Breadcraft owner John Cockburn and cricket expert John Hart with their cricket products. PHOTOS/PAM GRAHAM

PAM GRAHAM
pam.graham@age.co.nz

The wraps are off a cricket farming venture in Wairarapa by Breadcraft, and while the taste may be nutty the business case is far from it.

There are so many lovely angles to this innovative venture – they’re growing Black Field crickets, a Kiwi breed that is considered a pasture pest, the farming doesn’t waste water, the crickets grow in plastic containers vertically stacked so it’s a small footprint and no pesticides are used. They feed the crickets on surplus bread from their bakery.

The flour made from the crickets is an animal protein but a sustainably-farmed one. It’s high in protein, fibre and omegas and it’s in demand in trendy eateries but also available at Countdown, New World and Pak’n Save.

Masterton’s Breadcraft marketed wraps made from cricket flour, hemp seed, purple corn, and spinach in March under its Rebel Bakehouse brand and they’ve been a hit.

The cricket wraps are the No 2 seller and hemp seed wraps No 1. The supermarket chains are supportive and sales are doubling every week.

They used imported cricket flour but were behind the scenes working on a pilot farm at a secret location with the goal of sourcing the product 100 per cent locally.

It’s the first of its kind in New Zealand.

Crickets are fed surplus bread from the Breadcraft bakery.

John Hart works for the company as the cricket expert. He says he did a lot of research on crickets and it’s a great innovation story.

“It’s great it’s happening in Masterton,” he said.

The idea got going 18 months ago when Breadcraft owner John Cockburn was in North America researching bio-degradable packaging and decided to visit a cricket farm.

He also saw the burgeoning hemp industries and had to go through a process of learning about what could be made from the plant without the THC element.

The hemp flour is made from powdered seed husks and it has similar nutritional benefits to cricket flour.

Cricket flour sells on the open market at about $20 a 100 grams. It is a very small and growing market in New Zealand.

The pilot cricket farm is used to prove the processes and the company is “pretty well there” with turning it into a commercial operation.

Having the product here will save the need for imports and is expected to be cheaper.

Eventually the company will sell the cricket flour to others.

Edible insects are a trend globally, so it’s all good timing. In November British supermarket chain Sainsbury’s launched crunchy roasted crickets as a product in 250 stores.

Rebel’s flour will also be in a cocktail called “Livin’ la Vida Locust” at Wellington bar Foxglove’s annual Negroni Week in June.

Cricket flour, which is 100 per cent ground crickets, can also be used as an ingredient in smoothies and more and more restaurants are experimenting with it.

Children are attracted to the idea of products made from cricket flour and it’s a way of getting them to eat healthier.

“People have always understood the benefits but it is becoming more mainstream,” Chris Petersen, of Rebel Bakehouse, said.

Making cricket flour and cricket wraps responded to consumer demand for healthier alternatives in the bread aisle, he said.

“Every day, two billion people around the world consume insects. Cricket powder is very high in protein and easily absorbed into the body. Crickets also produce just 1 per cent of the greenhouse emissions of other farm animals – and use a fraction of the water and land space required.

“People are thinking more about what they’re eating, and their own impact on the environment. We are excited by the warm welcome to our cricket products and are very optimistic about our work in future foods.”

The company also has plants to source its hemp ingredients from farms in Wairarapa and Manawatu. The seed husk from the plant is milled into the flour.