Cricket Muffins, Anyone? Canadian Food Giant Bets on Insects

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(Bloomberg) -- Canada’s largest food processor is investing in a company that sees crickets and whole-roasted insects as a more sustainable alternative to meat.

Maple Leaf Foods Inc. is providing Series A funding to Entomo Farms, an Ontario company that’s North America’s largest farmer of insects for human consumption. Entomo -- whose website includes recipes for cricket powder blueberry muffins and spicy cricket fritters -- said in a statement Wednesday it will use the cash to expand production of cricket and mealworm ingredients, which are used in protein bars, smoothies and pasta sauces.

Alternative forms of protein comprise a fast-evolving sector. Startups and established food suppliers are seeking out new products that appeal to consumers who are concerned about the environmental impact of the meat industry and maintaining a healthy diet. Crickets contain essential amino acids and are high in nutrients such as omega-3s, calcium and iron. They also use less land, water and feed than traditional meat farming on a pound-for-pound basis.

Maple Leaf is among several major companies investing in this area. Tyson Foods Inc., the largest U.S. meat producer, in 2016 acquired 5 percent of Beyond Meat, which promises its vegan burgers will bleed and sizzle like real ground beef. Earlier this year, Loblaw Cos., Canada’s largest grocer, added cricket powder to its line of President’s Choice products.

“Our minority venture investment in Entomo is consistent with our vision to be the most sustainable protein company on earth,” Maple Leaf Chief Executive Officer Michael McCain said in the statement. Entomo and Maple Leaf products will remain separate.

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