FOOD VISION USA 2017... THE TRAILBLAZERS: ‘Grasshoppers are almost neutral in taste and flavor,’ says Hargol FoodTech CEO

By Elaine Watson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Grasshoppers have several distinct advantages over crickets as a food ingredient, claims Dror Tamir at Israeli edible insect start-up Hargol FoodTech, who caught up with FoodNavigator-USA editor Elaine Watson at FOOD VISION USA in Chicago.

“First, there’s efficiency of farming,” ​claimed Tamir, a serial entrepreneur raising grasshoppers year-round in climate controlled facilities in Elifelet in northern Israel

Grasshoppers' tendency to swarm makes them a better fit than crickets for intensive farming, he claimed. From a flavor perspective, grasshoppers also have a blander, and less distinctive taste than crickets, making them more appealing to food formulators, he added.

From a nutritional perspective, meanwhile, grasshoppers are also very attractive because certain species contain more than 70% protein by dry weight – a little bit more than crickets - and all the essential amino acids, he said.

Another distinct advantage grasshoppers have over crickets is that they are both Kosher and Halal, claimed Tamir, who is supplying milled whole grasshopper powder (more like a protein powder than a 'flour') and whole grasshoppers: “Grasshoppers are the only kosher and halal insect in the world. They are mentioned as kosher in Leviticus."

'Right now, the greatest problem is not on the demand side, it's on the supply side...'

He added: "The market opportunity is huge. Four years ago the insect protein market was zero. Today it is a $100million business, and in five years' time it’s going to be a $1 billion market.

"Right now, the greatest problem is not on the demand side, it's on the supply side... PepsiCo has Doritos with meal worm protein​ [editor's note: Based on a posting​ on open innovation site NineSights, PepsiCo has done R&D extensive work with cricket powder, meal worm powder and many other 'alternative' proteins​, but FoodNavigator-USA is not aware of any versions of Doritos featuring mealworm protein on the market], Coca-Cola a new beverage, and IKEA is looking at serving insects in their restaurants... ​[editor's note: Fruit fly firm Flying SpArk​ is one of 10 start-ups to participate in IKEA's 'bootcamp' accelerator, which is focused on sustainable products].

"Many brands have contacted us and even come to Israel to visit us.

"Most surprisingly to us, and the best compliment we got, came from our competitors, the cricket farmers, who have made enquiries about adopting our technology to farm grasshoppers or become our distributors.... And it gets even better, as grasshoppers are also an excellent food for pets."

Efficient and scalable

Speaking on the FOOD VISION USA stage on November 13, Tamir said that beef/poultry protein had a high carbon footprint, that many plant-based proteins required a high level of processing, that cultured meat was "years away"​ and untested, and that algae protein had taste issues, making grasshoppers a credible alternative, notwithstanding the cultural challenges around familiarizing Americans with a new food source (the 'ick' factor).

"At Hargol, we have invented a new way of farming grasshoppers which is phenomenal. We farm grasshoppers all year-round where others can only do it seasonally. We have also reduced the hatching period in our incubator from 40 weeks to two weeks, increasing the number of annual lifecycles from one to 10.

"The new cage we developed for vertical farming enables to grow 10 times more biomass per square foot while maintaining a sanitized and well ventilated environment for grasshoppers. With Hargol’s innovation grasshoppers farming is efficient and scalable."

Hargol FoodTech​ is one of our 2017 trailblazers​ – three entrepreneurial brands who took center stage on the opening night of our FOOD VISION USA​ event in Chicago after being selected from a large pool of entries. The other two winners were goat-milk-fueled brand Funny Farm ​(Epic Source Food Company), and The Chaat Company, ​which is introducing Indian street snacks to a US audience.

Checkout our gallery of highlights from FOOD VISION USA...

hargol2 food vision usa 2017
Dror Tamir chews the fat with the other trailblazers (Anshu Dua from the Chaat Co and Tim Millson from Epic Source Foods) on stage at FOOD VISION USA 2017 in Chicago
hargol3 food vision usa 2017
Dror Tamir gives our expert panel his elevator pitch
hargol1 food vision usa 2017
Left-to-right: Wayne Wu (VMG Partners), Barb Stuckey (Mattson), Gigi Lee Chang (Food Future Co), Liz Crawford (FoodNavigator-USA), Scott Norton (Sir Kensington’s), and Keith Smyton (The Welsh Government) and Dror Tamir (at the podium)

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