Insect protein is good for you and for the planet. Or, at least, that’s a cultural shift we need to accept if the future of food is going to include granola made from mealworms.
It’s a Sunday morning and 23-year-old Clare Whetzel is where she always is on Sunday mornings: The Highlands Square Farmers’ Market in Denver, Colorado, where she’s staffing the booth for her startup granola brand, Illegal Oats. At quick glance, everything looks normal… what you’d expect from a nature-loving college student selling her homemade granola at a market. Except this: A sign on the booth reads “Eat Bugs!”
A potential customer walks up slowly and says to Whetzel, “OK, I’m intrigued.” That’s when she knows she has an opening, and she jumps into her well-rehearsed pitch. “So, I make this organic granola using all these super real and healthy ingredients,” Whetzel will say. “Then I also add ground-up mealworm powder as a source of protein.”
At this point, one of two things will happen. The customer will either grimace and walk away—that person is a lost cause, Whetzel will think. Or they will ask more questions, try a sample and consider purchasing a $12 cylinder of insect-powder-infused granola in one of three flavors: orange-cranberry, chocolate or honey nut.
“It helps to be in-person to really explain what this is about,” Whetzel says. “The people who are really disgusted by the idea of eating bugs don’t even come close to my booth.”
Whetzel and her one-year-old start-up are part of a broader movement to introduce insect protein as a sustainable, nutritious food source—an alternative to the high-impact, heavily-polluting meat industry. In short, this could be the future of food. But first, people like Whetzel have to convince the majority of the Western world that eating bugs isn’t gross.