Insect protein company Ÿnsect acquires Protifarm for ‘strategic boost’ in human nutrition

By Katy Askew

- Last updated on GMT

Ÿnsect is acting as a consolidator in the insect protein market / Pic: GettyImages-Creative Nature NL
Ÿnsect is acting as a consolidator in the insect protein market / Pic: GettyImages-Creative Nature NL

Related tags Insect Protein

French insect protein pioneer Ÿnsect has acquired Dutch mealworm specialist Protifarm in a move that the company says will give it a ‘strategic boost’ in the human nutrition market.

Protifarm is ‘the global leader in mealworm ingredients for human health applications’, according to Ÿnsect, which unveiled the deal yesterday. Ÿnsect currently specializes in insect protein production for the animal agriculture and pet food markets.

Following the European Food Safety Authority’s decision that mealworms are safe for human consumption this January, Ÿnsect believes that the sector represents a big opportunity to further its long-term ambition to offer ‘natural, ‘healthy’, and ‘sustainable’ protein. The company is therefore ‘fast-tracking’ its impact by expanding into the food ingredient market.

“Protifarm is a compelling strategic fit for Ÿnsect, perfectly matching our long-term goals and sustainability values. Acquiring Protifarm is a strategic next step for us, strengthening Ÿnsect’s leading position in the global market and allowing us to properly address the human food and pet-food markets with complementary products,”​ explained Antoine Hubert, Co-Founder and CEO of Ÿnsect.

Growing capacity, IP and R&D capabilities

Ÿnsect currently operates two production facilities in its domestic market, France, with a third under construction. The acquisition will see it take on an additional production site in Ermelo, the Netherlands.

Through the deal, Ÿnsect ‘scales into the human edible insect protein market’ and ‘accelerates its international expansion’, a spokesperson said.

Protifarm has established food customers in Germany, the Netherlands, England, Denmark, and Belgium, allowing Ÿnsect to ‘strategically boost’ its reach. Ÿnsect stressed that the Netherlands is ‘ideally located’ to support its international expansion, increasing access to customers in the Benelux and the North of Europe.

The Dutch facility consists of a vertical farm and processing plant that produces more than 1,000 metric tons of food ingredients annually. Ÿnsect said the aim is to increase capacity to 20,000 metric tones of insect derived ingredients for human and animal feed.

Ÿnsect said the expansion ‘solidifies’ its position as the ‘world’s largest’ insect protein supplier for food and feed. The company’s total production capacity will expand to ‘over 230,000 metric tones’ of ingredient per annum, delivering an acceleration in production and delivery to customers in both the short- and medium-term.

Protifarm also offers nearly 40 years of experience in insect breeding and owns 37 patents across 10 categories. This brings the total number of patents owned by Ÿnsect to nearly 300.

Ÿnsect will also gain a ‘skilled workforce’ in the Netherlands, where around 50 people are employed in production, R&D, and cross-functional areas. The local management team will remain in place, in charge of integrating Protifarm into the Ÿnsect group.

“The consolidation of Protifarm’s leading position in insect-based human premium food ingredients with the leading player in insect-based premium feed and pet food ingredients will expand our scale to meet this demand globally,”​ commented Tom Mohrmann, CEO of Protifarm.

‘Shared vision’ for a sustainable protein future

Ÿnsect and Protifarm already share a lot of ‘common ground’, from the way they approach science and technology on mealworms, to quality and ‘operational excellence’.

They also have a common vision of sustainable farming with opportunity for scalability - to produce more protein in a more sustainable way compared to other food and feed options.

This is necessary to meet the growing protein needs of the global population, a spokesperson noted, pointing to FAO forecasts that consumption of animal proteins will grow by 52% between 2007 and 2030. “The spike in demand for protein and plants poses a serious risk for the world’s already fragile ecosystems, requiring extra water and land and generating greenhouse gas emissions.”

“The evolution of a more sustainable and healthier intake of nutrition is only at its beginning, but the demand for products meeting these standards is set to grow exponentially in the coming years,”​ predicted Protifarm’s Mohrmann.

Ÿnsect and Protifarm operate zero-waste circular production systems and Ÿnsect stressed that its facilities have negative carbon and water footprints.

Making a meal out of mealworm

Ÿnsect is working to obtain food authorization for its protein concentrate meal for human consumption.

“The studies conducted by Ÿnsect prove that mealworm is an extremely nutritious source of protein,”​ the spokesperson said, highlighting a study by the Justus-Liebig University of Giessen in Germany that showed a 60% cholesterol reduction in mice.

Likewise, Protifarm’s Novel Food application is expected to receive EU approval in the ‘near term’.

The companies said that their two mealworm products - Protifarm's so-called Buffalo mealworm and Ÿnsect's Molitor mealworm - are uniquely positioned premium food grade ingredients that address demand for different applications.

Molitor based ŸnMeal is produced for sports performance and food supplements, which a high protein and low ash content, as well as ‘superior’ amino acid profile.

Meanwhile, the Buffalo mealworm-based products sold under the brand AdalbaPro offer technical functionalities, like texture, binding and solubility.The AdalbaPro ingredients contain protein, vitamin B1, B2, B5, B6, B9, B12, potassium and calcium, combined with a ‘mild flavor’ suitable for food industry development.

Protifarm’s founding and lead investor Marvesa has taken a stake in Ÿnsect’s parent company.

“Ÿnsect is consolidating the sector, building a sustainable project that is attracting international investors and companies alike,”​ the group claimed.

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