Insect-based Hey Planet expands into US, aims to change perception of eating bugs
Hey Planet products include a line of protein bars in Salty Peanut, Apple Cinnamon, Cocoa Orange, formulated with buffalo beetle powder. Additionally, the brand has a line of “Dare Squares” that are date squares with either a cricket-flour-based chocolate and peppermint, a cricket-flour-based chocolate and chili, or a crunchy peanut butter square with buffalo worm flour.
Hey Planet also offers plant- and insect-based meat products, including a meat ground, a patty, and meatballs, which are gluten- and soy-free.
Hey-Planet bars are currently available from online wholesaler Mable in the US, and the burgers will be available “very soon,” Buhl-Nielsen said. Hey Planet also featured these products at the Natural Products Expo West earlier this month.
The move to go beyond Denmark was really to expand its addressable market and grow its brand, Buhl-Nielsen noted. “The reason why we want to go to the US is because … Denmark is a really great market to start in, but it's also really tiny,” she said.
“We want to base everything on insects, and our whole motto in the company is: eat happy, be happy. So, we want to make food that's good for you, that makes you happy, [and] that's not full of all kinds of additives and sweeteners... When we develop our foods; we base it on these values that it has to be as natural as possible, as clean as possible, as good for us as possible.”
Insects: The next big super food?
While eating insects in the West isn't mainstream, Buhl-Nielsen sees the potential of changing people’s minds by sharing how insects can help address the demand for more sustainable protein.
“Insect protein is this fantastic resource that, for some reason in Western countries, we just haven't used it. So, it's not a part of our culture, but it's fantastic in so many ways.”
For example, insect proteins are a source of B12 and iron, Buhl-Nielsen explained. When the other co-founder of Hey Planet, Malena Sigurgeirsdottir, lived in Tanzania, she “started eating grasshoppers on a daily basis," she said. She found that eating insects helped address the lack of B12 and iron in her diet and she "actually started feeling better,” Buhl-Nielsen said. She then went on to study at college entomophagy, the practice of eating bugs, Buhl-Nielsen added.
Leveraging vertical farming for sustainability
Insect-based protein also offers environmental and sustainability benefits, Buhl-Nielsen claimed. For one, the insects used in Hey Planet products are grown in vertical farms, which use less land than traditional animal agriculture, Buhl-Nielsen noted.
Additionally, Hey Planet’s insects are “fed on spent grain, which ... otherwise just goes to waste,” she said.
Finally, "insects are just extremely efficient at turning food into body mass," she added.
Insect-based foods: An EV in a diesel world
While Hey Planet is optimistic about the future, Buhl-Nielsen pointed out that what the brand is doing is similar to “trying to make the first electric vehicle in a diesel world,” and that some people will not understand its mission. However, Hey Planet is undeterred, instead focusing on sharing the benefits of insect proteins for health, while also figuring out all the puzzle pieces of this emerging market in the US.
Since edible insects are a relatively newer market for the US – though insect-based products have emerged on store shelves - Hey Planet must manage challenges related to securing ingredients and navigate regulations around importing and exporting, Buhl-Nielsen said. But, she said, Hey Planet is "being patient to get all those pieces of the puzzle to ... into place," which includes getting "the right price and ... the right deal with the right retailer."