Please introduce yourself – What does your start-up do and what is unique about your business idea?
Plumento Foods develops food products made from insect protein. We are a team of seasoned experts with first-hand experience in the global food industry. We met while living and working in Shanghai.
Our goal is to bring delicious insect-based food to mainstream consumers around the world not only because we believe in its commercial viability, but also because we are convinced that insect proteins can be a sustainable alternative to animal protein consumption.
How did you come up with the concept for your start-up?
It is common knowledge that the ongoing increase in demand of animal protein is impacting the environment and public health negatively creating the need for viable alternatives.
In 2016, we started exploring insect-based food options as a sustainable, naturally efficient source of protein, in addition to bringing a net-positive global impact.
With the EU Novel Food Regulation for insect-based foods coming into effect in January 2018, we saw the opportunity to introduce a range of innovative, sustainable and tasty products to the German market, and educate consumers about the benefits of insect protein.
What were the most significant challenges you had to overcome on your start-up journey?
Navigating the complex regulatory environment was our biggest challenge. It took a while to identify the right people and network that could advise us on how to market and interpret the regulatory legal framework correctly. Experts and policymakers often came up with contradictory interpretations.
Additionally, creating and marketing products that would attract consumers… As our target market is the mainstream consumer, we could not assume that they would embrace the concept of entomophagy without hesitation, especially in the European market. We quickly realised that our efforts would easily lose momentum if we chose wrong product formats.
The type of products we offer (e.g., coated or non-coated insects) ran the risk of being perceived as part of a gag, and test of courage. We, therefore, approached our product development in a way where we incorporated the insect ingredient in everyday products such as pasta, granola, and others, which made our offer more engaging. Still, regarding a nutrition source, the idea of entomophagy remains less relatable.
We believe our day-to-day products will be a good start to introducing our target consumer to insect protein.
And where is it going – where do you see your start-up in 5 years?
Even before the EU Novel Food Regulation was introduced, the media seemed to be fascinated by insect food. We found it amazing how much we would see and read about the topic, not only in food-focused publishings but also in mainstream media – it is trending. We believe that there will be a rise in competition in the upcoming months and years. Hopefully, together with other start-ups, we will be able to normalise the product and turn this niche market into a widespread meaningful substitute for animal protein.
We want to create awareness for the cause, not only for entomophagy but also for other concepts around meat substitutes, such as plant-based, lab-grown or similar.
As a company, we are commercially-minded and would like to be the leaders of the sector in 3-5 years time. Our goal is to maintain a listing with leading retailers of the major European markets – online and offline. Additionally, we would like to see our products offered in the food service industry, on the menus, and in the offers.
We know there is a lot of work to be done to get to the point where entomophagy is widely accepted, but we believe this goal is achievable.
What are your expectations from the NX-FOOD program?
For a start-up, the chance to test the market, get consumer feedback and finally bring our products and brand from a proof of concept to proof of market, is a wonderful opportunity. We have worked with NX-FOOD over the last months and have already received tons of valuable insights and great advice for our product development. Participating in such collaboration is fun and has been a great help. The exchange with other start-ups who are participating in the program is a fantastic way of learning and obtaining new ideas.