“We are trying to use novel food processes to change insects’ shapes and texture to something more familiar that is easier and exciting to work with,” Eli Cadesky, CEO of C-fu FOODS, told FoodNavigator-USA.
He explained that he and his brother, Lee Cadesky with whom he co-founded the company, want to do for insect protein what tofu did for soy or poultry did for chicken. They want to abstract the finished product form the source so that consumers don’t fear where the food comes from.
C-fu is doing this by using novel food science processes to turn virtually any insect into a tofu-like product that manufacturers can use to create everything from pho-hamburger to fluffy mouse and pate to chicken-like nuggets and even paper thin crisps.
“The possibilities are endless,” Cadesky said, noting that this platform also creates efficient emulsifiers from the high fat and protein in insects that can be used as a replacement for eggs, fat and even gluten.
Because the platform works with most insects, manufacturers can use insects that are local to their area and will not have to pay to import specific insects.
The second platform is insect flour, which already is used by insect-based nutrition bar manufacturers. While the platform also works with almost all insects, the firm primarily makes cricket flour at this time because it is what most manufacturers want.
But unlike other cricket flours on the market, C-fu’s flour is 97% soluble, which means it can be used for fluffy pastries and not just dense baked goods.
Cadesky explained that most other cricket flours are only 25-30% soluble, which is the ingredient’s only significant pain point. By increasing the flour’s solubility, C-fu also increases its versatility.
The next phase of entomophagy
The young company, which launched in August 2014, will continue to expand its offerings to soon include “finishings,” Cadesky said.
He explained that C-fu is able to change the flavor of some insects by feeding them different food in the last week of their lives. This flavor will then come through subtly in the finished product, he said.
For example, if a company wanted to make a citrus mousse for dessert, C-fu could feed the insects orange peels to create a hint of citrus.
C-fu also can work with manufacturers to choose appropriate insects based on the end-product’s desired flavor profile, Cadesky said. He explained the different insects have different flavors, some of which need no finishing or added flavors to be delicious.
For example, he said, wax worms “taste like scrambled eggs with cheddar,” while other insects have no flavor – giving chefs a blank canvas on which to work.
Other challenges remain
Taste and texture are only two of the challenges that industry must overcome to create and meet consumer demand for insect protein, Cadesky said.
Bringing down the cost of insects for human consumption is an essential part of taking ingredient from a novelty to everyday consumption, he said. Currently, insect protein costs a premium compared to traditional animal protein in part because it hasn’t fully scaled.
To scale though, there must be sufficient demand, which is blunted currently by fear of the unknown. However, Cadesky says this hurdle already is crumbling quickly as consumers in just the last eight months have embraced insect-based commodities, such as flour and nutrition bars and confections.
They have also demonstrated a willingness to pay higher prices, at least temporarily, to help the category get its legs under it.
As evidence, Cadesky noted many insect-based foods were crowd-funded, which “is a huge signifier that many people around the world are interested in insects and willing to give their own capital with no guarantee of getting anything back.”
Those consumers invested because they “trusted the passion of the brand developers and founders” of insect-based foods and wanted to see them succeed, which “is pretty powerful,”Cadesky said.
He added: “That is what we want too – to see these insect-based food brands succeed. And we want to help them.”
Edible insects will be on the menu at Food Vision USA in October, where delegates will hear from Tiny Farms co-founder Daniel Imrie-Situnayake and All Things Bugs founder Dr Aaron Dossey. Click HERE for full details...