Q&A: Neil Whippey, Eat Grub

In which we meet talented young start-ups at Collective, the co-working space on Hampstead Road

eat grub
‘There is such stigma associated to edible insects in the West.’ Photo: PR.
Neil Whippey is co-founder of Eat Grub,the Collective-based duo attempting to change the nation’s perception of insects from a gimmick to a tasty and nutritious part of our diets.

Why bugs?
Shami, my business partner first came across the concept when he was in Malawi. Not only were people consuming bugs but they were enjoying them as a delicacy. After a lot of discussion and a fair bit of research, we realised that insects definitely deserve a place on the British palate.

Why should we be eating insects?
Firstly, the environmental benefits: bugs are a completely underused food source, they use a fraction of the land that vegetable farming does and nowhere near the resources of animal farming. In terms of nutrition, they’re bursting with protein and vitamins. If you ask me, they are more than a superfood, they’re a superhero food.

All of this aside, this is a food product, it has to taste good in order for it to be a viable option for people. Our cricket energy bars, edible grasshoppers, mealworms and chilli and lime roasted crickets taste great.

eat grub
Founders Neil & Shami. Photo: PR

Who comes up with the recipes?
It took us a long time to get to where we are today. We tried to come up with recipes ourselves but it just wasn’t working. After a botched attempt at making insect-infused chocolate popping candy, we realised that we should probably throw in the towel and look for a professional and experimental chef. We were lucky to find Seb Holmes, an incredibly creative guy who was, at the time, working on developing dishes from fish skins. We got together, had a pint and the rest was history.

How do vegetarians feel about eating insects?
It is a tricky one and I guess completely dependent on why the vegetarian doesn’t eat meat. Technically crickets are non-sentient beings, but they are still living. In terms of the sustainability, farming insects is far less damaging than farming soya. I guess it is up to the individual really.

How are people taking to the concept?
Initially we were just seen as a gimmick: people would come over to our stalls out of curiosity or simply to snigger at us. As a start-up, you have a tiny voice, it takes time to gain a say and a reputation. This is even more difficult to build if you’re trying to introduce edible insects, a concept that has such a stigma in the West.

Last year, nine companies followed suit and set up insect food companies– so we must be doing something right.

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Find out more about the eat grub here. For more info on Collective see the interview with founder Simon Pitkeathley here.

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