Student - 31 januari 2012

Mealworms in your meatball

VHL students are experimenting with insects in bitterballen and chips. It seems that the Dutch are ready for food made from insects.

A plate of bitterballen (fried meatballs) is being passed round. Take a bite, only to find out that the soft inside does not contain meat but entire mealworms. Instead of letting out cries of disgust, everyone present raves about them. Well, these are third year VHL students of Food Innovation and Management, and the bitterbal is one of the final projects presented last Monday. Other projects presented include milk foam which does not sag and mealworm Pringles.
Insects are ideal as meat substitutes, entomology professor Marcel Dicke has been proclaiming for years. They are rich in proteins and sustainable in production. The bitterbal makers think so too: 'We have to come up with an innovative product and insects are the protein source of the future,' says Marijke Luring. 'Moreover, they have many possibilities.' The market is not yet swamped with meat substitutes based on insects.
But will the Dutch take to this type of bitterbal? The students have carried out a small consumer survey which shows that the Dutch are quite prepared to eat insects, as long as they do not see the bugs. And yet, Marijke and her co-worker Marianne van Breene have chosen to show the worms clearly. Their intention is to give the bitterbal a little more structure. Marijke: 'Moreover, we want people to get use to the idea.'
The students show how they developed a recipe systematically which was then tested based on its nutrition value, hygiene and reactions from a test panel. The Pringles team even shows a how-it's-made film with a step-by-step account from ingredients to dough to chips. There are even bloopers at the end showing chips disappearing under a heap of salt.
The students also present detailed plans on branding and marketing aspects. The creators of the Insnakt bitterbal showed themselves to be full-blown marketers too. 'It is more like a luxurious product instead of the usual bitterbal, a delicacy.' Insects are the unique selling point and snack bar menus will show in the years to come whether these will become a hit.

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