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wholi was founded in late 2016 by insect scientist Malena Sigurgeirsdottir and social entrepreneur Jessica Buhl-Nielsen. Their mission is to create a more sustainable food culture by integrating insects into the diet.
wholi is proudly made in Denmark
- An insect scientist and a social entrepreneur meet in Copenhagen okotober 2016 and they start talking. They talk about global issues; malnutrition, food security, gender inequality and insects. Insects, Malena argues, are the most nutritious resource with a very small climate footprint. They are relatively easy to produce, free of pesticides and antibiotics and so they take up very little space as they can be grown vertically in cities. In addition, they can even be fed on food waste.
5 years ago in tanzania
- She knows all this because she has experienced it herself and studied the subject for 5 years. As a vegetarian, she was not as sure about eating the grasshoppers she was served by her host family in Tanzania. But it would probably be best to integrate into the local culture, she thought. After eating insects for almost a year, she felt less tired and her blood count increased after she consumed more protein, iron and vitamin B12 from the grasshoppers.
- Back in Copenhagen, over a caterpillar dinner, Malena and Jessica start thinking big thoughts. Jessica, who has a background in business and experience in making a social case into a fashion company, thought the risotto tasted really good. Since it was both tasty, nutritious and sustainable, why on earth didn't we eat more insects? The answer, of course, was simple - because most people think it's disgusting! So they started making insects for powder and integrating them into foods we already know, such as snacks, burgers and smoothies. And our friends really liked it!
The taste of a revolution!
- Together, we have embarked on a mission to save the planet, by creating a whole new market for insect-based foods. The goal is to make people aware of the nutritional qualities of insects and integrate insects into a normal part of our diet so that we can create a more sustainable food culture. We will also work directly in developing countries where we can support women farmers in increasing their production to support themselves financially while combating nutritional deficiencies.
- Insects have the nutritional benefits of meat and a climate-impact similar to plants. There mission is to integrate insects since they are nutritious, tasty and sustainable to produce. Insects are very efficient at converting input (feed and water) into protein that we can eat. Since they are cold-blooded and reproduce quickly, their so-called feed-conversion ratio is much lower than other animal protein sources. Even when comparing to some plant protein sources insects can be argued to be more sustainable. Soy beans for instance take up a lot of land and require large amounts of water, whereas insects can be farmed vertically.
- Protein is a vital nutrient required for building, maintaining and repairing cells in your body. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. There are 20 amino acids and 9 of them are defined as the essential amino acids. The essential amino acids are acids that your body cannot create by itself, but which we must obtain by eating food. So, when eating your daily protein, you should always consider 3 factors: quality, digestibility and quantity. The best kind of protein source contains all 9 essential amino acids (high quality), a lot of protein (quantity) and is easily digested and absorbed by our body (digestibility). Insect protein is one of the best protein sources, as they contain all 9 essential amino acids, provide us with 60-75% protein and has a digestibility up to 98%. By eating insect powder you will get the best protein in a sustainable manner.
- Fibre is the indigestible parts of plant foods, such as vegetables, fruits, grains and legumes. It is a type of carbohydrate that helps keep our digestive systems healthy and clean. It passes through our body undigested easing bowel movements and flushing harmful substances out of our body. However, besides from plant food, insects contain a significant amount of fiber. The most common form of fibre in insects is chitin, an insoluble fibre derived from the exoskeleton. Chitin is very good for us, as it is known to have anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties giving many potential health benefits.
- Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid. That means, fats that are vital for our body to function and develop. It is good for our brain, eyes and heart. The word essential tells us that the nutrient cannot be made in own body, but that we need to get it through our diet. The most common essential fatty acids are Omega-3 and Omega-6. Omega-3 we get from seafood or flaxseed, and omega-6 we can get from most vegetable oils. As insects are related to the seafood world, we get a good amount of healthy fats and omega-3 from insects.
- Iron is an essential mineral that is a vital component of haemoglobin. Haemoglobin represents about two-thirds of the body's iron. If you don’t consume enough iron, your body can't make enough healthy oxygen-carrying red blood cells. There are two types of iron: heme iron and non-heme iron. Heme iron is found in animal based foods, such as meat, poultry and seafood. Non-heme iron, by contrast, is found in plant-based foods like grains, beans and vegetables. Our bodies absorb the iron from animal-based protein (heme iron) better than the iron from plant-based protein (non-heme). This is one reason why a vegetarian is more at risk to develop iron-deficiency anaemia than people who eat meat. Edible insect are full of heme-iron, so they can be a good source in your diet, to make sure you get your daily iron and avoid anaemia.
- Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that helps keep the neve and blood cells healthy. It also prevents a type of anaemia that can make people tired and weak. You can only find vitamin B12 in animal products such as meat, fish, eggs and milk products. Vitamin B12 is generally not present in plant foods, but fortified vegan foods can be found on the market. If you want to make sure to get your daily B12 vitamin, edible insect is a strong source. You can find more B12 vitamin in insects than in other animal based products.
Essential vitamins and mineral
- Edible insects are very high in protein, fiber, omega-3, iron and vitamin B12. However, the insect powder also contains a lot of other essential vitamins and minerals. This include vitamin A, D and E and minerals such as calcium, magnesium and zinc. The nutritional profile of insects is too good to be true and can provide you with a lot of nutrition in the best quality and quantity.
Are the products vegan or vegetarian?
- No, wholi products contain insects and can therefore not be classified as vegan or vegetarian. Many vegans and vegetarians we have met accept eating insects since they can help cover important nutritional needs including vitamin B12 and protein; they are sustainable to produce; and because there is a high standard of animal welfare and there is no evidence to suggest that bugs feel pain.
Do wholi use whole insects or powder in your products?
- wholi only use powdered insects, meaning whole insects that are ground into a fine powder. This makes our products appetising to look at for us Western consumers, and it also has the advantage of giving a high concentration of nutrition.
What do insects taste like?
- The insects we currently use are buffalo worms and crickets. Buffalo worms have a nice nutty flavour very similar to peanuts, while crickets have deeper notes of umami. Both are ideal for baking, adding in smoothies or porridges.
Where do the insects come from?
- The insects wholi use the most, buffalo worms, come from farms in the Netherlands. The buffalo's are reared vertically in a kind of shelf system, taking up very little space. Crickets are from similar farms. Currently we get our crickets from a farm in Canada.
Do insects feel pain?
- There have conducted a range of studies to asses the animal welfare of insects. There is no evidence to suggest that insects can be stressed or feel pain.
Isn't it better to be vegetarian or vegan than eating insects?
- We think it is great if an individual chooses to be vegan/vegetarian. However, if you want to have a sustainable diet it is more complicated than saying it has to be 100% vegan or vegetarian. Having a sustainable diet means that your are providing your body with all the necessary nutrients for as few resources as possible. Depending on where you get your mango/avocado/soy beans from, it is not necessarily more sustainable than eating bugs, since bugs are very rich in protein, vitamin B12, iron and a range of other minerals and vitamins. We recommend checking out the EAT-Lancet forum to learn more about having a sustainable diet.
Don’t you need too many insects to feed people compared to other meat?
- Insects are extremely efficient at turning the feed they eat into more body mass, meaning they grow quickly and reproduce quickly. Our insects come from vertical farms and take up very little space. In that way, it is possible to farm a big amount of insects compared to, for instance, beef, which take up extreme amounts of ressources.
Aren’t wholi ruining nature by taking all the insects from their habitat?
- No. The insects are farmed and are not taken from the wild. Eating insects compared to many other protein sources actually helps nature, since it will require less feed, less water and less land.
How are the insects killed?
- Different farms use slightly different techniques that are all approved, safe and take animal welfare into account.
Are insects healthy?
- Insects are very nutrient-dense, particularly when you compare to how few resources that are required to produce them. Insects are an animal and therefore the quality of protein is high, with all 9 essential amino acids. This can be a challenge to fulfil if you don't eat any meat. Insects contain vitamin B12, which is difficult to get from a plant-based diet, as well as a iron, magnesium, calcium and zinc. Insects contain fibre, unlike all other sources of meat.
Are your products organic?
- All wholi ingredients are certified organic, expect for the insects. The reason the insects are not certified is because there is lacking EU-regulation on the area and therefore it is not possible to certify them yet. However, the insects wholi use have been reared without any use of pesticides or antibiotics.