Eating crickets not just a fad: the protein empire of Austin-based Aspire Food Group

With the holiday season just around the corner, you’re probably figuring out what to serve as a main course for your protein-hungry guests. Maybe turkey? Ham? Beef? Or how about crickets? Enter: Aspire Food Group, an Austin-based company promoting and developing insect products for mainstream food consumption. While crickets as a main course is still way off into the future, the company has already introduced a line of cricket-based foods, from snacks to protein shakes and even dog treats.

Protein consumption is on the rise in the United States. Production of traditional protein sources like meat, however, require massive amounts of land, energy, and water. With increasing demand, meat production alone can’t keep up. Mehmood Khan of PepsiCo Inc. aptly observed, “If we look around the world, there’s a big consumer trend on more protein. The question is: How are we going to do this in a manner that’s sustainable? Protein isn’t cheap. And animal protein has the greatest footprint on the planet.”

At the same time, the consumer demand for meat alternatives is on the rise. Sales of meat substitutes in the United States have increased to $700 million in 2016 and projections indicate that by 2021, annual U.S. sales of meat substitutes will amount to $863 million. Vegan products have also grown in global popularity, with a reported $9.7 billion in worldwide retail sales this year. By 2021, this number is expected to hit $11.8 billion.

Developing alternatives to meat isn’t easy. One needs a little flare and creativity to make a product that is cost-effective and doesn’t negatively affect flavor or texture so that it is still palpable to consumers. Drawing on the fact that nearly two billion people in the world already eat insects, Aspire Food Group hopes to introduce the critters to the American palate. Mohammed Ashour, the company’s CEO, said, “There’s definitely a psychological hurdle. A lot of insects are just simply gross to look at. This isn’t an overnight shift.” To help ease consumers into eating insects, Aspire Food Group developed a cricket powder known as Aketta that can be used in protein bars and cookies. It also developed whole-roasted crickets that come in familiar flavors like Texas BBQ and sour cream and onion. The response has been positive, with many pleasantly surprised at how tasty crickets can be.

Insects are more sustainable to farm than livestock and Aspire Food Group’s farming practices prove how green and clean insect farming can be. Using autonomous robotics, internet-of-things (IoT), proprietary sensor technology, and a wide range of other tools, the company is ensuring its process is sustainable and effective.  It is even on track to implement a zero-waste system. As the first automated cricket farm in the world, Aspire Food Group is a pioneer in the industry of insect farming and it hopes to launch more farms across the globe.

Are you experimenting with protein alternatives to meat? Or developing more sustainable, automated farming practices like Aspire Food Group? You could be eligible for the R&D Tax Credit and get up to 14% back on your expenses. To find out more, please contact a Swanson Reed R&D Specialist today.

Swanson Reed regularly hosts free webinars and provides free IRS CE credits as well as CPE credits for CPA’s.  For more information please visit us at or contact your usual Swanson Reed representative.

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