16Hit:34
Crispy, sour, frivolous. These are the expressions describing the texture of edible insects. Edible insects are still not well known to the general public, but the consumption of insects is increasing mainly due to a maniac group. Recently, Jun, Somi, a member of idol group I.O.I., created a hot issue by eating insects. After eating a dried cricket and mealworm, she said, “It tastes like black beans and dried fish fillet.” The place that provided these insects is Edible Coffee, a café in Yangjae-dong, Seoul.
Ryu, Sidoo (32, photo), the CEO of Edible-bug, hated insects. “It's disgusting. When I first heard about insects as food, I thought it was ridiculous to eat insects, and nobody would eat them.” However, he became curious when someone around him had actually eaten the insects. He curiosity got the best of him. He bought dried insects from a US online shopping mall, and tried them. He says the taste was not bad.
As a result, he started blogging about edible insects. He posted information on edible insects at home and abroad. He also ran an event distributing edible insects. He then saw the possibility of a business. He says, “Many people applied for the event. Many more than I expected. I realized that there is a demand for this.” He jumped right into the edible insect business. He founded a food company called ‘Edible-bug’ in 2013. The company handles five kinds of edible insects out of seven of which are approved for eating in Korea. The five insects treated by Edible-bug are crickets, silkworms, meal beetles, grasshoppers, and protaetia brevitarsis seulnesis (larva). (consider simply using ‘larva’ because there is no scientific name for the other bugs.)
The flavor depends on how the insects are dried. CEO Ryu describes the flavor of crickets as tasting like almonds and shrimp. It is similar to how Jun, Somi explained. Ryu says, “Edible insects generally taste sweet and salty.”
Meal beetles are supplied from farms in Yang-joo, Kyungi-do, and crickets from Chungnam. Insects from the farms go through pre-treatment (insect washing process) and manufacturing processes. They sell online to private cafés, schools, and insect-related museums and ecotourism companies. “Annual sales are about 200 million won. Our main goal is to have more popular distribution channels than to have high sales.”
The business went through a lot of difficulties at the beginning. Above all, the biggest barrier was that most consumers were unfamiliar with edible insects, and have never eaten any. CEO Ryu is an economist. He earned his bachelor’s degree in economics at Seoul National University, and received a master's degree in business administration from KAIST. He decided to use what he had learned from school. To improve awareness, he made booklets for promoting edible insects. He focused on explaining what kind of environment the insects are raised in, and how safe they are. The products by Edible-bug began to gain awareness among consumers through the word-of-mouth effect, creating a maniac group. Insect cookies, which have visible insect rather than insect-powdered cookies, are popular among the enthusiasts. Last year, he opened Edible Coffee Café.
CEO Ryu recommends edible insects to the growing children, the elderly, and people with poor digestion. “The skin of insects is all chitin. It is a raw material of chitosan, which acts as a dietary fiber. It is similar to having meat and vegetables together. It is also good for the diet because it makes one feel full.”
He’s next move is to make edible insect products that are completely different from cookies this year. “I not want to make edible insects that are more than just snacks. I want to make them as a meal.” The recently released cricket pasta is in line with this goal. He made the noodles from completely grounded insects. He explains that his pasta is much more excellent in nutrition than ordinary pasta. “Insects are delicious. In the future, people will eat insects for taste, not just for nutrition. I am also planning on developing foods from larger insects. Insects can taste like lobsters when cooked and peeled. Then, people won’t be able to eat because of short on supply.”