Move over, chia seeds — Loblaw Cos. Ltd. is banking that powder made from milled crickets will be the next big protein-packed food source to enrich morning smoothies across Canada.
While roughly 80 per cent of the global population is known to eat a range of bugs, the addition of Cricket Powder to the aisles of Canada’s biggest grocer will take consumption of the warbly voiced insects into the mainstream, experts say. Using the retailer’s private-label line President’s Choice to market the product suggests Loblaw’s confidence in the direction of global food trends and gives cricket meal a degree of credibility for consumers new to the food.
“The President’s Choice brand is based on value but it is also based on excitement and newness and innovation,” said Alan Middleton, marketing professor at York University.
“(Loblaw chief executive) Galen Weston has said that he is seriously committed to offering healthier foods to Canadians and he has been passionate about sustainability. This gives Loblaw a point of difference in the market and reinforces the innovative nature of the PC brand.”
The product arrives at a lean time for Canada’s traditional grocery companies, who have been losing market share to Costco and Walmart and are nervous about the long-term market implications of Amazon’s Whole Foods purchase last year.
“By making products like Cricket Powder widely available in our grocery stores, we are giving Canadians the option to not only try something new, but to also make a conscious decision on what they eat and how it impacts the environment,” Kathlyne Ross, vice-president of product development and innovation at Loblaw, said in a statement. The company said crickets require significantly less water to rear than larger animals and 12 times less feed than cattle, four times less feed than sheep, and half as much feed as pigs and broiler chickens to produce the equivalent amount of protein.
Cricket flour is used around the world in soups, stews, smoothies and baked goods.
A 2.5 tablespoon serving has 90 calories and 13 grams of protein and contains a day’s recommended serving of vitamin B12. By comparison, a two-tablespoon serving of chia seeds — a now-trendy protein and fibre-rich smoothie staple — has 138 calories and 5 grams of protein.
The smoothie trend alone is enough to suggest consumers would give it a try, Middleton said.
The rise of powerful professional-kitchen style home blenders such as Vitamix have helped fuel the smoothie trend. Sales of frozen fruit, used largely to make smoothies, increased 11.2 per cent per year in Canada between 2012 and 2017, according to market research firm Euromonitor, to $330.2 million from $194.4 million.
Norwood, Ont.-based Entomo Farms, which breeds crickets for human consumption, is providing Loblaw with the flour. Entomo also produces products such as Roasted Crickets under its own label.
“I think there is huge pent-up demand for food that is healthy and sustainable,” said Jarrod Goldin, president of Entomo and a joint founder of the operation with his two brothers, who got their start farming insects for the reptile trade.
They decided to pursue a human-grade insect farm after the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization put out a report in 2013 on edible insects as a key sustainable food source. The same week it was released, an entrepreneur pitched a cricket-powder based product on reality TV show Shark Tank and Mark Cuban invested in it.