Ynsect expands to the US with mealworm farm addition

Dive Brief:

  • French insect protein company Ynsect is officially moving to the U.S. with the addition of Nebraska mealworm company Jord Producers. Ynsect has been doing business in America since last November, with imported high-value-added protein for a small pet food brand. Pricing details for Jord were not available.
  • The mealworms at the Nebraska facility will initially be used for chicken feed, which is already produced there. However, Alain Revah, Ynsect’s chief marketing and communications officer, said in an interview this deal is the beginning of a major expansion of insect protein for human and animal uses in the U.S.
  • As manufacturers and consumers look to sustainable options for food, insect protein is beginning to rise to the top. According to Grand View Research, the global insect protein market was worth $250 million in 2020 and is expected to increase by a compound annual growth rate of 27.4% from 2021 to 2028. 

Dive Insight:

While Ynsect’s bug-produced ingredients made by its recently acquired Protfarm subsidiary in the Netherlands are used in burgers and snacks in Europe, Revah said the addition of Jord Producers doesn’t mean that’s in the near future for the U.S. Jord gives Ynsect a foothold in making U.S.-based ingredients for human food, which are likely to be targeted to the sports nutrition and human health markets.

“There’s gonna be human food in the U.S., but we don’t want to go ahead on to try to convert everybody to this,” Revah said. “They’re gonna turn around [to insect protein] themselves. … It is a market that actually is growing, and it’s a market that actually will take significantly more importance as we go.”

Ynsect has been working toward dominating the global insect protein space for years.

According to Crunchbase, it’s received more than $404 million in investments through 11 funding rounds. The company raised $224 million through equity and debt in October 2020, and it is working on building the world’s largest insect farm in northern France. This farm will produce 100,000 metric tons of insect proteins a year, according to Reuters. It’s scheduled to open this year.

Even though the bulk of Ynsect’s products now are aquaculture feed and pet food, the company has its sights on human food. Last year, Ynsect CEO Antoine Hubert told British news site i that Ynsect had prototype burgers that were “very similar to plant-based proteins.” It had plans to partner with fast food restaurants in several countries.

Revah said Ynsect will begin by using its ingredients in the U.S. protein powder market. Last May, research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found mealworm protein performed as well as whey protein following a workout. As the protein powder ingredients roll out, Revah said Ynsect will work on getting more published research on insect protein.

But so far, he said, the benefits have been great. Insect protein has the same amount of protein as a kilogram of beef, but uses 90% less land and 50% fewer resources. It also produces 200 times less greenhouse gas, Revah said. Other health benefits that come from consuming insect protein, he said, include a 60% reduction in cholesterol.

The next five years of research and placement in the athletic nutrition market will be key, Revah said.

“The industry will be there and realize that this protein actually has these incredible properties that cannot be overlooked,” Revah said.

The Jord addition is just the beginning for Ynsect in the U.S. Revah said the company plans to sign a land deal in the U.S. to build its own large farm by the end of this year. As it looks now, that farm is slated to be fully operational by 2024. Revah said Ynsect hopes to do $500 million in annual global business, with 25% to half coming from the U.S. by 2025 or 2026.

“We’re not actually saying this is just an expansion,” Revah said. “We’re putting a toe in the water. We’re planting roots to actually just grow, and we could go to 100 farms, in which case, it will be a very, very large percentage of our business. The potential is there.”