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昆虫食品:下一波饮食潮流?

2014-08-07    来源:财富网    【      美国外教 在线口语培训
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一波初创公司正在以蟋蟀等小动物作为原料来生产昆虫片、昆虫棒和昆虫粉等新型食品。他们看到了一个大机遇:消费昆虫蛋白质对环境的损害要远低于传统蛋白质来源——与鸡、牛和猪相比,饲养、收获和加工昆虫耗费的资源要少得多。因此,这类食品特别容易拨动热衷于可持续发展理念的当代人的心弦。

As a water planner in Utah, Pat Crowley had grown frustrated that his message of conservation was being largely ignored by an agriculture industry intent on siphoning off the Colorado River to keep crops in California and other Western states succulent.

Then a few years ago, the 34-year-old whitewater rafting enthusiast was listening to a TED talk on edible insects, which touted the critters as a surprising potent source of protein. The more he heard about the potential water savings from swapping insects for traditional protein like soy and grains, the more he realized it might be time to change professions.

After toying with farming insects in 2011 for animal feed, Crowley, his wife Erica Koltenuk, co-founder Dan O’Neill and several friends set up shop in a local restaurant in Salt Lake City and began experimenting with making flour from crickets. Yes, crickets– through a process whereby the bugs are roasted, ground into a powder, and added to a mixture that also includes organic dates, nuts and spices.

A year later, they unveiled Chapul cricket bars, the first-ever energy bar made from cricket flour. The bars, each containing the equivalent of 25 crickets and claiming to contain twice the protein of their competitors, are now in over 200 health food, bike and extreme sports stores nationwide—the latest being Colorado-based Natural Grocers, a chain of 100 stores in the Midwest and West.

“I decided to create a consumer product that would make it a very easy first step for people to try insects in a way that wasn’t a novelty but incorporate it into a staple food – make it more of a nutritional product,” says Crowley, who has long blond hair and bears a passing resemblance to the late Kurt Cobain. “This was definitely a mission-driven endeavor. It turns out the market has been responsive to it.”

The bar got a huge boost when Crowley, dressed in a Chapul T-shirt and carrying a container of crickets, was selected to appear in March on the entrepreneur show Shark Tank, the hit business competition show on ABC in which entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to a panel of judges. After initial reactions of “you gotta be kidding” and “there is no way I’m eating that,” the panel warmed to the product—and panelist and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban agreed to invest $50,000 for a 15 percent stake in the business (“Let’s eat some crickets,” he told Crowley).

“It’s a solution to a problem,” Cuban said via Twitter. “We need better sources of protein and over time I think consumer habits will change.”

In fact, Chapul is just one of a dozen or more new companies attempting to change the way Americans look at bugs. Brooklyn-based Exo is making protein bars, Boston-based-Six Foods is planning to sell tortilla chips made from cricket flour, and All Things Bugs, a Gainesville, FL-based firm founded by an entomologist, is looking to sell its own cricket flour to this burgeoning market. EnviroFlight in Ohio and AgriProtein in South Africa, meanwhile, are among at least four companies globally producing insects for the pet food, aquaculture or animal feed markets.

The big opportunity they see: the consumption of insects as protein is much less taxing on the environment—growing, harvesting and processing them takes far less resources than chickens, cows and pigs, one percent of the greenhouse gasses of cattle and 100 times less water—so they tap into the current sustainability craze. They’re rich in protein and other key nutrients like omega-3 acids. And the products can be made at a low cost—until now, with very little competition.

But convincing Americans to eat anything containing creepy crawlers is not an easy sell. Unlike the developing world, where the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that two billion people depend daily on as many as 1,900 insect species for food, Americans and much of the West have long considered spiders, grasshoppers, crickets, flies and bees to be a nuisance that must be swatted away or stamped out.

But Crowley and other edible insect aficionados are counting on younger, environmentally-conscious Millennials to move the sector beyond gag gifts like lollipops with scorpions or one-off bug buffets to become a staple in health food stores, snack stands and the larger food chain. The key, they say, is playing up the health benefits of eating products with insects while emphasizing bugs’ small environmental footprint.

“We are trying to set up future generations with a more sustainable food system, one that is more resource efficient and one that is more adaptable to a more changing climate,” Crowley says.

Rose Wang, co-founder of Six Foods, which in May raised $70,000 on Kickstarter to make its Chirps cricket chips and hopes to have the product in stores by fall, agrees. “It’s all about the vision of what eating insects can be,” Wang said in an e-mail interview, pointing out that the bugs are high in protein, low in fat, and can be raised humanely in small spaces, without antibiotics or growth hormones. “There is no question that insects are the most humane way to eat meat,” she says, “And as people become more cognizant of where their food comes from and how it is produced, they are becoming more open to new sustainable foods like insects.”

Glen Courtright, CEO and founder of EnviroFlight, is going even further with the environmental approach. His company takes some of the estimated 36 million tons of food waste that ends up in landfills each year and feeds it to the larvae of black soldier flies. A protein meal and oil derived from the dehydrated fly larvae are then packaged and shipped to the pet trade–as well as fish and pig farmers who are clamoring for a protein substitute for fishmeal, which comes from already overfished oceans.

EnviroFlight is also partnering with the feed industry around the world to provide its technology and know-how on raising insects for animal feed. Courtright expects to see growth of 50 percent this year, adding that he is struggling to keep up with demand.

“Big business understands there has to be a fish meal replacement, a sustainable fish meal replacement,” said Courtright, who initially explored producing oil from insects, bacteria and then algae for biofuels before shifting to the feed sector. “They are seeing the viability of the product and they are understanding insect technologies are real and they are coming.”

But will insects catch on as pizza did after World War II or sushi did in the 1970s?

Some experts think the deluge of new insect-related companies could be a turning point in entomophagists’ (that’s those who advocate for insects as food) decades-long battle to get the six and eight-legged critters onto the plates of consumers.

“This is more than a blip. This is the beginning of a curve that will go steadily up,” said Montana State University Associate Prof. Florence V. Dunkel, a leading edible insect expert who organizes an annual bug buffet on campus each year featuring delicacies like wax moth larvae quesadillas, curried mealworms and Chinese stir fry made with crickets.

“There was the environment,” she says, ticking off forces that are driving interest in the new food group. “There was the need to have more nutrients. And then there was the openness of the Millennial generation to search out better ways to live,” she added. “It’s a no-brainer to begin to incorporate insects into our diet as a protein source.”

But while Dunkel predicts that shoppers in the next few years could find bags of frozen moth larvae next to the frozen shrimp, others, including the FAO, are more cautious. They say consumer products will remain a “niche market” for at least another generation, mostly attracting thrill-seeking Westerners as well as immigrant communities in the West pining for traditional insect favorites like grasshoppers from Mexico or Mopane worms from southern Africa.

The FAO’s Paul Vantomme, who coordinates the agency’s insect program, says he thinks the greatest potential is in the animal feed sector, noting that insects could represent up to 10 percent of the 150 million tons of protein sold each year in two decades. The insects would replace fishmeal and supplement soybean meal, Vantomme said.

“China imports 30 million tons of soybean meal in order to supply its chicken and pig farms,” Vantomme says. “The average Chinese eats meat once a week, and that is expected to double in the next five years. That means they will be importing 60 million tons. Even China is looking for alternatives for these imports. For them, it’s a big problem.”

EnviroFlight’sCourtright also says he expects the animal feed sector to offer the most potential for investors. “For animal feed, definitely. For human feed, I don’t think the West is ready,” Courtright says. “We’re not that hungry yet. We are not starving and insects are not part of our culture.”

Some of that trepidation was on display the other day at Fortune when several reporters said they were scared to even try samples of the Chapur coconut, ginger and lime or the peanut butter and chocolate bar. Much of the apprehension came from expecting to bite into a cricket, as famously seen on the TV show Fear Factor, although the bars have no visible cricket parts and lack the woodsy flavor of chirping insects. The taste and consistency are closer to a chocolate or tropical power bar.

A few blocks away, the bars were on sale at midtown Manhattan’s Westerly Natural Market natural foods store. Positioned alongside a protein bar featuring Chia seeds and another one claiming to save lives with each sale, staffers said the Chapul cricket bars were selling mostly to “hard-core” customers trying to tap into the latest health food trends. Sales have been slow due to limited marketing and the foreign concept of edible insects, they said.

For his part, Chapul’s Crowley has grown accustomed to the naysayers and acknowledges he still has work to do to help consumers overcome their fears of eating products like his with insects. But he believes his company has plenty of room to grow, predicting that it could see $1 million in revenue in 2015 and more than $10 million in five years.

“I have no doubt that the industry will continue to grow,” Crowley says, noting that he expects Chapul to be in 10,000 stores in five years. “We need to diversify our food system,” he says. “We are not trying to eliminate food sources. We are just trying to add insects to the menu of the American diet.”


帕特•克劳利原本是美国犹他州的一名水资源规划师,他一直热衷于传播水资源保护理念。但农业界一心只想着如何从科罗拉多河抽取河水来滋养加利福尼亚州和西部其他州的农作物,对于他的理论基本上置若罔闻,这让克劳利非常沮丧。

几年前,这位34岁的漂流爱好者有机会聆听了一场TED演讲,主题是可食用昆虫。演讲者把这些小动物誉为惊人的蛋白质来源。而且,放弃诸如大豆和谷物这类传统的蛋白质来源,转而利用小昆虫,显然具有节约用水的巨大潜力。他越听越觉得,可能是时候改变职业了。

2011年,在抱着玩玩的心态饲养了一些用于动物饲料的昆虫之后,克劳利和妻子埃里卡•科尔特努克、联合创始人丹•奥尼尔以及几个朋友在盐湖城开设了一家餐厅,开始尝试着以蟋蟀为原料制作面粉。是的,以蟋蟀为原料。具体流程是,先焙烧这些小虫子,研磨成粉,然后将它们添加到一种还包括有机枣,坚果和香料的混合物之中。

一年后,他们推出第一款使用蟋蟀粉制作的能量棒——Chapul蟋蟀棒。每个能量棒包含大约25只蟋蟀,其蛋白质含量据说是竞争对手的两倍。现在,这款能量棒已经进入200多家位于全美各地的保健食品、单车和极限运动商店。最新一家合作伙伴是总部位于科罗拉多州,在中西部和西部地区拥有100家门店的Natural Grocers连锁零售公司。

克劳利说,“我决定创建一种消费产品,让人们很容易迈出品尝昆虫的第一步,因为这种食品把昆虫融入一种主食,这样它就更像是一种营养产品,这种吃法不算特别新奇。”留着一头金色长发的克劳利看上去颇像已故歌星科特•柯本。“这是一次完全受使命感推动的尝试。事实证明,市场对我们的努力做出了响应。”

3月份,当克劳利身穿Chapul T恤,携带一个装满蟋蟀的容器出现在ABC电视台收视率极高的创业节目《鲨鱼坦克》(SharkTank) 时,这种能量棒的知名度瞬间暴涨。参与这档商业竞争节目的创业者往往需要使出浑身解数,向一组评委推销他们的创业点子。乍一听克劳利介绍完,评委们纷纷表示,“你肯定是在开玩笑,”“我绝对不会吃这玩意,”但他们随后对这款产品产生了浓厚兴趣。担任评委的达拉斯小牛队 (Dallas Mavericks)老板马克•库班当场拍板,承诺将投资5万美元购买这家公司15%的股权(“让我们吃一些蟋蟀吧,”他告诉克劳利)。

“这是一个解决问题的方法,”库班通过Twitter表示。“我们需要更好的蛋白质来源,假以时日,我认为消费习惯会发生变化。”

事实上,除了Chapul之外,还有十几家新公司正在尝试着改变人们看待小昆虫的方式。布鲁克林的EXO公司正在制作蛋白质能量棒。波士顿Six Foods公司打算销售用蟋蟀粉制作的墨西哥炸玉米片。总部位于佛罗里达州盖恩斯维尔,由一位昆虫学家创建的All Things Bugs公司也计划向这个新兴市场销售自己的蟋蟀粉。与此同时,至少有四家公司正在全球各地针对宠物食品,水产养殖或动物饲料市场生产昆虫,比如俄亥俄州的EnviroFlight公司和南非的AgriProtein公司。

他们看到了一个大机遇:消费昆虫蛋白质对环境的损害要远低于传统蛋白质来源——与鸡、牛和猪相比,饲养、收获和加工昆虫耗费的资源要少得多。因此,这类食品特别容易拨动热衷于可持续发展理念的当代人的心弦。昆虫含有丰富的蛋白质和诸如ω-3脂肪酸这类关键的营养素。这类产品的制作成本相对较低,而且直到目前,竞争对手寥寥无几。

但要说服美国人吃任何一种以令人毛骨悚然的爬虫为原料的食物,可不是一件容易做到的事情。不同于很多发展中国家——联合国粮农组织(Food and Agriculture Organization)估计,有20亿发展中国家人口每天依靠多达1,900种昆虫为食——美国人和其他西方国家一向认为蜘蛛、蝗虫、蟋蟀、苍蝇和蜜蜂皆是令人不胜其扰的小动物,必须赶紧驱离,或者干脆当场歼灭。

但克劳利和其他可食用昆虫爱好者正在把推动这个行业的希望寄托在更年轻,更具环保意识的千禧一代身上,希望他们不只是把昆虫食品当作类似蝎子棒棒糖这种恶作剧礼物,或者一次性自助餐,还会推动这类食品成为健康食品商店、小吃店和大食品连锁店销售的一种主食。他们声称,关键是要大力宣扬吃昆虫产品对健康的好处,同时要强调昆虫食品的环境足迹要远小于传统蛋白质来源这一事实。

“我们正在努力为子孙后代建立一个更具可持续性,更节约资源,更适应气候变化的食物系统,”克劳利说。

露丝•王认同这种看法。五月份,这位Six Foods公司联合创始人在众筹平台Kickstarter上筹集了7万美元,开始制作Chirps蟋蟀条,她希望这款产品能够在今年秋天进入食品店。在接受电邮采访时,王女士表示,“这就是吃昆虫能够带给我们的美好愿景。”她指出,昆虫不仅具有高蛋白,低脂肪等特质,而且可以在小空间内人性化饲养,无需使用抗生素或生长激素。“毫无疑问,昆虫是最人性化的吃肉方式,”她说。“随着人们对于食物的来源和生产方式有了更深入的了解,他们越来越愿意接受像昆虫这种全新的可持续性食物。”

在环保之路上,EnviroFlight公司创始人兼CEO格伦•考特赖特走得更远。他的公司每年利用估计3,600 万吨运送至垃圾填满场的食品垃圾,来喂养被他称为黑士兵的苍蝇幼虫。然后,衍生自脱水蝇蛆的蛋白粉和油被打包运送到宠物市场,以及养鱼户和养猪户。这些农民一直吵着要求获得一种能够替代鱼粉的蛋白物质——海洋已经被过度捕捞,难以为继。

此外,EnviroFlight正在与世界各地的饲料行业合作,为后者提供养育昆虫饲料的技术和专业知识支持。考特赖特预计今年的业务量将增长50%,他正在努力跟上不断增长的需求。

考特赖特声称,“大企业明白,必须找到一种传统鱼粉的替代物,一种具有可持续性的替代物。”在转向饲料行业之前,他起初尝试着从昆虫、细菌和藻类中提炼生物燃料。“他们将发现这种产品是可行的,意识到昆虫技术不是骗局,就会找上门来。”

但这些小动物能否像比萨饼在二战后,或寿司在20世纪70年代那样风行一时?

数十年来,食虫学家(即那些主张食用昆虫的人士)一直在竭力推动六条腿和八条腿的小动物进入消费者的餐盘。有专家认为,与昆虫相关的新企业不断涌现,或将成为这种努力的转折点。

“这种现象不是昙花一现,而会成为一条将稳步上升的曲线的开端,”蒙大拿州立大学(Montana State University )副教授弗洛伦斯•邓克尔说。这位著名的食用昆虫专家每年都在校园组织一场昆虫自助餐,其中的特色佳肴包括蜡蛾幼虫油炸玉米饼、用咖哩粉烹调的黄粉虫和爆炒蟋蟀。

她列举驱动人们对这种全新食物类别产生兴趣的力量,“当时的环境,对更多营养物质的需要,还有就是千禧一代在搜寻更好生活方式时抱有的开放心态,”她补充说。“在这些因素的推动下,人们开始不假思索地把昆虫作为一种蛋白质来源融入我们的饮食。”

不过,虽然邓克尔预测称,在未来几年,冷冻蛾幼虫将与冷冻虾一道出现在消费者的购物袋之中,但其他人,包括联合国粮农组织,都比较谨慎。他们表示,至少对下一代人来说,昆虫消费类产品将依然是一个“缝隙市场”,其主要受众是寻求刺激的西方人,以及西方国家中渴望享受墨西哥蚱蜢或南部非洲可乐豆木蠕虫等传统昆虫美食的移民社区。

负责协调粮农组织昆虫项目的联合国官员保罗•旺托姆表示,他认为最大的潜力将是动物饲料领域。他指出,在未来20年每年售出的大约1,500万吨蛋白质中,昆虫的占比有望达到10%。在他看来,昆虫将取代鱼粉,还将成为大豆粉的补充。

“为了满足养鸡场和养猪场的需要,中国每年进口大约3,000万吨大豆粉,”旺托姆说。“中国老百姓通常一周吃一次肉,他们的肉食需求预计将在未来5年翻一番。这意味着,他们将进口6,000万吨。就连中国也开始为这些进口饲料寻找替代品。对他们来说,这是一个大问题。”

此外,EnviroFlight公司的考特赖特表示,他预计饲料行业将成为最有潜力吸引投资的领域。“对于饲料产业来说,肯定如此。但我不认为西方公众已经做好了食用昆虫的准备,”考特赖特说。“我们还没有饿到那份上。我们目前还没有体会到挨饿的滋味,也不具备吃昆虫的文化传统。”

前几天,就在《财富》(Fortune) 杂志社,当几位记者绘声绘色地描述他们颤颤巍巍地品尝Chapul椰子、姜汁、酸橙或花生酱和巧克力棒样品的经历时,有好几位编辑都露出了惊恐万分的表情。其中很大一部分忧虑恐怕跟有可能咬到一只蟋蟀有关——就像他们在电视节目《谁敢来挑战》(Fear Factor)中看到的那个著名场景——尽管这些能量棒看不到明显的蟋蟀痕迹,也缺乏这种吱吱叫的昆虫身上特有的那股木香味。这些食物的口味和一致性更接近于巧克力或热带棒状食品。

几个街区之外,在曼哈顿中城的西风自然市场 (Westerly Natural Market),有不少天然食品商店正在销售这些棒状食品。其中有一款蛋白质棒包含野鼠尾草籽,和另一种据称每销售一笔就能拯救许多生命的草籽。站在一旁的销售人员表示,Chapul蟋蟀棒主要卖给了那些尝试着迎合最新保健食品趋势的“死忠”顾客。由于市场营销活动有限,再加上公众对食用昆虫的概念还非常陌生,这些产品的销售一直非常迟缓,他们说。

不过,对于各种反调,克劳利早已习以为常,并且承认在帮助消费者克服对昆虫食品的恐惧方面,他依然需要做大量工作。但克劳利相信他的公司有足够大的成长空间,他预计公司营收将在2015年达到100万美元,并且将在五年内突破1,000 万美元大关。

克劳利说,“这个行业将继续增长,我对此坚信不疑。”他预计Chapul将在五年内进入1万家商店。“我们需要丰富我们的食品系统,”他说。“我们不是在尝试着消除食物来源。我们仅仅是想把昆虫添加到人们的饮食菜单之中。”(财富中文网)



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