One of the conundrums many modern humans find themselves in when it comes to responsible eating is how to move forward without giving up our delicious creature comforts—namely, burgers and ice cream.
Because both are derived chiefly from cows, which require mass amounts of valuable water and give off harmful greenhouse gases in return, these beloved indulgences present strains on the environment that need to be considered regardless of your position on animal welfare.
The meat industry has answered with numerous plant-based alternatives that resemble beef, griddle sizzle and all. But dairy-free ice cream options mainly rely on nuts, which are not only expensive but lack the types of nutritional fats that whole milk contains.
It was for these reasons that South African product designer Leah Bessa decided to co-found Gourmet Grubb, a new Cape Town-based company making lactose-free ice cream from protein-rich, insect-based entomilk.
The products are not yet ready for market, but Bessa was on hand at the city’s Design Indaba conference in the Emerging Creatives section with her trio of flavors—peanut butter, chocolate and chai—specifically to let people have a taste and expand their understanding of entomophagy.
She told us they use locally raised black soldier fly larvae to further increase the sustainability factor while adding nutritional value; it turns out these little protein-packed worms are also high in minerals like iron, zinc and calcium.
Coolhunting sampled all three, and not only did the naturally creamy texture feel like “normal” ice cream on the palate, but the flavors had no trace of what one might imagine insects taste like either. Bessa attempted to ensure no one tried it without understanding its contents, but in the frenzy of free ice cream a few people consumed a spoonful before knowing what they were eating and all seemed pleasantly surprised.”
”With the reality of Cape Town’s water crisis at the top of everyone’s minds, ice cream made from worms didn’t feel like food from the future, but instead a delicacy we must embrace and refine.”
Mindfulness or becoming more aware of what we consume, says Leah Bessa, is one of the number one reasons that people will become more and more drawn to eco-friendly alternatives in their diets. Specifically, insects, a regular dietary addition in many parts of the world, will make their way into our homes and onto our plates.
“There are so many benefits associated with using insects as a food source, and the one major challenge is getting consumers in the Western world used to the idea of eating them,” explains Bessa, a food science graduate and one of the three people behind Gourmet Grubb. “Now that consumers are becoming more open to new and different food ingredients, it has become the right time to introduce insects.”
Entomophagy, the practice of eating insects, is well documented in parts of Asia, Africa, Mexico and South America as cheap and sustainable sources of protein. While it’s more common in Africa than anywhere else in the world, there’s not very many gourmet insect options in South Africa.
Bessa and her partners, Jean Louwrens and Llewellyn de Beer founded Gourmet Grubb just over a year ago as way to ease squeamish people into the practice.
Why? Because farming insects as protein is much safer for the planet than farming cows in terms of the amount of greenhouse gases that are released into the environment. Compared to chickens, pigs and cows, insects require a fraction of the water necessary for farming them.
According to Gourmet Grubb, as an environmentally sustainable source of farmed protein for future and even current generations, insects outdo traditional livestock almost entirely.
The trio’s approach starts with ice cream made from entomilk, milk made from sustainably farmed insects. But to fully normalise it, it needs to stop being exoticised, says Bessa.
“Currently, there is a huge ‘I went to Thailand and ate insects ‘ type idea surrounding the concept of eating insects, whereas we need to try and show how insects can be used and incorporated into normal food products and taste just as great, or potentially even better,” she says.
“The first approach to doing this is just by creating great tasting products and getting people to taste them, which is what we did at the Design Indaba.”
The three held an exhibition at Design Indaba 2018 as part of the Emerging Creatives programme, an annual scan of 40 emerging designers in South Africa.
“People arrived at our stand with the idea of creepy crawlies, and when they tasted the ice cream, they couldn’t even believe that it was made from insects.
And that is how it begins, just by educating people on the possibilities. From there onwards, it’s just about repeat exposure until it becomes so normal, that there will be a Gourmet Grubb ice cream stall on every corner.”
Bessa was recently invited to speak at Forbes Africa during their 30 under 30 meet up, the food designer spoke about how Gourmet Grubb has been disrupting the food industry.