Malena Sigurgeirsdóttir is the co-founder of Wholi Foods, which was one of the first European companies to produce products with insect protein. Their portfolio includes snack bites, crisp bread, protein bars, and an insect-based meat alternative, which premiered at Roskilde Festival

In this episode, you’ll hear how insects are tiny, but mighty, able to fight poverty, boost nutrition, reduce pollution, and combat climate change. Malena gives us the inside scoop on how they solved her own health issues and why soon they may not feel like such a novel food.  

  • 4:30 The avocado of insects
  • 5:15 How Wholi Foods was started
  • 12:40 Insects vs beef in taste, sustainability, and nutrition
  • 18:50 Vegans, vegetarians, and flexitarians take on insects
  • 29:10 Why the western world needs insects in their diet

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1:40 How did you discover insects?

Either I eat this or I go to bed starving.

3:30 What makes insects so nutritious?

4:30 What is the avocado of insects?

There are 2,000 registered edible insects around the world. My absolute favorite is the Mexican grasshopper.

5:15 How did you end up co-founding Wholi from this experience in Tanzania?

6:00 What’s the environmental impact of producing insects vs beef?

Producing 1 kilo of beef needs 12x as much feed, 2,000x as much water, and emits 100x more CO2 compared to 1 kilo of insects.

6:30 How did you bring insects to Denmark?

11:40 What products do you have on the market today?

We’re selling small snack bites, protein bars, crisp bread, and a meat alternative.

12:40 What did people have to say about the insect meat alternative?

We took it to Roskilde Festival. The majority thought it tasted like pork, but we’re still not clear on where we fit into the climate friendly diet.

14:00 What is the response of vegans and vegetarians?

The fastest growing group of eaters is Flexitarians. They are probably most likely to adopt our product.

16:00 How healthy is an insect meat alternative compared to Beyond Meat and other choices we’ve seen popularized?

Many of these alternatives have processed ingredients to help it resemble meat. Ours is a very natural food with about 4 ingredients. The umami is naturally there without the trans fat.

18:50 Why are insects so hard to market?

We feel like we cracked the code with nutrition & taste. The only hold back is the perception of insects.

19:20 How are insects grown?

The Netherlands have already been growing insects for 30 years. Currently, there are 4 kids of insects allowed for commercial use in Europe.  

23:00 What are the regulations around insects in Europe?

The European food authority still considers insects a novel food so we haven’t been able to fully access the market.

24:25 What markets are you in?

Even though we have demand in a wide variety of markets, we’re not allowed to supply until the food authority has approved it.

26:00 What’s the shelf life for your products?

29:10 Why is it important for the Western world to eat insects?

There is so much we can do around malnourishment.

31:40 What do you see as the future of the food system in 10-15?

I see consumers changing their behavior and being willing to try something new that’s better for them and the planet. I can see a world where all kinds of alternative protein sources are embraced.

33:10 What’s missing to make this vision happen?

There are not a lot of players in the market. We need more to help raise awareness! And, many who are in the market don’t know enough about the structure of insects to make a delicious tasting product.

34:50 What kind of collaborations are you looking for?

We’re trying to get big companies to do a co-lab with us to get this vision out there.

36:10 Is there anything else I haven’t asked you about that you’d like to mention?

Like my mother said, try everything once.

36:50 What’s the best way for someone to get in touch?