Bugfoundation was founded by friends Özel and Max Krämer in 2014. By 2015, the group’s first burger recipe – made from buffalo worms and organic soy – was available in two restaurants in Brussels.
In 2018, the company made a major breakthrough when it established an assembly line in Germany and secured its first supermarket listing with Rewe. The burger is now stocked by “several hundred” Rewe supermarkets and Bugsfoundation claims to see growing interest from the retail sector.
Bugfoundation expects its growth trajectory to continue to accelerate, supported by an increasing consumer appetite for insects as an alternative source of protein.
“We will need alternative proteins in the future and insects are a sustainable protein source,” Özel explained.
The company will focus its efforts in Germany “to satisfy high demand” until the end of 2019. But there is also “big potential” in other European markets like Spain and Scandinavia, Özel believes. “Besides Germany, we are still selling our product to several restaurants in Belgium and the Netherlands. With a new Dutch sales team, we will push the sales in the Netherlands by the beginning of next year.”
‘Taste comes first’
Products made using insect proteins have strong stories to tell around sustainability and nutrition.
Insects are less resource intensive to produce than other protein sources. The feed conversion ratio is significantly more efficient than other livestock because they are cold‐blooded and rely on their environment to control metabolic processes, such as body temperature. According to Bugfoundation, the buffalo worms it uses - which are free from additives and antibiotics - require 10 times less feed than beef and produce 100 times less greenhouse gas emissions.
Insects also offer a high quality protein that includes the nine essential amino acids while also being low in saturated fats and carbohydrates.
These factors were important considerations for Bugfoundation but, when the group is considering product development, taste is the most important factor.
“In my opinion, it is important to produce tasty, aesthetic and high-quality products,” Özel explained. “Products made of insects have to be serious products, which we can integrate in our daily lives and shouldn’t be a test of courage. Taste comes first and is the most important part. Don’t we only buy products again and again if we like the taste?”
When looking at which insect species to use, Bugfoundation settled on buffalo worm because of their “great taste” – which is slightly nutty – their availability versus other ingredients and the fact that 100% of the larvae can be used with “no waste”.
Bugfoundation decided its first product would be a burger for two reasons: they are “trendy” but also a minced product goes some way to overcoming the ‘yuck’ factor of eating whole insects.
Özel continued: “When we founded our company we made a couple of decisions regarding the products we would create. Besides the taste and quality of our products, we decided not to show whole or even parts of insects. It was an obvious decision to start with a product like a burger, which we love and which was very trendy back then - and still is today.”
Bugfoundation already has “a couple of new products” in the pipeline for 2018 but Özel remained tight-lipped about what they might be.
PHW Group backs bugs
Bugfoundation recently secured investment from PHW Group, one of Germany’s largest poultry suppliers.
Özel said that this was a “very positive signal” that an “established meat producer” wants to invest in insects as an “alternative protein source of the future”.
“It is a step in the right direction to create and build up new ways of production to produce more sustainable food in the future,” he suggested.
While Bugfoundation will continue to call the shorts on business processes and strategy “independently and autonomously”, the tie-up will provide Bugfoundation with “valuable support” in the areas of sales, distribution and production.
“We see the collaboration as an opportunity to offer our insect based sustainable products to a bigger customer group and to thereby improve the impact of the sustainability of our business.”