An Introduction to cricket flour and reasons on why it’s so expensive.

“The practice of consuming insects…can have groundbreaking environmental, economic and sociocultural impacts.” - Olena Kagui, The Huffington Post

“Insects are probably the most sustainable form of protein we have on Earth.” Megan Miller, founder of Bitty Foods.

 

Increasing Demand in the Western World

The United States in the last few few years has seen an increase in entomophagy, the practice of eating insects. Though common in many countries, the Western world has been slow to incorporate edible insects into their diets.  The increase in growth is partly from a 2013 report on the benefits of eating insects by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. To sum up this report: Be like Phil and Lil from the Rugrats and eat bugs! From the data presented in this report, a few US start-up companies launched into the bug business and what they have seen is success. Crickets, the “gateway bug,”  can be ground into a flour like mixture which helps those not wanting to eat a bug that looks like a bug get their feet wet with entomophagy. Products containing cricket flour have increased in popularity and availability. Bakeries specializing in baked goods made with cricket flour, such as Bitty Foods, have also started in the last couple of years. The image below, from Bitty Foods, contains three different cookie varieties made with cricket flour. I’m sure Phil and Lil would approve of these tasty looking cookies.

Bitty foods cricket cookies

Price Check Please

Ground crickets can be purchased as either 100% pure or as a mixture, commonly called cricket flour, which can be used for baking. A 1lb bag of 100% cricket powder from Aketta will set you back $44. Considering this price is a discounted bulk price compared to a quarter pound at $15, it’s a pretty steep price compared to Wheat Montana’s All-purpose flour at $3.95 for a 5lb bag. To do the math, that’s $44 per pound of crickets to 79¢ per pound of all-purpose flour. However, comparing the price of cricket powder to all-purpose flour is simply unjust. First off, the 100% pure cricket powder has more uses than your typical all-purpose flour. For example, it can be added to smoothies, protein shakes, peanut butter, etc. to boost the nutritional value of a meal. To be able to use 100% pure cricket powder for baking you would first need to mix it with a flour in order for it to actually act like a flour. This of course would significantly drop the price per pound when mixed with all-purpose flour. So to be fair in a cost analysis here is a cricket flour compared to the same all-purpose flour as above. Bitty Foods sells a 20 ounce package of cricket baking flower for $19.99, this works out to about $15.99 per pound. That is over 20x more expensive than your regular all-purpose flour. Significantly cheaper than the pure powder but the question is: Why is it still so expensive? Below is a chart from Global Market Insights Inc. showing the recent growth and expected growth of the edible insects market. 

U.S. Edible Insects Market size, by application, 2012-2023 (USD Million)

Projections for growth of entomology sector in US

Edible insects, especially crickets, have been increasing in demand while the supply remains relatively low. Crickets have been described as the “new it” ingredient according to Dylan Whitlock due to their nutritional benefits and sustainability and U.S. consumers seem to be catching on. However, with the high demand for cricket powder U.S. suppliers for it remain low. Unlike agricultural farming their are no current incentives for insect farming according to Olena Kagui of the Huffington Post. Many of the U.S. products containing cricket flower are forced to source from other countries. Canada supplies many U.S. products that contain cricket flour. Another addition to the cost is the expense of breeding and harvesting crickets. Harvesting crickets is a labor intensive process compared to agricultural farms.

It will be exciting to follow how this market continues to grow and take shape in the U.S. market. I hope to see more and more people adding bugs to their diet and hopefully a decrease in price for cricket flower as new cricket farming businesses are added to the market.

Resources cited

1. Davis, Jack. “Edible Insects Market size to grow at more than 40% CAGR up to 2023.” Global Market Insights Inc. 27 Sep. 2016. http://www.medgadget.com/2016/09/edible-insects-market-size-to-grow-at-more-than-40-cagr-up-to-2023.html. Accessed 27 Sep. 2016.

2. Kagui, Olena. “Reinventing Entomophagy for the 21st Century.” The Huffington Post, 1   Jan. 2016. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/olena-kagui/post_10945_b_9076028.html. Accessed 26 Sep. 2016. 

3. Whitlock, Dylan. “Why Cricket Flour Is The New ‘It’ Ingredient.” Sporteluxe, 8 Sep. 2016. http://www.sporteluxe.com/why-cricket-flours-the-new-it-ingredient/. Accessed 26 Sep. 2016. 


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