One Hop Kitchen expands edible insects beyond baked goods into pasta sauce

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Source: One Hop Kitchen
Source: One Hop Kitchen

Related tags Nutrition

The nascent edible insect category is growing quickly, but finished product manufacturers have mainly focused on baked goods made from insect flour – until now. 

One Hop Kitchen, a new consumer-facing company from the creators of C-Fu FOODS, which invented and sells a versatile tofu-like texturized insect protein​, wants to help edible insects jump into new categories with the launch of its Mealworm and Cricket Bolognese sauces.  

In many ways the sauces, which are made with vine-ripened tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, onions, garlic, carrots and celery, are similar to the dozens of competing jarred pasta sauces that currently sit on store shelves. Only One Hop Kitchen replaces the ground beef with texturized insect protein made by C-Fu FOODS with either mealworms or crickets, according Eli Cadesky, who along with his brother Lee founded both companies.

The result is two sauces that taste similar enough to traditional beef Bolognese that some consumers confused the options in blind-taste tests conducted by the company, but which are healthier for the planet and people, Cadesky told FoodNavigator-USA.

“When you taste the sauce, you will find that the crickets are very mild and the mealworms, as crazy as it’s going to sound, have a parmesan cheese flavor to them,”​ he said, adding that the sharp umami flavor in parmesan cheese is the result of an enzyme and fat pairing that is very similar to fat and enzyme combination in mealworms.

The cricket and mealworm Bolognese sauces look slightly different from most jarred beef Bolognese, Cadesky acknowledges. But, he says, this usually works in One Hop Kitchen’s favor because their sauces have 12% by volume of ground insects compared to the more traditional 2% of meat in jars of pasta sauce made in the US – giving them a “meatier”​ appearance.

Can sustainability help sell insects as food?

If the “meatier”​ appearance isn’t enough to convince consumers to buy One Hop Kitchen’s sauces, Cadesky said he and his brother hope the sustainability benefits of the products will help sway some consumers to switch.

“One jar of our sauce will save up to about 1,900 liters of water compared to beef pasta sauce,”​ which is “a really powerful impact”​ considering that is enough water to fill 18 bathtubs and is more water than a family of four uses in a day, Cadesky said.

He added farming 5 pounds of insects takes the same resources as needed to produce just 1 pound of beef, and livestock rearing is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions.

One Hop Kitchen offers a healthier alternative to meat

Nutritionally, One Hop Kitchen’s sauces are a healthier alternative to many conventional beef Bolognese sauces, Cadesky said.

“We purposely structured our sauces to have 5 grams of protein per serving, which is the same as a meat-based sauce … but our sauces have half the saturated fat and a third of the cholesterol”​ of meat sauces, he said.

In addition, crickets have three times the amount of vitamin B12, “which is a really, really important message that resonates well with vegetarians and flexitarians because you can’t get B12 from synthetic sources. It’s only in animal proteins,”​ Cadesky said.

Finally, he added, One Hop Kitchen’s sauces have 100 mg of omega-3s per serving and no added sugar.

Sauce for pre-sale on Indiegogo

While Cadesky and his brother have actively helped build the edible insect category for several years as the founders of C-Fu FOODS, the sauces are so new they aren’t on many shelves yet.

One Hop Kitchen is working with a few retailers the brothers know are open to the product, and is pre-selling jars of the sauce on Indiegogo​ through the end of June, at which point they hope to have raised $25,000. As of press time, the company had raised about 21% of its goal from 105 backers with 16 days to go. 

“We are trying to be really mindful. So, instead of going wide in stores, we are going deep so that we can focus on experiential marketing, which is really the best way to make sales in this category with this kind of product,”​ Cadesky explained, adding that the “quality”​ of a sale from someone who tried the product and then bought is higher than from someone who bought it before trying it – perhaps as a novelty purchase.

Next priority: soluble insect protein powders

When One Hop Kitchen’s Indiegogo campaign ends, Cadesky and his brother’s fundraising efforts won’t. They plan to continue to raise their series A seed funds to create a production line for C-Fu FOODS soluble insect powders.

The powders “offer a really great economic opportunity if you look at the bodybuilder and the fitness community, where the fans in that space are very die-hard and passionate about their bodies and their health and their nutrition. And I think this is an opportunity for them to be open to new sources of protein.”

But are Americans ready to be open to eating insect protein on their pasta? FoodNavigator-USA tested the idea – and One Hop Kitchen’s cricket and mealworm sauces – on five unsuspecting consumers. Find out what they said in this week’s Taste Test Friday.

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