Bug Bacon: Edible insects in Cambodia

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Bug Bacon is exclusively available in Siem Reap, Cambodia and is said to be the ‘World’s Highest Protein Soldier Grub Snack’. The edible insect market has started booming in recent years and is expected to be worth $7.96 Billion by 2030 according to some studies.

What is Bug Bacon?

The producers of the Bug Bacon say that the edible bugs are “packed with complete protein, omega fatty acids, essential minerals, and your day’s full requirement of vitamin B12.” In addition, they claim the products are “plant-based, plus insects” and made from ultra-sustainable roasted soldier grubs.

For now, Bugs Bacon is available at the well-known Bugs Cafe in the usually popular tourist destination of Siem Reap.

Using soldier grubs makes sense, as the larvae of black soldier flies are very high in fat and protein. Traditionally in farming, they have been fed to chickens, pigs as well as ducks, other birds, fish (best if dehydrated), and reptiles.

The company uses soldier grubs which have the highest protein content in the world for BSFL, produced by Unique Biotech (Malaysia). The protein content is said to be in the high 60% range, as high as 68.7% protein in the second half of 2019. The goal of Bacon Bugs is to offer a sustainable superfood snack.

Founder Josh Galt told Food-Navigator Asia, that he launched in Cambodia to tap into the mix of Asian and Western tourists that visit the country and get a broad range of feedback. Secondly, the provider of the bugs is in Malaysia so it is relatively easy to import.

In the meat-free industry, vegan bacon is usually made from rice paper or tempeh and the debate over using insects as an alternative protein and food source has been ongoing for years.

Bug Bacon has plans to expand and move into other markets outside SE Asia, also promising to have fully biodegradable packaging. Currently, the flavour mix includes sweet maple, BBQ and spices.

Bug Bacon Cambodia

Edible insects a growing market

In Cambodia, and in many Asian countries, eating insects is part and parcel of the cuisine. China is the biggest consumer of edible insects while Thailand, Japan and Korea already offer a range of insect edibles and powders for consumption.

One report said the market value for “global edible insects is anticipated to cross USD 1.5 billion by 2026” according to a Global Market Insights, Inc.

The insect protein market could be worth up to $8 billion by 2030, according to a Barclays report. The current valuation of the market by the end of 2019 is $1 billion.

One of the reasons is the “rapid shift of consumers towards high protein and low-calorie ingredients and rising competition to introduce innovative edible insect products is likely to boost the industry demand.”

Cricket and mealworm powders have become popular, even breaking in western markets. Major edible insects market players include:

  • Exo Protein
  • Gathr Foods
  • Crowbar Protein
  • Crik Nutrition
  • Cricket Flours
  • Crickers
  • Bugsolutely

In Cambodia for example, humanitarian non-government organisation DCA Cambodia is working on cricket farming project across Takeo which is said to be famed for its cricket farming. An article by Eco-Business in 2019 highlighted the work being done.

Kristen Rasmussen, DCA Cambodia’s country director said at the time that “major steps need to be taken in terms of processing and hygiene before these Cambodian crickets can be preened for the international market”.

What insects are used?

The global edible insects market is segmented by product type:

  1. Whole insects
  2. Insect powder
  3. Insect meal

Some of the more popular insects used in the industry include crickets, black soldier flies, mealworms, buffalos, grasshoppers, ants, silkworm, cicadas, and others.

The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) initially published a 200-page report in 2013 that suggested insects were key to reducing world hunger, food shortages and food insecurity.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that one-third of the world’s food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted every year. This equals a total of 1.3 billion tons of food lost or wasted, which could be used to feed the 820 million hungry people around the world.

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