Flying SpArk ignites start-up streak during IKEA bootcamp with fruit-fly protein

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

Flying SpArk ignites start-up streak during IKEA bootcamp with fruit-fly protein
Insect protein firm Flying SpArk are among ten start-ups invited to join IKEA’s first accelerator program as the food tech company look to develop products containing its fruit fly-derived protein. 

The Israeli-based company is set to join IKEA’s product development centre located in Älmhult, Sweden as part of a three-month initiative looking to solve the “big problems in people’s everyday lives, for society and the planet".

Flying SpArk are hoping to develop its range of fruit fly powders and oils derived from the Mediterranean fruit fly larvae for human consumption.

These powders and oil are fed a diet made up exclusively of fruit, and are reared without the use of hormones, antibiotics or pesticides.

The sustainable ingredient is also high in protein, calcium, iron and potassium and, unlike meat is odourless and virtually cholesterol-free.

Coming to an IKEA restaurant near you?

“We are excited to join the IKEA accelerator and to have the opportunity to learn how to work with a giant retailer like IKEA,”​ said Eran Gronich, co-founder and CEO of Flying SpArk.

"IKEA has a huge reach, 389 restaurants in 44 different markets, 650 million customers visited IKEA restaurants in 2016. IKEA also has a very high consumer trust.

"Flying SpArk and IKEA shares the same environmental, sustainable and health agenda to develop a product and hopefully to launch it in IKEA’s restaurants.

"We can start piloting in a few restaurants and scale up from there obtaining feedback from different markets. The facilities are also ready and supportive." 

Speaking to FoodNavigator earlier this year​, Gronich identified the main benefit in using fruit fly larvae powder instead of the more common cricket powder or mealworm powder was its lower cost per protein content.

He added that the powders would suit sweet and savoury bakery products and sports nutrition foods to dairy-free cheese.

The unprocessed fruit fly larvae could even be extended as a replacement to minced meat to be used in hamburgers or nuggets.

IKEA Bootcamp program

Along with new ingredients, start-ups working in the fields of urban farming, sustainable sourcing, food conservation and healthy eating are also expected to take part in the program.

Portuguese start-up Matter is one such company, which reconstitutes agro-industrial waste into innovative surface materials. Spanish-based Niwa are also taking part with its smart software and data intelligence that enables anyone to grow plants indoors.

In collaboration with Danish start-up specialists Rainmaking, the ten firms will have access to IKEA’s prototype shop, test labs & innovation development.

In addition, they will receive a €20,000 grant to spend on developing the product as well as free co-working space & housing during the program.

Senior global IKEA business leaders as mentors will be on and to provide mentorship and advice from both IKEA and Rainmaking’s global network of serial entrepreneurs and experts.

"Ikea’s startup program will contribute a lot of knowhow and understanding in terms of customers approach, needs etc. scaling up, serve and handle large quantities and developing the final product  together that will suit their customers and the agenda,"​ said Gronich. 

"Also we will be able to gather a lot of data from different markets that IKEA restaurants has presence in and learn and improve our products."

Flying SpArk has already raised €838 000 ($1 million) in funding with the help of the Israel Innovation Authority and The Kitchen, a food-tech incubator sponsored by the Strauss Group.

The Flying Spark joins Hargol FoodTech (formerly known as Steak TzarTzar) as two of Israel’s up and coming insect enterprises operating in the region.

Hargol FoodTech, which produces grasshopper protein powder, is also looking to compete for funds to build a grasshopper-growing facility for flour, food additives and whole foods.

Insect interest

Despite the small base of insect-derived product launches, the use edible insects grew by more than 58% from 2011 to 2015, according to global research group Innova Market Insights.

Most products are in the cereal and energy bar category (32%) but 12% are in meat-substitute products.

Cricket is the most commonly used insect, found in 56% of products tracked, typically in whole form or as a flour. 54% of products tracked feature the claim “high source of protein".

"I think that insects as food are here to stay, it is the best animal protein source in terms of nutritious values, sustainability and cost," said Gronich.

"2 billion people are eating insects already and for the western world it’s new and it will take some time to penetrate but time is on our side as population grows, traditional livestock farming is not sustainable.

"A severe shortage of animal protein is predicted in the near future and a new source of environmentally friendly protein for human consumption is of the essence." 

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