Eat Grub is such a weird and exciting product…how did you actually come up with the idea to create edible insect products?
Before Eat Grub, I worked as a marketing manager for WaterAid. The job required a travel to parts of Africa and Asia. While spending time in these countries, I found myself eating an array of different foods – including insects. Watching how these foods were enjoyed had a huge impact on my decision to start this business. If local people enjoyed insects, often as a delicacy, there was no reason why people in the UK couldn’t.
But that’s not really how it started. When I came home after visiting Malawi where I tried termites (flying ants), I began researching insect-eating in more detail and discovered that not only were they tasty, they were extremely nutritious and a sustainable source of protein. The more I read, the more I learned how amazing these foods were, in every way. It was a chance conversation with an old friend and soon-to-be Grub’s Co-Founder, Neil Whippey, which made starting an insect food brand a reality. Neil suffers from crohn’s disease, he struggles with finding foods that suit his diet. The condition calls for a selective, enriched diet and insects, with their complete nutritional profile, ticked a lot of these boxes. His passion for food and mine for marketing was where Eat Grub began!
How did you go about testing the concept on potential customers? Was is difficult to get them on board?
Yes and No! Naturally, it takes time for us, as humans, to adapt to change. For instance, when sushi first came about people we very slow to try it. The concept of eating raw fish was so far away from what consumers were used to, they just didn’t know what to think. However, Yo Sushi did a great job in helping to change this. By making eating sushi an experience through their conveyer belts, different coloured and priced plates, it became more accessible, drastically improving the number of people consuming it. By doing this Yo Sushi, normalised change and built a very viable business in doing so. This is what we endeavored to do. With this concept in mind, we decided to get a chef on board and set a popup restaurant serving a selection of edible insect dishes in Hoxton Square. We advertised on Billetto who were a relatively new business at the time and they provided great support in promoting our unique event. The food was a big hit and the reviews, from customers and journalists, were fantastic. We received a huge amount of press coverage from Timeout to the Evening Standard and several London-based food blogs like the Nudge. After testing the concept, it was clear that there was a real potential to grow acceptance of eating insects in the UK as long as it was presented in the right way!
How did you come up with the bars?
After the popup, we had lots of people asking where they could buy insect based products and this gave Neil and I the confidence to start developing products. We started with packaging the raw ingredients for people to cook with but we wanted to make insect-eating more accessible; for people who bought into the arguments Although we’re proud of what our product is and would never apologise for it, introducing it to the mass involves a softly softly approach. That is why we developed our natural energy bars made with ground crickets. Snack bars are something already familiar and by using cricket powder, people get all the benefits of insects without having to see them.
Do you have any funding for launch?
We launched our Eat Grub bars in April 2016 with the help of a Kickstarter campaign, allowing us to further test the market and the bars went down a treat. That’s when we knew we were on to a winner.
What other rounds of funding have Eat Grub gone through?
As the concept was proven, we decided to kick off our seed round raise. It was important for us to get investors that could offer knowledge and expertise. Although crowdfunding is a great way for companies to raise finance while creating brand awareness, it wasn’t the correct time for us. So we decided to go down the Angel Investment route. We paired up with Q Ventures, the UK’s leading Investor Network. They offered us the chance to pitch to a large sophisticated investor pool, to secure our £250K investment. We needed investors that believed in the concept and that would add value and insight to our growth.
What’s the weirdest thing you’ve eaten?
When I was in Cambodia, doing some research, I heard that a delicacy of theirs was a tarantula, and I felt I had to give it a go. When I went to the food market in search of them, I regretted it immediately when I saw a lady with 50 burnt looking tarantulas piled high. There was no getting away from it though so I but a bunch along with some beers for me and few people in the market. The legs were very similar to a burnt, crispy chicken wing but the body, the piece that the locals really like, was a really weird texture. It was quite gooey. Eat grub won’t be rushing to put them on the menu any time soon, but I’m glad for the experience.
What’s your favorite insect to eat?
There are a few I could pick but probably crickets are my number one. Great nutrition and very easy to cook. My favorite way is to roast and season them, and serve with a beer!