Bugs are big business for tomorrow’s snacks, says PepsiCo; calls for ideas

By Gill Hyslop contact

- Last updated on GMT

By 2025, the go-top snack food will be bugs, says Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo's CEO. The snack and beverage giant is calling for novel protein ideas. Pic: ©iStock/mrorange002
By 2025, the go-top snack food will be bugs, says Indra Nooyi, PepsiCo's CEO. The snack and beverage giant is calling for novel protein ideas. Pic: ©iStock/mrorange002
The Doritos and Cheetos maker is capitalizing on the growing insect and plant-based protein trend, and has called for novel protein ideas to use in its snacks.

The US snack and beverage company posted an innovation request on a business community platform NineSights inviting submissions for alternative protein sources​ that have a measurable impact, but also offers consumers a satisfying eating experience.

PepsiCo said it is looking for plant-, mycoprotein- (fungi) and insect-based proteins that will be incorporated into its products, so they must be easy to process and should have minimal impact on flavor and texture.

This is not as easy as stated, though.

According to PepsiCo’s associate program manager Jonathan Jakischa, increased levels of protein can adversely impact the texture, taste and color of a product.

Criteria to consider

The proposal also lists that sources must be sustainable and offer clean label options, and are preferably non-GMO, easy to pronounce (no chemical-sounding names) and come from a familiar source – kitchen ingredients being highly desirable.

It specifically does not want animal protein sources like dairy, egg, meat and gelatine, and said it has already explored and excluded sources like soy, moringa (made from dried leaves of the horseradish tree), duckweed (a freshwater plant), pea protein, single cell protein, and cricket and mealworm powder.

Top trend for 2017: plant power

Plant-based potential

PepsiCo’s move is aligned with the growing consumer trend in embracing high-protein foods.

According to Innova Market Insights, protein is still firmly cemented as one of the Top 10 Trends for 2017.

In a “sneak peek”​ webinar prior to Innova’s key consumer trends presentation to be held at IFT in Las Vegas next week, Lu Ann Williams, director of Innovation at Innova, said the protein trend is here to stay for a very long time.

However, there is a shift away from traditional animal proteins, as “disruptive greens”​ take center stage.

“Anything to do with plants is a huge topic this year,”​ she said.

In her presentation, Williams noted the flexitarian effect is pushing vegan products to target the mainstream consumer.

What is the flexitarian effect?

The increased demand from people who do not want to commit to a full vegan or even vegetarian lifestyle, but would rather pick and choose to suit their lifestyle, social life or health condition.

Williams said the use of a vegan positioning in global food and beverage launches tripled from 2012 to 2016, and there was a 49% increase in the number of plant-based claims in 2016 versus the year prior.

The Plant-Based Foods Association also reported that 2016 sales of foods containing alternative proteins amounted to $4.9bn in the US.

Several major corporations are capitalizing on the trend by launching venture capital (VC) firms to invest in innovative startups.

Last year, General Mills’ 301 Inc invested in vegetable snack startup Rhythm Superfoods and probiotic food and drink startup Farmhouse Culture, while Tyson Foods’ New Ventures has put aside $150m to explore alternative proteins and acquired a 5% ownership in plant protein startup Beyond Meat, which is also backed by 301 Inc.

In January, Kellogg’s $100m VC fund, eighteen94 Capital, financed Kuli Kuli, a startup making moringa-based snacks.

Snacking on critters

Jimini's

Given the growing global food crisis, many are looking at insects as the next sustainable protein source.

In fact, by 2026, the go-to snack food will be bugs, contended CEO of Pepsi, Indra Nooyi.

She said crickets in products like chips is the next hot ticket and even if consumers may not be ready for this right now, Pepsi needs to be prepared.

The $62bn company included French startup Jimini’s, which makes protein bars with cricket powder, among the finalists of the PepsiCo Nutrition Greenhouse program launched earlier this year to support emerging nutrition and wellness brands.

Jimini’s will receive a grant of €25,000 ($27,879.55) and the opportunity to work with PepsiCo for six months to grow the brand.

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