Reaching the Finnish line: EatGrub expands to Finland with 'landmark' listing

By Niamh Michail

- Last updated on GMT

© EatGrub
© EatGrub
UK insect start-up EatGrub has secured a listing in Finland's biggest supermarket. 'It shows how seriously the concept of insects as food is taken in Finland,' the start-up's co-founder says.

S-Group has a 47.2% share of Finland’s grocery market in 2017, according to Finnish grocery trade association PTY, and as EatGrub’s first major bricks and mortar retail listing, it was “a huge landmark and exciting moment”,​ co-founder Neil Whippey said.

The retailer started with an initial soft launch of EatGrub’s three energy bars - available in three flavours: orange & red berries; blueberry & almond; cacao & coconut - in 86 hypermarket and large supermarkets in January.

“This was done initially to monitor the product with less risk, but it’s gone really well so they’ve decided on a larger roll-out into more localised and urban areas, which actually suit our demographics better,” ​Whippey told FoodNavigator.

“The larger distribution means we can push an [...] advertising campaign to further introduce the idea of insects as a sustainable food source to the Finnish public,” ​Whippey added.

What's on the ingredient list?

One orange and red berry bar contains: Juice infused cranberries (22.3%), sunflower seeds (16.4%), currants (12.3%), chopped dates (9.8%), gluten free oatbran (9.8%), goji berries (7.9%), pumpkin seeds (5.9%), vegetable glycerine (5.5%), cricket protein powder (5.1%), water (4.7%), natural orange flavour (0.3%).

A 36 gram (g) bar packs in 4.3 g of protein and contains around 12 g sugar.

Founded four years ago, EatGrub expects to shift one million bars in 2018. Over the four years, Whippey said the company has learnt the importance of finding products “that suit the market you’re going into”.

In addition to the energy bars, the firm sells cricket powder, packets of crunchy roasted crickets available in three flavours – peri-peri; smoky barbecue and sweet chili and lime – and packets of whole crickets, grasshoppers, meal worms and buffalo worms.

© EatGrub

“We’re fortunate enough to have had four years of market research from back when we started by doing pop-up restaurants, so itenabled us to re-build the brand last year with the consumer in mind and really start focussing our messaging and new product development (NPD) towards them​.”

Describing insect protein as “a superfood ingredient with many different applications”, ​Whippey said the start-up, which has until now used co-manufacturing facilities, is in the process of setting up its own product kitchen for new product development and manufacturing plant.

On a nation-wide health kick

Finland is becoming a hotspot for insect products. Last year, Fazer launched cricket bread using flour from ground house crickets (Acheta domesticus​) in its 11 in-store bakeries located around Finland. Finnish health food manufacturer Leader Foods launched a line of cricket-based Zircca protein snack bars and, according to the firm’s CEO,​ within one hour of beginning discussions with retailers, the first batch of 500,000 bars sold out during “one 15-minute phone call​​”.­

EatGrub sees its success in Finland as part of a bigger picture: the country’s nation-wide health kick and widespread consumer interest in “creating and implementing innovative ways to get fit​”.  

“There was a time when Finland was counted as one of the unhealthiest nations, where heart disease and obesity affected a large chunk of the population, due to a combination of diet - consisting heavily of fatty meat and dairy -­ and not enough exercise.”

With health and fitness [now] in their consciousness, they are often at the forefront of dietary innovation.”

Whippey said: “We’ve always seen the Scandinavian market as a fantastic opportunity for us. It’s well known how nutritionally and environmentally conscious they are, and the retail support so far has shown how seriously the concept is being taken in Finland in particular.”

Legal loophole cleared 

A 500-strong survey carried out last​ year by the University of Turku and Finland’s Natural Resources Institute (Luke) found that 70% of Finnish respondents were interested in insects as food and around half would buy insect-based foods.

The country’s insect-based innovation came in spite of a legal loophole that meant, until recently, selling insects for human consumption was technically illegal, forcing manufacturers to sell their products with a disclaimer that the products were ‘for decorative purposes only’.

However, the country’s food safety authority Evira put an end to this loophole in September last year​.

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