- Ikea has selected insect protein producer Flying SpArk to join its new startup accelerator, “Ikea Bootcamp,” according to a company statement and Food Ingredients First. The Swedish retailer chose 10 companies out of more than 1,200 applications for its incubator program. As a selected startup, Flying SpArk will have access to Ikea’s prototype shop, test lab and innovation development, and will be mentored by senior Ikea leadership.
- Flying SpArk produces protein powder from Mediterranean fruit fly larvae as a healthier and more sustainable alternative to animal protein. The insect ingredient is known to be rich in protein, calcium, iron and potassium, and offers the added benefits of being odorless and essentially cholesterol-free.
- “We are excited to join the Ikea accelerator and to have the opportunity to learn how to work with a giant retailer like Ikea,” Eran Gronich, co-founder and CEO of Flying SpArk, said in the statement. “This will completely enhance our product development and how we progress."
Ikea’s in-store cafes have grown in popularity so much so that an estimated 30% of store visits are made just to dine there. The Swedish retailer has already opened pop-up restaurants in London, Paris and Oslo, and is reportedly considering rolling out stand-alone cafes in major cities around the world. The company is increasingly focusing on food culture and sustainability, so including insect protein producer Flying SpArk in the inaugural Ikea Bootcamp startup accelerator seems like a natural fit.
Still, Western consumers tend to bug out about eating insects, even processed ones. So while insect-based protein is a growing trend, there’s likely a long haul before it becomes a mainstream ingredient in food manufacturing. Some food companies working with insects have tried to normalize insect consumption by processing crickets, mealworms or locusts into flours before using them to boost protein in familiar products such as bars and brownies. Brooklyn, New York-based Exo and Salt Lake City-based Chapul are two of only about 25 U.S. and Canadian food manufacturers currently using cricket powder in food products.
But perhaps a partnership with Ikea — such as the one being forged with Flying SpArk — could help overcome consumer fears about this new protein, potentially kick-starting wider acceptance of “insects as ingredients” across the globe. Exotic food profiles are a popular food trend right now, which plays perfectly into Ikea’s existing offerings, like gravlax salmon and lingonberry jam.
Sustainability and transparency are also important to consumers. Study after study has confirmed that insects are highly nutritious, abundantly available and require scant resources to produce. With the world’s population expected to increase by an additional 2 billion people over the next 30 years, insects may be the best way to efficiently feed everyone.
“We get a lot of interest from consumers as well as from food companies that are looking for alternative and affordable protein sources,” Yoram Yerushalmi, Ph.D. and co-founder of Flying SpArk, told Food Ingredients First. Yerushalmi said that the company already has created a few food applications, such as nuggets, pastry, pasta, a milk-like drink, a tofu-like item, health bars, cookies and meatballs. As any Ikea cafe aficionado can attest, meatballs are an especially big business for Ikea — so the retailer could be onto something.