EntoMarket and the Importance of Ento-Education

Edible Insects

Today I had the pleasure of speaking with Susan, founder of EntoMarket. For those of you not already familiar, EntoMarket is one of the leading online sellers of all things edible insect and beyond! What drew me to EntoMarket was not only the wide array of edible insects available for purchase, but the focus on educational materials to promote the topic as well.

Speaking with Susan was like getting drinks with a dear, longtime friend. She’s warm, quick-witted, and has quickly become a mini-idol of mine: a real ento-eductaion rockstar.

We’ll be discussing the start of EntoMarket and focusing on the importance of education – let’s get started!

Today I had the pleasure of speaking with Susan, founder of EntoMarket. For those of you not already familiar, EntoMarket is one of the leading online sellers of all things edible insect and beyond! What drew me to EntoMarket was not only the wide array of edible insects available for purchase, but the focus on educational materials to promote the topic as well.

Speaking with Susan was like getting drinks with a dear, longtime friend. She’s warm, quick-witted, and has quickly become a mini-idol of mine: a real ento-eductaion rockstar.

We’ll be discussing the start of EntoMarket and focusing on the importance of education – let’s get started!

entomarket

Aly: Sadly so. Anyway, as an educator, I’m curious to hear your viewpoint on the particulars about how bugs will become more accepted. I’ve interviewed a few individuals about what they see as “The Playbook” – how will entomophagy expand beyond a small niche community into supermarkets? Many seem to think that having celebs and other big names publicly eat & endorse bugs would be wonderful, while others, such as the founder of Exo, are very concerned about individuals eating bugs in any other state aside from a protein bar. The fear is that words become a novelty and a “fear factor” thing that people do for fun instead of consume as a legitimate food source.
What’s your take on that?

Susan: Well, I hope he is wrong! We have a cricket granola that has become very popular. And some of our own flavored roasted mealworms and crickets have been bought regularly as snacks. The granola is great because you can sprinkle it on yogurt or consume plain. I’ve seen people buy the whole insect products just as much as they are the energy bars. I was concerned about that too – I don’t want to hear people say, “Oh, I ate a cricket bar once” and then drop it… but I think the media our community is pushing will really make the difference. If kids can get used to this… they’re the future. Kids will make the difference. By the time these kids become teenagers, eating bugs will become just second nature to them.

Aly: Exactly. Speaking of different ways to prepare bugs, do you have a favorite recipie or snack?

Susan: I think hot-mealworms are the best. They are just dry-roasted, crunchy mealworms with a little spicy kick to it. It’s a ton of fun to use cricket flour in anything you bake also… it adds some extra protein. This seems to be the way that people new to ento seem to be able to warm up to more quickly than eating something where they can see the whole bug. Cricket flour is a good way to get people to embrace eating bugs.

Aly: One of my dreams is to get big companies or universities, as part of their sustainability effort, to purchase cricket flour for use once a week or so. They’re role models, ya know?

Susan: We should see bugs integrated into school lunches – that would be fantastic! I’m not sure how close we are to this reality, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some private schools started doing that.

Aly: Let’s talk the technicalities of that a bit more: some farmers run such small operations at this point that even if they DID get such large orders, they wouldn’t be able to meet them. It seems like a little bit of a catch-22. Have you experienced this issue first hand?

Susan: Maine is a wonderful state and we have a lot of farmers here. We eventually want to meet with a lot of farmers and teach them about growing crickets. I think it would bring a lot more jobs to Maine. There are a lot of farmers out there that are struggling, but raising crickets takes up such little room that it could be super helpful. We are determined to try to educate farmers out here about this.

Aly: What you are doing is one of the most interesting marketing ideas I’ve ever seen – you’re targeting the farmers and the school children. What are some of the challenges you have faced and how could the ento community help out?

Susan: It would be great if the ento community could be on more media across the country. The radio, tv shows… let’s raise awareness. If I had a magic wand I would tap all the tv stations and ask them to pick up these stories! They need to tell the planet that this is the way to keep the planet around for a lot longer. Not to be melodramatic.

Aly: Is there any way that entomophagy could be added to school curriculums? I could imagine this in elementary schools or in Home Economics classes…

Susan: We are just working non-stop in trying to make all of this happen. We really want to have downloadable content on our Bugs For Dinner site and to steer educators towards products that will help – teachers can have roasted crickets to hand out to students while instructing about the benefits of entomophagy.

Aly: That is BRILLIANT. One of the greatest ideas I’ve heard. Downloadable curriculums for entomophagy.

Susan: My mom was an elementary school teacher for many years and did many things outside of your typical public school education that made ALL the difference. My dad is a retired professor, so I grew up knowing the value of education and what the possibilities are here. My brother and I grew up seeing how hard they worked and thought, “…I don’t know if I want to be a teacher…” But now here we are working hard to further education in our own way!

Aly: There are also great cultural topics that can be covered in curriculums…Speaking of which, where are most of your products from?

Susan: A lot are from Canada. We’ve looked at Thailand and Mexico as well. We’re constantly trying to find new products to get something for everyone.

Aly: Yeah one of the issues I came across was trying to buy scorpions from Thailand when the shipping was just out of this world. Lee from Thailand Unique was very helpful through this. How do you deal with international shipments?

Susan: We dealt with Thailand Unique a while ago but their minimum order was too much for us at the time. We’re hoping soon we can revisit. Part of the beauty of our store is that we can purchase in large quantities and then the shipping won’t be outrageous for Americans to purchase.

Aly: Thank you! So what are the most popular products on your site? What do you think the trends will be moving forward?

Susan: Lately the candy has been selling a lot. I think we are moving into fall and Halloween… so that might be why. The flavored/roasted crickets and mealworms are both very popular. The crickets sell better than the mealworms but it is pretty close. The protein bars are popular as well, but not our best product… the granola is new but doing really well! I make a practice of blindly calling customers for feedback and they are super open. They opened my eyes to the fact that the individuals shopping here are also our best marketers… word of mouth! But back to your question – it’s the candy. We’ve not even been open for a year yet, so I’ll have more info for you soon.

Aly: How did you go about finding your first partner / vendor?

Susan: We just called around. The ento community is super tight. We haven’t had anybody say, “No, I would rather not have our product in your store.”

Aly: Awesome to hear! So going way back to your inception – what were the early challenges of starting an online marketplace for bugs?

Susan: Well my brother has a lot of experience building online businesses and was a great partner for me. It was important for us to get a lawyer immediately and incorporate… then it was all about seeking advice from others in the field.

Aly: Great to hear! So what’s next for you? Where do you hope to be in a year?

Susan: In a year I hope to have worked so furiously uploading educational content that others have picked it up. I hope we have more happy vendors working with us too! I hope we use our company to raise awareness and to feel that we have made an impact.

Aly: I’m just stoked that you are so focused on educational materials as well. I feel that those I have spoken to in the community have their specialties, and as a whole we have a lot of ground covered! Some are focused on nutritional profiling, others on figuring out the regulatory landscape, others on education….I see such a wonderful future!

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s