Ÿnsect – Healthy and Sustainable
Functional, sustainable and full of protein, vitamins and fibre – that’s the world’s first food ingredient range derived from insects, brought to the market by Ÿnsect.
As the pace at which global markets evolve towards healthy eating accelerates, so do new trends pushed forward by companies researching and launching novel food concepts. One of these companies is Ÿnsect Netherlands, previously known as Protifarm, the global leader in the production of mealworm ingredients for food applications.
Founded in 2015, the company offers planet-friendly food solutions, developed by the very best food scientists, engineers and experts from universities and research institutes. Together with an international team of passionate people and partners, Ÿnsect produces effective, nutritious, and functional ingredients derived from insects, for bakery, sports nutrition, pasta, meat alternatives, and more.
Tom Mohrmann, Country Manager Ÿnsect Netherlands, who also leads the international division Ÿnsect Human Nutrition & Health, describes the company’s beginnings: “The business started with an idea to grow insects for human nutrition. This idea was implemented through the acquisition of a small insect farm in the Netherlands, which was, back then, the largest insect farm in Europe.”
From ten different insect species grown at the farm, only one species of buffalo mealworm was chosen as the basis for future production, and technology was transformed from manual labour to industrial scale with the opening of a new, fully autonomous and robotised factory in 2018 – a major investment.
“Scaling up the process has been the biggest challenge that we have faced – the combination of biology and automation is not easy, but this applies to the whole industry. However, we have managed to make it work.”
Tom, with a background in the food industry, joined the company in 2017 and intensified the efforts on processing. “In principle, we started to produce sustainable ingredients for the food industry derived from insects. That is our core business in a nutshell. Today, there are more insects in our high-tech factory in The Netherlands than people on this planet.”
In 2021 the Dutch company Protifarm reached an important milestone when it was acquired by Ÿnsect, a French company that is the global leader in natural insect protein. “Both of our companies build on their knowledge and expertise in the area of production for feed and food, and joining forces gives us strength in both directions. Operating on a global level, we now work as one company, producing ingredients for feed, as well as for human nutrition.”
The sustainable meat alternative
“We are insect breeding and processing. During the process we unlock and transform the insects into recognisable food ingredients, adding technical functionality, so that the food industry can use them into recognisable products to satisfy everyday eating habits,” says Tom.
He points out that insects are by far the most efficient source of protein, and the process of rearing them is efficient. Ÿnsect multiplies this efficiency with every stacked layer by using the vertical farming method. This helps to produce more protein per square metre of land than protein sourced from dairy and even more protein than protein sourced from beef.
The Business Unit Ÿnsect Human Nutrition & Health markets the products under the AdalbaPro brand. This unique, sustainable, and minimally processed ingredient range offers solutions for meat replacement and protein fortification to add value and effectiveness to all kinds of formulations.
“We produce extremely sustainable, high-quality ingredients. Our soluble protein is the best of both worlds: top quality and maximum sustainability,” Tom points out.
AdalbaPro products are already incorporated into several baked goods, sports nutrition, pasta and meat alternatives. As a high-quality animal protein, AdalbaPro contains all the essential amino acids as well as essential vitamins and minerals. The range is currently available in a textured form and as powders.
Generally speaking, market penetration has not been as fast as desired, as a result of the concept being perhaps too novel for the traditionally thinking food market. Tom admits that although people have been eating insects from the beginning of time, the idea of edible insects is relatively new to the modern consumer. The mindset of “insect-eating” is yet to be overcome.
“I believe a new approach is needed, an approach that would regard insects the same way as traditional livestock. The key is to unlock the nutritive attributes and transform them into recognisable ingredients. That is what we are focusing on and what needs to be reinforced.”
Helping the planet
“Overall, the response from the food industry has been positive, particularly to our texturised products. I believe that with the help of good partners in the ingredient industry we can offer them a very good solution and help them develop new concepts.”
Tom affirms that the interest in new meat alternatives and new protein sources is global. At the moment, the company is recording growing demand in Europe and North America, with other regions, such as some Asian countries, following slowly.
“AdalbaPro, our functional, nutritious, and sustainable ingredient range, helps to reduce our global footprint. We are enthusiastic about making insects the meat of the future – compared to poultry, pork and beef our buffalo mealworms produce a tiny fraction of their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. And our commitment to GHG reduction does not apply just to our own facility but extends to the entire supply chain.
The key message is that with the vertical farming method that enables maximized productivity per square metre, using renewable energy and less water, fresh insect production has a dramatically lower general environmental impact than other traditional animal protein sources.
This is an important aspect on which the company has based its further development, recently further supported by the merger with Ÿnsect. “Our two businesses are now going forward as one, to deliver our promise of supplying the world with sustainable ingredients for food and feed,” concludes Tom Mohrmann.