Flying Spark: Mediterranean fruit fly protein attracts Asian investment
Insects are creating a buzz in the alternative protein space for their low dependence on natural resources and reduced carbon emissions. While still a relatively small market, insect-based foods are starting to gain traction – particularly in the snacks category.
Israeli start-up Flying Spark is looking to increase consumer intake of sustainable insect protein through partnerships with food manufacturers. Its B2B offering of high protein ingredients, all made from Mediterranean fruit fly larvae, can be used in applications ranging from sweet and savoury bakery products, to sports nutrition foods and dairy-free cheese.
Flying Spark has received interest from a number of industry players, including Grupo Bimbo, Nestlé, and Ikea, and now the start-up has confirmed investment from Thai Union – the world’s largest producer of shelf-stable tuna products.
The funding will help drive down costs, scale up production, and enable development of insect-based products for market.
Cost-effective and nutritious
The start-up’s odourless, tasteless powders (both soluble and non-soluble) and oil is made from 100% fruit fly larvae. Its textured protein can be used to develop meat analogues, such as imitation fish, chicken, and beef.
Cost-wise, the larva is the most affordable animal protein available, claims the start-up. This is because the larvae have a highly efficient 1:1 diet, meaning the insect equivalent of a cow can be produced in just one-square-metre of space over the period of one month, and at the radically reduced cost of US$1 per kg.
From a nutritional standpoint, Flying Spark’s powder is made up of 70% protein, 12% minerals, 7% fibre, 7% fat, and 4% water. “Basically, you get everything that is good from an animal source without the bad things,” co-founder and CTO Keren Kles told FoodNavigator at FoodTech IL in Tel Aviv this week. “It has no cholesterol, and is fairly low impact on the environment.”
Climate-friendly animal protein
Flying Spark does not shy away from the fact that in the midst of a plant-based boom, its insect products are just that: insects.
“The idea is to produce a sustainable source of rich animal protein which is highly digestible for the human body,” Flying Spark’s entomologist Dr Constantin Grach told FoodNavigator. “Humans are carnivores. This is our physiology. This is not something to change.”
Dr Grach suggested the question then is: ‘What kind of proteins should consumers be eating and what kind of impact do these proteins have on the environment?’
Compared to livestock, insect production is of course much kinder to the environment. Fruit fly larvae products produce low greenhouse gas emissions, use almost no water, negligible land use, and produce minimal waste.
Insects in The Kitchen
Flying Spark is one of 13 start-ups currently selected in The Kitchen FoodTech Hub's accelerator programme. The Kitchen is owned by Israeli food giant the Strauss Group and backed by government funding through the Israeli Innovation Incubator programme.