Founded in May 2019, Australian brand Hoppa is committed to adding insect-based foods to the human diet. The company now sells cricket pasta, flour and protein powders within Australia through online stores including its own website, Amazon and health food marketplaces such as Yolife.
Hoppa founder Channi Sandhu talked about the benefits of crickets, the challenges his business is facing, and the future of the industry.
Next-generation superfood: Australian startup Hoppa sells cricket food
The origin of the idea
In 2017, Sandhu traveled to Asia with his wife. He first came across food crickets in Thailand. Usually people ate them whole – both baked and fried. Sandhu decided to try them, and the taste pleasantly surprised him.
From a conversation with a street vendor, he learned that locals have been eating crickets for centuries. Back in Australia, Sandhu began to study the benefits of this diet. He found that this dish could potentially solve the problem of global food shortages.
According to Sandhu, people in Asian countries have lived on crickets for centuries, while in the West, people prefer more processed food. Therefore, he decided to produce more familiar products for the local market. Hoppa currently sells insect-infused products such as pasta, flour and protein powder.
Feedback from buyers
According to Sandhu, the company has received many positive reviews and repeat customers. They argue that cricket pasta is not much different in flavor, while powders have a more nutty and earthy taste.
Some customers are also asking to expand the range of products. Hoppa plans to launch energy bars and flavored protein supplements in the next two to three months. Customers also appreciated the gluten-free protein powder and flour and their suitability for the paleo diet. At the moment the company sells only wheat-based pasta, but this is likely to change in the future.
Due to logistical problems, “Hoppa” works only within Australia, but there are already people willing to purchase goods from Europe and Asia. Sandhu hopes that in the next few months they will be able to open doors to other countries in the world.
Current situation in the industry
For Europe and Australia, edible insects are a relatively young industry that is still in an experimental stage. According to Sandhu, people in the industry support each other. Each of them takes risks, bringing their knowledge and experience to its development and formation. So far, “Hoppa” has been supplying crickets from Asia, which is very good at raising them.
The benefits and nutritional value of crickets
Despite their small size, crickets are extremely nutritious. They contain more protein than beef, more iron than spinach, and more calcium than milk. Not only do crickets contain more vitamin B12 than salmon, they also have a complete amino acid profile.
Usually, people eat pasta with meat to replenish their protein supply. But according to Sandhu, pasta with crickets and veggie sauce will provide enough nutrients without having to consume a lot of meat and other proteins.
Sandhu believes crickets have a good chance of becoming the next superfood. And it’s not only about their nutritional value, but also about the environmental friendliness of growing methods.
Crickets can be grown on organic waste such as nuts, seeds, and banana peels. Farm Hoppa uses certified ready-made feed made of rice hulls, oats and skins. This is organic waste from food production that is usually thrown away.
Unlike animal husbandry, cricket farming does not require a lot of resources. A cow gives birth to one calf, which must be fed and raised for two to three years. At the same time, only about 50% of the animal will go into food. At the same time, crickets, according to Sandhu, contain 60-70% protein and usually produce 1200-1300 eggs. He also adds that farm-raised insects are completely harmless to human consumption.
It is believed that breeding crickets is cruel because they are a kind of livestock that is killed for food. But, as Sandhu says, the reality is quite the opposite. Crickets are generally accustomed to living in dark and enclosed spaces, so vertical farming without a lot of land is very convenient for them. In addition, insects are harvested towards the end of their life, which is six to eight weeks.
Industry Challenges and Ways to Overcome Them
Sandhu agrees: the main difficulty is accepting the fact that you are eating an insect. It was the same with raw fish before sushi became a popular dish. Lobsters, too, were originally considered a marine insect, and now they have become a delicacy.
Price can also alienate buyers. Due to supply and demand issues, cricket pasta is more expensive than regular pasta, Sandhu said.
The main way to overcome misconceptions is to spread the word about the importance and usefulness of consuming crickets. Sandhu often makes her daughter baked goods with cricket products, which she really enjoys. He is sure that many other representatives of the younger generation are being taught to consume insects. It remains to work only with the adult population. Although, according to Sandhu, many still well perceive and support his idea.
The future of the edible insect industry
Edible insects are now recognized by the UN and health food organizations around the world. This formalizes the fact that they are healthy to eat and opens the door for Hoppa’s business. Sandhu hopes that spreading the right information will help overcome all difficulties in the next couple of years and make insects a popular food product.