Across the world, more and more people are becoming aware of the fact that alternative and sustainable food sources are required to supplement or replace the food we currently eat.
No longer can we rely on the same food sources if we wish to put up a fight against climate change and therefore we have to make major shifts in the food we consume.
There are many people who are waking up to the fact that insects have incredible promise in changing the outlook of the food industry and in particular the use of insects for animal feed. The future of the insect-based pet food industry has never looked better with constant new innovations in the market and multiple startups who all hope to make their mark on the future of our pets' food consumption.
This article should inform you on why insects are making such a ripple across the pet food industry and beyond, and why it is such a premium investing opportunity.
Insects have great nutritional value with high-quality proteins and a full range of amino acid. Therefore they can be considered an equivalent source of protein to most conventional meats. They provide vitamins and minerals that sustain your pets metabolic processes and immune system. Their nutty taste means pets also find them delicious.
The protein from black soldier fly larvae, for example, is proven to be of high quality and suitable for use as a partial replacement of both fishmeal in compound fish & pig feed and soymeal in poultry & pig feed. Both soymeal and fishmeal are facing problems as a result of increasing prices, a decline of fish stocks, and unfavourable climates. While the amino acid profile can be considered to be more well-balanced compared to fishmeal (and also highly digestible), it commands much lower prices in the market which are up to 75% to 80% less.
In fact, due to the unique protein structure of insects, there is growing interest in using insects in diets for pets diagnosed with food allergies or intolerances.
It is much more environmentally friendly and efficient to use insects compared to conventional farm animals. Breeding insects saves resources because they only require a fraction of water, food, and space. As a result, they emit hardly any greenhouse gases and have less of an effect on the global warming crisis.
As cold-blooded animals, insects do not use energy to maintain body temperature meaning they can put more energy into growth - resulting in high feed conversion ratios. They are highly efficient in the rapid conversion of organic material into biomass.
A particular advantage of mealworms is that they are fully edible without the need for processing, meaning there is no further energy wasted.
There are seven species at present that are authorised for use in pet food in the EU with hundreds more still that are consumed globally and have yet to be legalised.
The three most developed species of farmed insects consist of house crickets, yellow mealworms, and black soldier flies.
The insects are mainly rendered into high-protein meal (e.g., 55% protein with 80% digestibility) and lipids or made into a puree which is then frozen. Insect proteins and lipids (fats) can contribute to healthy and appetising goods that are also environmentally sustainable when incorporated into complete pet food.
Insects are capable of eating by-products and food waste and converting them into high-quality nutrients. They can be fed on a wide range of diets from grains, palm kernels, and wasted fruits and vegetables. The biological recycling and reprocessing is the key factor which underpins the particular edge that insects have in their use for animal feed.
Where is the Insect Industry Heading? Its present and future
The largest market for insect proteins is the pet food industry and may continue to be for much longer into the future. Sustainability is becoming an important factor within the market and is having an effect on buying choices by pet owners.
The potential of insects is being recognised widely and there are also many new market players. Despite the lack of figures, it is clear that insects are being noticed as our potential future and a way to adapt to a more sustainable way of living.
To meet consumer demand for sustainability, it is required to progress and innovate in the market by implementing insect-based products.
Niche no longer?
The increasing consumer favourability towards insect feed is driving market growth in this sector. According to market research work undertaken by PROtelINSECT (2016), 70% of surveyed consumers demonstrated the acceptability of insects as a protein source in animal feed. They also showed a desire for more information about insects as an alternative sustainable protein source.
There is growing media attention among a range of people, including consumers, academics, and farmers which all help to increase the acceptability of insect-based ingredients among pet professionals and pet owners.
No new industry is without its challenges and the insect industry has its fair few. Limited production capacity means the supply is not enough to satisfy the demand in the present. Insect protein production is currently around 10,000 metric tonnes worldwide, with a few large-scale producers and numerous small-scale businesses leading the way.
Some pet food companies state that the market could absorb more if the availability were higher.
Former food waste, such as fish and meat, as well as catering waste and slaughterhouse products, have yet to be approved as insect farm feedstocks. However, the law could alter in the future.
Unprocessed former food waste, such as meat and fish, and discounted former goods (including unavoidable packaging remains) are expected to be certified as insect farm feedstocks by 2022, according to the insect industry.
This would give the insect industry more flexibility and cost savings, as using catering waste and other waste such as meat and fish might be a source of negative feed costs.
Furthermore, in order to stimulate industry growth and create sustainable products to feed animals in Europe, European Commission voted in favour of granting “novel food” status to an insect-based food for the first time on 3 May 2021, which shows how the law’s outlook is changing.
"The insect market is still niche," Barclays has noted in a November 2019 report. "However, this space could soon be swarming with small brands disrupting the landscape and acting as catalysts for change within the food industry. We estimate that the insect protein market could be worth up to $8 billion by 2030 (based on a compound annual growth rate of 24%). If supply and demand factors continue to develop favourably, similar to what has been seen in the plant-based space, this forecast could be conservative."
The Global Insect-based Pet Food Market
Several European food companies have started to use insects to diversify their product range. European companies sold 500 tonnes of insect-based food in 2019, according to the Promoting Insects for Human Consumption & Animal Feed (IPIFF) and it is forecasted that production will jump to 260,000 tons by 2030!
Key players have begun to open larger facilities to produce at scale with some of these plants working at full capacity and some yet to be opened. Many of these companies have global aspirations to build multiple facilities around the world.
The Future of Insect-Based Pet Food in the UK
According to FERA Science, the potential scale of insect protein used for pet food in the UK is estimated as 20 thousand tonnes per year, based on an estimate of 5% of the current market size.
In October 2020, the UK government released a £10 million funding package to help build the country’s first largest-scale industrial insect farm and accelerate the development of sustainable food production systems. The initiative is planned to produce a plant that can quickly transform food waste into insect-based animal feed for the pet food and aquaculture industries.
The insect-based pet food industry is one of the most exciting new fledgling markets. Still in its larval stage, the sector provides a look at what the future of food as a whole could morph into.
It provides a rare opportunity to be at the forefront of a new wave that will change our pets eating habits forever and to be part of the sustainability movement that will help preserve our planet. Despite some challenges regarding scaling and legislation, there are new innovations and progression happening every day in this business and it just keeps moving forward.
There has been no better time than now to invest in insect-based pet food companies.