PORTLAND — If the products on display at a market showcase event are true indicators of future food trends, farmers ought to get busy raising new livestock and crops.
Such as crickets and seaweed.
The annual market event at Oregon State University’s Food Innovation Center features products developed by graduates of a Getting Your Recipe to Market program. Vendors taking part hope to attract the attention and shelf space of store buyers.
Most of the products are variations of the familiar, such as new lines of granola or salsa. But some are more exotic.
World, meet brothers Ebin Barnett, Ben Prindle and Matthew Prindle, makers of Thinksect cricket flour and the Entobar, a protein bar made from the former and flavored with peanut butter-chocolate, cherry-chocolate or coconut-almond.
“That gets you over the ick factor,” Barnett said.
Yum. Or, as the smiling brothers noted on fliers they handed out at the June 2 market event: “Cricket. It’s what’s for dinner.”
Why? Because crickets and other insects are high in protein and can be raised using less water and feed than it takes to raise an equivalent amount of beef or chicken, according to the brothers. With the world population projected to hit 9 billion by 2050, they say sustainable food production is crucial.
The crickets are raised in Thailand. To make their FDA-approved flour, they boil the crickets twice, roast them and pulverize them into a finished product.
“It’s the highest quality cricket flour on the market, we believe,” Barnett said.
For now, it’s an expensive proposition. It requires 132 crickets to produce enough flour to make a 60 gram coconut-almond Entobar, for those keeping score. A 1-kilogram bag (2.2 pounds) of Thinksect flour sells for $79.95, according to the company website.
Ben Prindle came up with the idea, approaching his brothers with a PowerPoint presentation, providing samples and urging, “We need to get into this business.”
The product line invokes the memory of the brothers’ late grandfather, Ellis MacLeod, a University of Illinois entomologist who instilled an appreciation of bugs in the boys. Ben Prindle said their grandfather would approve of the venture.
“Oh, yes,” he said. “That was the inspiration.”
Across the way, OSU research chef Jason Ball said the inspiration for a line of seaweed-based products was happenstance.
Researchers at OSU’s Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport figured out how to grow dulse, a red seaweed, in tanks on land instead of harvesting it from the ocean. They initially grew dulse to feed abalone, but the successful method sparked other ideas.
Ball was hired to help develop culinary uses, and his display table at the market event included smoked dulse popcorn peanut brittle, a snack that resembled a tasty rice cracker and a soy, ginger and dulse salad dressing. The latter may have the most immediate chance of commercial success, Ball said.