EUROPE – ValuSect, a European insect production project, has announced that it will invest over US$572 million in supporting 17 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) located in North-West Europe to develop their insect-based food business.

The 17 selected SMEs are located in the UK (6), the Netherlands (6), Germany (2), Belgium (1), Switzerland (1) and France (1) and are expected to receive support in form of services which include technological food development and innovation, consumer acceptance and strategic business services.

According to a report by Food Ingredients first, each of the 17 SMEs will receive Vouchers for services from ValuSect partners, worth €10,000 (US$12,000), €20,000 (US$24,000) or €40,000 (US$48,000), depending on the type of requested service.

The vouchers will cover a large range of services, from the development of new cricket-based products, the study of the product safety of insect snacks, consumer acceptance, to the analysis of the European insect companies market.

“The vouchers are a great opportunity to help the development of the insect-based food sector in the North-West Europe area,” underscores Sabine van Miert, project leader at the Thomas More University of Applied Sciences, in Belgium.

“For example, the analysis of the consumer acceptance depending on the type of product could help the sector adapt to the demand.”

The 17 SMEs were selected from a ValuSect vouchers call, launched last December, that attracted 60 applications received from 50 SMEs.

After three months of careful consideration, the ValuSect consortium selected the 17 SMEs with the highest ranking in their evaluation.

“We considered different criteria to evaluate the applications: formulation of the problem, innovation, intended results, applicability to the North-West Europe region, as well as the capacity of the consortium to answer the questions of the SMEs,” explains Sonja Floto-Stammen, a researcher at Fontys University of Applied Sciences in the Netherlands, in charge of the vouchers call.

A second vouchers call will be launched at the end of 2021, proposing the same menu of services to SMEs in the edible insects sector.

Developing the Insect-based food value chain has become increasingly important due to key role in building more sustainable chicken and aquaculture value chains.

Analysts at RaboBank project that the demand for insect protein, mainly as an ingredient in feed and pet food, could reach half a million metric tons by 2030, up from today’s market of around 10,000 metric tons.

The analysts note that the current limited production capacity is one of the main factors limiting this market’s growth.

 Investment by ValuSect in the sector will thus go a long way in helping producers meet the anticipated demand.

Insects have also shown potential of being potential alternative sources of protein for humans that could replace the highly unsustainable animal proteins.

The recent EU approval for yellow mealworm for human consumption has been pegged by IPIFF as a “key milestone” for the sector that is still in the budding stage.

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