Eating insects has many environmental benefits and they are already being eaten all over the world – except in the West. Sander Peltenburg decided to change that. Together with his business partner George Brandenburg and enthusiastic team, he runs the Crickery (de Krekerij) – tasty, nutritious and sustainable food products based on crickets and grasshoppers.
With on the main menu the Cricketburger. “There are approximately 12 crickets needed to make a burger of 100 gram.” says Sander. A juicy, savory burger that he prefers to eat Oriental style. “A bun with a Cricketburger baked in garlic oil, bean sprouts, pak choi and soy sauce, that combination is really tasty!”
Sander came into contact with eating insects during his studies in Delft. “I heard about eating insects at a TEDx event,” he says, “there was a talk about the benefits of keeping and eating insects over traditional farm animals. Insects use 95% less water, 85% less food and 90% less land. And then I thought, you can really make a huge impact with that.”
Together with an old friend, George, he decided to import cricket flour (thick powder made from crushed crickets) from Thailand. “We tried to make croquettes and meatballs, but those weren’t very tasty,” Sander says laughing, “but the burger we made tasted okay, so we decided to continue with that.”
Circular production process
These days the Crickery no longer imports cricket flour from Asia, but is involved in the entire production process itself. A circular production process, that is. “We are looking at residual streams released from agriculture that can be eaten by crickets,” explains Sander, “for example broccoli leaf, which is thrown away because other cattle cannot eat it, but crickets can.”
At the end of the ride, the circle is also neatly closed on the cricket farm. “We don’t throw anything away, 100% of the output goes to us.” says Sander. “We use the crickets to make cricket flour, and the manure and the little sawdust that we have left is used to fertilize the land again.”
Surprisingly, not much is needed to turn cricket flour into a delicious Cricketburger. “We want to keep our products as natural as possible,” says Sander, “and luckily that is possible because the cricket naturally has a nutty taste that is generally found to be enjoyable.” In contrast to many meat substitutes, it is therefore not necessary to add flavorings and sugars. “The burger consists of around 30% crickets and 70% vegetable nutrients such as wheat and field bean.” concludes Sander.
In this way the Crickery creates a win-win situation – a positive impact on people and nature. “We have developed a burger with a super low ecological impact, similar to that of a vegan burger, but with a high nutritional value, equal to beef.” says Sander.
In addition, insect consumption also plays a role in the so-called protein transition. “We used to get 60% of our protein from vegetable sources and 40% from meat,” Sander explains, “nowadays those numbers are reversed while we actually have to go back to the old ratio.” Why? “Because today’s livestock industry simply cannot cope with the growing demand for meat. That is why it is interesting to look at alternative protein sources such as insects.” he concludes.
From food truck to BlueCity
Convincing, right? Sander and George certainly thought so, but in practice they still had to find out how to sell a Cricketburger to an ordinary consumer. Fortunately, they were given the opportunity to test that at the Welcome to The Village festival. “The festival was super successful and educational.” says Sander, “We met Anne Luz who could help us with her experience in hospitality and learned a lot about improving the consumer experience. For example, we discovered that people respond better to ‘crickets’ than to ‘insects’.”
After a period of serving the Cricketburger with a food truck on various festivals, the three decided to switch to a caterer model. “We ended up in the get started program of the Erasmus Center for Entrepreneurship and in the summer of 2018 we could get our own office in BlueCity.” says Sander.
Across the border
Meanwhile, the office of the Crickery in BlueCity is already quite full and Sander has gathered an ambitious team around him. Completely called for, it turns out, when he outlines his plans for the future. “In 5 years we will be in every wholesaler in the Netherlands and we are expanding in 5 European countries.” says Sander determined. “Probably in the northern countries such as Germany and Denmark, because that is where the highest concentration of vegetarians and ecotarians is located,” but, he says with a smile, “a warm country where the sun shines a lot doesn’t seem bad to me either.”