Gavriel Tan and John Lee are each final-year college students at Republic Polytechnic (RP). They had been wanting ahead to securing abroad internships, however Covid-19 had sadly dampened their plans.
After they came upon that they might substitute their internship with their faculty’s Incubation Accelerator Programme, they determined to use for that as a substitute.
On the similar time, they’d chanced upon a ebook by the United Nations titled “Edible Bugs: Future Prospects for Meals and Safety”. It ignited their curiosity to transform bugs into practical meals merchandise and got here up with the thought of protein bars made out of cricket-based flour.
This very novel concept awarded them with a S$10,000 prototype grant to kickstart their enterprise enterprise. Known as Altimate Nutrition (Altimate is a wordplay on ‘different’ and ‘final), it claims to be Singapore’s first firm to create insect meals merchandise for people.
Crickets are wealthy in protein
Altimate Vitamin basically converts extracted cricket flour into meals merchandise which can be nutritious and sustainable.
“We selected protein bars as a result of it’s a acquainted meals product usually consumed by sportsmen and individuals who lead an lively way of life, who’re our preliminary goal segments,” mentioned Gavriel.
Now, their target market have shifted to focus extra on health-conscious in addition to environmentally-conscious youths and dealing adults.
Furthermore, they felt that the present protein bars available in the market are unsustainable (when it comes to protein supply) and aren’t as nutritious as insect-protein bars.
When requested why they selected to make protein bars out of cricket-based flour, Gavriel defined that crickets are literally an entire protein supply (greater than 70 per cent protein content material) with all 9 important amino acids. They’re additionally wealthy in important micronutrients like vitamin B12 and iron.
Apart from its dietary attributes, in addition they selected to make use of cricket protein flour due to its useful resource effectivity. These components apart, it’s undoubtedly a problem for them to get shoppers to beat the ‘ick’ issue.
“Individuals all the time have this stigma that associates bugs with damaging connotations like poverty and grime. Nevertheless, our merchandise have all undergone profitable microbial assessments and dietary testing to show that it meets meals requirements protected for consumption,” assured Gavriel.
He added that as a substitute of focusing an excessive amount of on its origin, they play up their merchandise as an all-in-one nutritious complement.
“We spotlight the nutritious properties of bugs like crickets, and the way they will presumably assist to strengthen our meals and diet safety.”
Though they confronted fixed criticism that no person will probably be satisfied to eat bugs, they took it as constructive suggestions and went forward with the product improvement.
“When it was time to do our sensory analysis, our panellists had been impressed (that) our merchandise fared higher than different business protein bars we benchmarked towards.”
They spent six months creating their first merchandise
Altimate Vitamin began out in the course of the circuit breaker interval, which severely handicapped their progress.
As a result of lockdown of their faculty and the meals analysis lab, they weren’t capable of have entry to the required gear, which led them to second-guessing their skill to create meals merchandise with flavours that everybody will get pleasure from.
The 2 of them tweaked their formulations a number of occasions and spent nearly six months to reach at their first two flavours: double chocolate, and peanut butter cinnamon.
“There weren’t any recipes we may simply discover on-line referring to insect-based meals merchandise, thus we needed to do numerous intensive analysis and trials and errors for our proposed formulations,” lamented Gavriel.
As a result of novelty of their insect-based meals product, it was not simple for them to search out people who find themselves well-informed on this space and so they needed to do quite a lot of self-learning by studying educational papers, books and the likes.
“Fortunately, with the assistance of our faculty, we bought acquainted with business companions within the meals business which helped us speed up our product improvement. Initially, the responses had been fairly skeptical and other people weren’t very receptive in the direction of the thought once we invited them for product tasting.”
“Nevertheless, as soon as they tried our merchandise, they had been principally impressed by the style and the way ‘regular’ it felt to eat insect-based merchandise. Most of them additionally expressed curiosity to eat them once more and even buy them as soon as we get them out in the marketplace.”
Coming into the choice protein subject
Each of them are biotech college students however Gavriel specialises in meals science (with a Diploma Plus in enterprise innovation and entrepreneurship), whereas John specialises in analysis.
With these ability units, they had been assured to enterprise into the choice protein subject regardless of it being their first-ever enterprise enterprise.
When requested in regards to the reactions of their household and buddies after they first broke the information about Altimate Vitamin, Gavriel revealed that many initially doubted their skills to develop and market such a novel product, particularly one with such an unorthodox ingredient — insect flour.
“There have been additionally many uncertainties, which we wouldn’t name criticism as we normally take them as constructive suggestions to assist enhance our concepts,” mentioned Gavriel.
“Being younger to enter entrepreneurship surprisingly didn’t include as many damaging responses as we anticipated. As a substitute, the group round us had been very supportive of our concept and even supplied to assist us at each level of the journey until now,” he mentioned, including that in addition they acquired loads of help from RP’s Workplace of Entrepreneurship Improvement.
A matter of time earlier than bugs grow to be a type of staple meals
Altimate Vitamin is presently pending approval from the Singapore Meals Company (SFA). As soon as authorised, they wish to safe partnerships to distribute their merchandise.
“Presently, we’re talking to some distributors, gyms, way of life outlets and sustainable ‘inexperienced’ outlets,” mentioned Gavriel, including that they’re focusing on a retail value of S$5.
As they transfer nearer in the direction of the commercialisation stage, they’re additionally trying to fundraise and apply for different grants.
Commenting on the meals tech business, Gavriel feels that one of many greatest sectors for development is different proteins, which might be derived from crops, cultured meat, and bugs.
“The meals tech business is certainly a booming business, particularly in Singapore the place quite a lot of focus is positioned on meals safety.”
“Globally, there’s a want for brand spanking new meals improvements to curb our present unsustainable meat manufacturing. Because the world’s inhabitants continues to develop, new meals improvements will enable us to battle rising issues like local weather change, inhumane remedy of animals related to the present meals ecosystem.”
Shifting ahead, Gavriel mentioned that Altimate Vitamin plans to have management over their merchandise from farm-to-fork and construct an automatic cricket farm in Singapore by the tip of subsequent 12 months.
He shared additional that they’re now engaged on a number of new flavours and doesn’t rule out the potential for launching different cricket merchandise sooner or later like pasta, chips, muffins and shakes.
“The world is slowly, however certainly, discovering a method to incorporate bugs as a type of staple meals. It would occur whether or not we prefer it or not as a result of our finite sources will ultimately drive humanity to hunt another supply to complement the rising demand for meals.”
Featured Picture Credit score: Altimate Vitamin