We Chat to The Pioneers of Insect Milk Ice Cream: Gourmet Grubb

Words: Tam Selley

Move over almond milk, there’s a new dairy alternative in town and it’s made from insects. Yes, you heard me, insects! Insect milk has made its debut in the Mother City as the world’s first-ever miggie-milk and it’s being produced by local Capetonian start-up, Gourmet Grubb, founded by Leah Bessa and Jean Louwrens.

‘EntoMilk’ is the term they’ve coined for their insect milk and it’s being used in the production of gorgeous gourmet ice creams. Weird, I know, but reservations aside – these guys are changing the food landscape with this polarising-yet-delicious sweet creation.

gourmet grubb

Enter Gourmet Grubb: The Pioneers of the World’s First Insect Milk Right here in Cape Town

As we covered in our 2019 food trends, insects are slowly becoming an accepted protein alternative in the Western world with insect protein powders and choccie-covered crickets popping their heads up in stores around the world. With the rise of conscious consumerism, we’re becoming increasingly more open-minded to alternative protein sources, and with sustainability front-of-mind, the need for them is becoming more imperative by the day.

We chat to co-founder, Leah Bessa, about this proudly South African product and how they aim to introduce insect milk to the squeamish Capetonian food-culture.

Q&A with Gourmet Grubb Founder

Firstly – why insects? And why ice cream?

Leah: The food industry relies on unsustainable and unethical sources of protein, and as a result of the increasing population, we will no longer be able to produce protein in this way to keep up with the growing demand. As consumers become more aware of what they consume and the effect it has both on them and the environment, there is a strong drive in the food industry to develop alternative foods that fulfil this need.

Insects are an ancient food source that has such great potential to produce high-quality protein (their Amino Acid profile is desirable for human consumption), minerals and fats, whilst being sustainable and environmentally friendly to farm.

The biggest barrier in the Western world is an aversion to eating insects, due to pre-conceived ideas and personally, I think, largely from a lack of understanding as well. This is where the ice cream comes in. It’s really just a vehicle to change peoples perception of eating insects.

When was the Gourmet Grubb concept born and where did the inspiration come from?

Leah: Gourmet Grubb was registered in November 2017, when Jean and I decided after a while of creating a variety of different insect-based products, that ice cream would be a great way to bring insects to the Western market.

The inspiration for using insects was born largely out of my Masters research, where I researched insects as a meat alternative.

I thought insects had such great potential and they really spoke to the values of emerging conscious consumers, but all of the information and innovation surrounding insects as food was bound to academic institutions and academics. Jean and I wanted to bridge that gap between front line academic research and consumers. We really believe that insects can have a monumental impact on the food system and create a sustainable sector in agriculture.

What insects do/can you use in the production of your EntoMilk?

Leah: We use a locally, commercially farmed insect called Hermetia illucens (black soldier fly larvae). They are such great insects to work with, and so underrated. They have enormous economic potential and scalability, which makes them a great insect to work with from a sourcing point of view.

They are naturally high in protein and fat, iron, zinc and calcium which is ideal for a dairy alternative.

I think what really sets them apart is the fact that they can use organic matter that would typically be a side stream of food production, such as spent grain from the brewing process, and they can be fed on that and convert it into a nutrient dense biomass.

How exactly is the ‘milk’ derived? Can you tell us a little more about the EntoMilk production process?

Leah: Since this is the first insect milk developed globally, we have opted to protect the IP behind the production process at this stage. We have a provisional patent underway.

Gourmet Grubb

Can you tell us a little more about the health and safety regulations of farming insects? How do you farm them and how ‘hygienic’ is this practice?

Leah: The insect farming follows strict regulations because they are farming mainly for animal feed, and it is strictly regulated much like most conventional farming practices. There’s a quality certification called “HACCP’ that is globally used and recognised, and the farms we work with have these certificates.

We use insects fed on clean feed streams, and we clean and sterilise them prior to using them. There’s a lot of research going into the safety of farming insects, and so far the research has shown insects to fit for human consumption.

What about “insect cruelty”?

Leah: This is a common question, and I think it’s a really important aspect to consider when bringing alternative sources into to market. One of the reasons I believe insects hold such great potential is that insect farming has been developed to be sustainable, environmentally friendly, and most importantly, ethical.

Firstly, in nature insects typically live and thrive in crowded conditions, and this is the way the farming has been designed. Another reason for this is that insects can’t be domesticated, and therefore if they aren’t thriving in the environment in which they are living, they won’t reproduce.

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How would you say that EntoMilk is better/healthier/more sustainable than other milk alternatives?

Leah: EntoMilk is 5x higher in protein than most dairy alternatives, with a complete amino acid profile that is perfect for human consumption. It is also naturally high in iron, zinc and calcium, which most dairy alternatives lack. When moving away from dairy to alternatives it is also important to try and make up for that nutrient loss.

Insects use very little water, land and food compared to crops, and because they are grown in close environments, they are less at risk of climate change risks.

How many flavours do you currently have of your ice cream and which is the most popular?

Leah: We have dark chocolate, peanut butter, chai latte, strawberry, vanilla and activated charcoal and banana bread, but we are always playing around with new flavours and bringing in new and experimental flavours over the weeks. The dark chocolate is the most popular, and because we use only natural ingredients, it has a really authentic dark chocolate flavour which people love.

How do you produce your ice cream?

Leah: Our ice cream is produced in a similar manner to typical gelato styled ice cream, the only difference being the ingredients we use. We use the EntoMilk in place of milk, and only use raw honey and natural ingredients to flavour the ice cream. We also don’t use any emulsifiers/stabilisers to aerate the ice cream.

Do you have any plans to expand the Gourmet Grubb product range?

Leah: We definitely do. We have pretty big longer-term plans, to create a dairy alternative that can be used globally. The first steps are to create value-added products from the EntoMilk to demonstrate to people how it can be used.This will include products such as our ice cream, and soon-to-be cheese and yoghurt options.

We also have some really interesting and cool collaborations with food and drink companies, which will be an interesting extension of our product range.

We know that consuming insects is widely accepted in other parts of the world, but how do you aim to alter Capetonians mindsets of bugs as food?

Leah: We’ve opted to take a variety of routes to change Capetonians mindset about eating insects through more modern approaches, as opposed to the obvious ‘eating coated insects/or powdered insect protein. We started with the ice cream, which is a fun, playful way of showing people just how versatile insects can be.

We then introduced our dairy alternative ‘EntoMilk’ into the restaurant scene through a delicious ‘creamy’ dish created by Ash at Riverine Rabbit. It’s currently on their menu, and I think it really showcases it’s potential in a culinary application.

While these have been very much focused on Gourmet Grubb, and our own product application, we have more recently designed South Africa’s first insects as food concept store which we will be launching on the 7 June 2019 at GOODfood in Woodstock.

We have opted for more of a collaborative approach for this concept store, and we’re working with the likes of Insektivore and Absolute Organix in Johannesburg, so that it’s a diverse platform for consumers to come and try a variety of insects in different applications.

We’ve got a chef who has created a tasting menu, so people can come and try different dishes and see just how delicious insects can be. We’ve collaborated with some companies in the food industry as well, to try and bring the concept and application forward as a viable option in the South African food industry.

Gourmet Grubb

Where to Get Your Gourmet Grubb

Love it or hate it – they’re definitely on our ‘watch this space’ list and we can’t wait to tuck into some of their revolutionary roomys. You can catch them whipping up their buggy-creations at GOODfood – Cape Town’s first local canteen-concept located at the Iron Works on Sir Lowry Road in Woodstock – opening 7 June 2019.

If you can’t wait to get your hands on their tubs, you can order from their online store and collect at Gourmet Grubb HQ at the Woodstock Exchange. 250ml & 500ml tubs are available at R60.00 to R100.00 a pop.

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