European funding supports the wormburger

23 December 2019

Continuing our short series on insect-based alternative foods, we look at the proliferation of insect burgers.

23 December 2019

Muriel Cozier

The concept of a burger made from insects or worms has been around for a while. This has been driven by the idea that if the burger looks and tastes like a traditional meat-based burger then people will be more accepting of the product. A growing number of companies are now focusing their efforts on producing a product that meets this demand. During 2018 German company Bugfoundation made headlines when its burger made from buffalo worms became available in local supermarkets.

Founders Baris Özel and Max Krämer have said that when they decided to develop their burger great taste was clearly important, but they also wanted to ensure that the creature used was not visible in the final product. Carefully mincing the product would help remove that sense of disgust some people might have felt.

Bugfoundation’s burgers are based on buffalo worms; which are the larvae of the Alphitobius Diaperinus beetle. The company’s founders said that they decided to use buffalo worms because of their ‘slightly nutty’ flavour.’ In addition, the burgers are said to be 100% free from artificial additives.  

The roots of Bugfoundation go back to 2011 when Max Krämer came across fried crickets while in Asia and subsequently wrote his Bachelor’s  thesis about the benefits of eating insects two years later. His focus and responsibility in the business lies in product development and production. But taking the original idea to a place where it would not only please  western tastes but also comply with evolving European regulation would take some work.

Bugfoundation collaborated with both Dutch and German partners through Europe’s INTERREG project FOOD2020, which is a springboard for start-up companies committed to a future-oriented food industry. The lead partner for FOOD2020 Phase II, which started during the final quarter of 2018, is the German Institute for Food Technology. With the help of FOOD2020 Bugfoundation was able to penetrate the difficult European market.

FOOD2020 will continue to support innovate food projects including those based on insects, food for the elderly and wine production. In addition, FOOD2020 has established a number of think tanks where experts discuss topics such as alternative protein sources.

Perhaps in a further indication of the trajectory for insect-based food, Germany’s largest poultry processor PHW Gruppe made a strategic investment in Bugfoundation. At the time of the investment Bugfoundation said that the investment from an established meat producer was a ‘very positive signal.’

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