At first, Future Food Lab made people try the edible insects with not much of an expectation. But surprisingly good reviews gave it the courage to start the business. AVING News interviewed Ryu Si-du, the CEO of Future Food Lab, which participated in the MIK HOT SPOT (Made in Korea Online Exhibition) Seoul Food Startup Center.

Please introduce your company briefly.

Future Food Lab began in 2014 with the company name E-double. At the time, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that edible insects would become an alternative source of food in the future. So, I tried it a few times out of curiosity, and that’s how it started. When I first started, I didn’t think people would like it, so I made people try for free. But surprisingly, people liked it, so I established a company.

I don’t want to replace all the meat in the world with insects, but want to inform the world that there is a high protein food source besides beef or pork that is delicious and good for the environment. Our goal was to make it one of the most common ingredients without bias, and it’s the same still now.

The biggest limitation of the business market is the perception of insects. The times have passed, and people’s perception on insects changed positively, but in the past, the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of insects was a pest, so there were not to many who were willing to try it. So, we made a variety of foods such as cookies, soups, and pasta with insects and posted them regularly on blogs for the purpose of communication and changing the perception of insects.

Please introduce major products.

The most steady and best seller among our products is Mealworm Powder. It is a product developed and processed directly by our contracted farm and it tastes very soft and delicious. Mealworm has a lot of oil, so it’s difficult to make powder that’s delicious and soft with it. But, we have successfully developed it. Even people who cannot consume mealworm because of its appearance can have it conveniently. It can be used in many ways, to make side dishes or add them while cooking. It can also be mixed in yogurt or soy milk. There are a million ways to utilize it. Recently, Severance Hospital’s research results on cancer patient meal made with mealworm helped it to be recognized as a suitable meal plan for patients.

We also have E-Double future cookies that we are proud of. It has been around since the early days of the company foundation, and it comes in cranberry and chocolate. If you look closely at the cranberry flavor, you can see the mealworm, reflecting the feedback from those who want to see the mealworm or feel the texture. The main customers of cookies are those who are trying insects for the first time or purchasing for educational purposes. On the cookie’s wrapper, you can see how much water was saved compared to consuming other sources of protein. For reference, one bag of cranberry cookies saves 199L, and one bag of chocolate cookies saves 99L.

What are your plans for the future?

Although the main product we are dealing with is edible insects, we are looking a little further. As we dealt with edible insects, we naturally learned about foods that consider humans and the environment in the future, and now I am paying great attention to food tech as a whole. The most recent product development was vegan cookies, which made its experimental debut at Wadiz.

Moreover, as Korea has become a leader in the edible insect world, the company is greatly interested in overseas expansion. We believe that it will be competitive in terms of taste, quality, and design. First of all, it is considering East Asia or Southeast Asia as its market. Contrary to what many people think, not all of the Southeast Asian countries are familiar with edible insects. It looks like we need to localize the product properly and closing the gap for a successful business.

Do you have any countries in your mind for export?

Recently, a four-party agreement (MOU) was signed among Seoul Startup Hub, Vietnam’s VTC Online, Future Food Lab, and Vietnam’s ANVYFOOD, and established a company in the form of a joint venture in Vietnam (FFL International). The company is planning for export with the local partners in Vietnam, and build a production base for overseas exports in the long run.

Thailand is the most active country in the world to export/import insects, so the local corporation in Vietnam plans to enter the Thai market as well as Vietnam. There are a wide variety of insect foods and companies in Thailand, such as cricket pasta and Thailand Unique. In fact, in Thailand, you can eat not only processed foods, but also various insects at nearby night markets. There are many countries that are familiar with edible insects, but since many companies and markets focus on edible insects on the stimulating visual part, the company believes that making it easier to eat in everyday life can raise competitiveness.

Halal certification may be required to advance into other Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia. Opinions are divided according to the interpretation of the Koran whether edible insects are subject to halal certification. However, I think we should get it certified if we have to. Therefore, if it is qualified to be halal, we are going to apply for halal market entering projects for SMEs.

Any last words you would like to say?

Until now, we have been talking about the product that is invisible but surprisingly popular, which is mealworm. Many people say, “Cover up the insects because they are disgusting,” but that is not the true goal of Future Food Lab. In fact, if you look closely at shrimp and lobster, there are many disgusting points, but not many people feel that way because they are used to them, but people think it tastes good and fresh. When Future Food Lab first released the insect-invisible cookie, the most common feedback we received was “But I can’t see insects, are there any products that show them?”  Like this, we believe that the appearance of insects can also be the character of edible insects and the experience of consumption. Also, because the advantages of insects are enormous, it is a food with enormous potential.

Insects have very high environmental value, in addition to the nutritional/functional values. Recent research results show that when it was used in cancer patient meals, both patients’ immunity and nutritional status greatly improved. In fact, many customers use it as a patient meal. There are known to be about one million insect species, but most of them have not been used as resources. There are some people who want to try different types of insects. Like this, Future Food Lab intends to discover a large resource called insects, starting with food and constantly communicating with consumers.

Seoul Food Startup Center, which participated in MIK HOT SPOT (Made in Korea Online Exhibition) is providing support to the agri-food-related companies come up with innovative ideas and new products. It is supporting food processing technology, licensing, patents, design, and promotional marketing so that agricultural products can be reborn as high-value products. Various startup support services such as ▴Startup training ▴Mentoring ▴Consulting ▴Investment connection are prepared.

The official of the center said, “We are fostering start-up agri-food companies to help develop new competitive products. This is going to lead to the exports of Korea’s excellent agri-food and create more jobs, becoming a new growth engine for Seoul.”

The global news network AVING News has begun holding the MIK HOT SPOT (Made in Korea Online Exhibition) to help small and medium-sized companies enter the market and attract investment 365 days a year. AVING News has been running online exhibitions since 2005 and had 975 online exhibitions so far. Its YouTube online exhibition has placed itself as Korea’s largest online exhibition hall that opens with 19,000 videos (booths) with more than 800,000 visits per month which means more than 10 million visits per year.

The MIK HOT SPOT online exhibition is scheduled to be held regularly according to the field, target market, and participating institutions, and it will be presented as a new type of online business by transforming the know-hows and values of the participating companies according to the trend. Companies that want to participate can apply and apply through the marketing support projects from supporting institutions in the local governments. Refer to the institutions for more information.

→ Go to MIK Hot Spot (Made in Korea Online Exhibition) special page

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