“We feel that we are on the cusp of a major food revolution” -Shobhita Soor, CMO & Co-Founder of Aspire Food Group
Two years ago, Aspire Food Group was just an idea for a pitch contest generated from five MBA students. That vision won the prestigious Hult Prize in 2013 and has transformed into a company at the forefront of the crickets-for-food movement. The founders of Aspire describe the influential prize:
“The Hult Prize is the largest crowdsourcing platform for university students where students are required to propose a social enterprise that addresses a global problem. The year we participated, the challenge was food insecurity. This is what got us thinking about insects – an extremely under-utilized yet efficient, desired, delicious and nutritious protein source.”
Aspire was the first Canadian team to win the start-up accelerator prize, receiving $1 Million in seed capital, as well as mentorship and advice from the international business community. The students describe the process:
“We were admitted to the finals in March 2013 and presented at the Clinton Global Initiative at the Annual General Meeting in September 2013. Between March and September, we traveled to gain insect rearing knowledge in Thailand and did some pilot testing in Kenya. After we won the Hult Prize in September 2013, we launched our enterprise. First in Mexico, then Ghana and finally in the United States. We were all still students at the time, so we had to juggle school and launching a start-up.”
Team winning the Hult Prize with Bill Clinton (2nd from left)
After extensive travelling and researching, Aspire USA was formed in Texas to create, process, and sell the highest quality, farm-raised edible insects worldwide. Their team utilizes the farm-to-table approach, which entails USDA Certified Organic feed, purified water, and packed whole or ground into Milled Aketta, their highly nutritious cricket powder.
“The production of insects, just like any other form of livestock, is prone to being affected by changes in environment, climate, diet and a variety of other factors. Over the past two years we’ve learned so much about the different species we’re farming; sometimes by trial and error, often through the insights of the people and local communities we’ve had the opportunity to work with” the team of Aspire describes. “As with any new endeavor, the important thing is to treat each hurdle as a stepping stone to the next challenge.”
Such an innovative and ground-breaking social enterprise does not come without challenges, however. A typical North American response to eating crickets literally leaves audiences speechless or in disgust as it is not the social norm and out of most individual’s comfort zones. The founders describe how important it is to capitalize on this market:
“Entering the North American market following a presence in Mexico and Ghana was an important decision for us. There was concern that because the North American food markets are more formal and well-established that we may be compromising our international social impact for financial gain. Ultimately, we decided that there were many synergies to be gained and a lot has already been gained in our international markets from our presence in North America. Advancing entomophagy in North America, especially the United States is a necessary piece to developing the demand, markets and technologies worldwide which supports our social goals of providing low-cost, desired protein sources.”
The reason Aspire is such a successful social enterprise is their ground-breaking knowledge of using markets to solve social problems. They understand that there are a billion people who do not know where their next meal will come from and do not have access to safe and nutritious food. Aspire discussed the impact they hope their organization can make in the world if it fulfills its potential:
“A world revolution in the way we think about protein. If we can shift people’s mindsets to accept insects as a food source and desire insects as a food source, then we can remove a significant source of pressure on the food system, namely the demand and production of traditional livestock.”
Now, Aspire is partnering up with the Cookbook Company, City Palate and Slow Food Calgary, with cooking classes and talks that will teach the public about cricket powder/flour, its multiple uses, the nutritional value and the potential global and environmental impact of shifting to this more sustainable protein source. Take our word for it, we have tried a cricket cookie, and it’s actually very tasty. To learn more about these events, click here to check out the Beakerhead program.
To hear more about Aspire Food Group and 4 other remarkable social entrepreneurs, sign up for the Beakerhead for a Better World panel to be held on Sept 17th– from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm: bit.ly/TricoB4BW
Beakerhead for a Better World is a collaboration between Beakerhead and Trico Charitable Foundation.
“There is good in the world and there is light at the end of the tunnel”- Mohammed Ashour, CEO & Co-Founder of Aspire Food Group