Czech Startup SENS Food: “We Want To Make Eating Insects The New Normal”

Eating insects could make a big change in the food industry and contribute to sustainability. Despite that, people generally don’t like to eat insects. Radek and Daniel from SENS Foods are trying to change this, with protein and energy bars made from cricket flour.

“The world has changed. The way we prepare food hasn’t changed since our grandma’s time” – this is how SENS bar, a Czech-based food startup, grabs the visitors‘ attention on their web page. What is their solution? Insects. Namely crickets and cricket flour, which they use to create, as they say, “delicious bars full of protein”. Why should we eat crickets, you ask? Well, the idea is quite logic.

We need protein to function but we also need to protect our planet that is being destroyed by the production of animals, used for meat. Radek Hušek, one of the co-founders of SENS bar, explains why mankind should switch to eating insects instead of beef or chicken. “If we compare it, to produce the same amount of protein as cattle, crickets need 12x less food, 15x less land, 2000x less water and they produce 100x fewer greenhouse gasses. And that’s not even mentioning the moral reasons that are getting more and more important to many people”, he concludes.

 

Food Revolution In The West

It was Daniel Vach who originally came up with the idea to use insects to create a sustainable change in the food industry and paired with Radek to make it happen. They financed themselves by selling Radek’s previous company and through Daniel’s salary, as he managed to work full time at the beginning of the process. Both were extremely excited about the idea to create something that is both nutritious and sustainable and more morally acceptable than anything we eat nowadays. The only problem was to convince Western customers to eat insects.

“People in the West have a cultural fear of eating insects. That’s why we came up with the idea to create a bar from cricket flour and combine it with other ingredients, so that the final product tastes nothing like insects,” Radek reveals. As he continues, the company actually doesn’t want its customers to eat the whole insect. “Have you ever eaten flour worm? After I first swallowed it, I could still feel its tiny legs in my throat. According to us, the perfect way is to make flour from the insect and add the ingredients. Thus, you can’t really feel that you are eating a cricket,” he explains.

 

The startup offers various flavours, from a combination of dark chocolate and orange to peanut butter and cinnamon. There are two types of SENS bar, a protein bar and energy bar. “The energy bar contains fiber and cricket flour, so it is a great choice for a snack. The biggest hit, however, is our protein bar. It’s unique as it is the world’s first pure ingredients only bar, which contains 20g of complete protein.” According to Radek, the protein bar especially appeals to athletes, namely cross fitters, as they focus on building their body while eating healthy.

Why Vegans Should Eat Insects Too

Quite ironically, the duo behind SENS bar tries to catch the attention of vegans as well. The founders believe that if vegans ate insects, they would lessen animal suffering. How? “We know this might sound controversial, but there are many vegans who don’t eat meat because of the reason its production destroys our environment. However, so does the production of plants. Animals lose their habitat because of vast mono-cropped fields; birds and butterflies are poisoned by chemicals and rabbits and mice are run over by tractors and other agricultural machinery. It’s not possible to eat and not kill animals,” Radek develops.

On the other hand, the moral aspect behind SENS bar is the fact that insects don’t suffer. Their central neutral system is so simple that they are almost certainly unable to feel pain. Before killing, the crickets are frozen and put into hibernation, which mimics diapause, their natural phase of sleeping. Moreover, insects can be fed from organic waste, which mankind cannot consume.

 

And where does the cricket flour come from? There are many insect farms, as Radek explains. The one that produces cricket flour for SENS bar is located in Thailand. “We observed a number of farms and chose the one which offered the best conditions for our purpose.” They teamed up with a scientist who specializes in edible insects and with a chef who has 13 years of experience in cooking with insects. It was the chef Petr Ocknecht who gave Radek and Daniel their first insect to eat. Yes, they first came up with the business idea and actually tasted the bugs after that.

Successful Kickstarter Campaign

It’s quite busy nowadays in the office of SENS bar. After their successful Kickstarter campaign through which 5000 bars were sold and $15.000 were raised, the company was offered plenty of opportunities for cooperation. They chose Czech-based accelerator UP21, which helps them in the business sphere and provided them with working space as well. At the moment, SENS bar is preparing for its launch. They already initiated a soft launch in April, but as they say, it was mainly a test for communication. “Now, the big start is coming, to be more precise our creative campaign with plenty of videos and greater media coverage,” Radek explains.

 

Although the startup’s workspace is in Prague, the official headquarters are in London. It’s due to the fact that the European Union does not recognize an insect as an animal, that the insect business is not regulated. When Radek and Daniel came up with the idea, only a few countries allowed working with insects as a foodstuff, one of them being the UK. However, this is about to change. “Starting next year, the EU will recognize insects as a foodstuff, therefore a big boom in the industry is expected,” Radek explains.

One Of The 30 Best Social Startups Globally

SENS bar was chosen to the international finals of The Chivas Venture competition as one of the 30 best social startups in the world. What would they like to do next? “Invest in our future development. Bars are just the beginning, we understand that we cannot change the world with a cricket flour bar. We see it as a starting point into eating insects. Our goal is to create new “Nestlé” but with more nutritious, more valuable, and more sustainable products,” Radek concludes.

 

The article was originally published in Start-US magazine.

Photo credit: SENS bar

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