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Green Kow’s insects finally in Milan

Damien Huysmans, fondateur de Green Kow
Damien Huysmans, fondateur de Green Kow

After many ups and downs, we will, at last, be able to try insects on the Belgian pavilion at the Milan World Fair. We met Damien Huysmans, co-founder of The Green Kow Company (with his wife, Anne De Decker), who tells us more about his products, his journey and his ambitions.

Why were your products blocked and how was the situation resolved?

A Dutch chef, who hadn’t submitted a request to do so, attempted to give a “shock” cookery demonstration on the pavilion of the Netherlands with whole insects that he had brought in a suitcase sneaked through the entrance to the Expo. This caused enough of a stir to alert the Italian health authorities who were there on site. One thing led to another and they also came along to the Belgian pavilion where our tastings had been advertised. They then placed our products under seal.  Because, as incredible as it might seem, this "World" Fair with the theme of "Feeding the Planet" comes under Italian legislation. But insects are not, in principle, permitted for human consumption in Italy ... Thanks to the good contacts and relentless work of the AWEX attaché in Italy (Madame Flagothier), it was possible to clear up the matter by taking a few administrative steps and providing a few official documents with which the FASFC supplied us. In this rather unexpected confusion and disruption, The Green Kow Company received a lot of support and concern from various sides: the Belgian press, which put the problem in the public arena, the Vice-Rector of Agro-Bio Tech (University of Liège), Mr Eric Haubruge, through to the Minister-President, Mr Paul Magnette whom we met there, and Minister for the Economy, Mr Jean-Claude Marcourt.

Why were you keen to be there in Milan?  

When you develop insect-based products and know just how many advantages this new type of food can offer from the point of view of taste (it’s delicious), nutrition (protein and other nutrients) and as part of a diet with less of an environmental impact,  ... you can’t help but really want to be present at a World Fair with "Feeding the Planet" as its theme and with the necessary sustainable viewpoint. Particularly since the event will end one month before the Climate Conference (COP21), scheduled for December this year in Paris. Because breeding insects for food also emits up to 100 times less in the way of greenhouse gases than conventional farming! Finally, we at The Green Kow Company are very happy to have been the first in Europe to have won over a national health authority (the FASFC), which then made the very intelligent and brave decision to permit and regulate ten species of insects for human consumption in Belgium. That was in November 2013. And when Belgium leads the way, we think it’s logical for such an event to be seen as a great opportunity to assert that fact!!

Isn’t it a strange idea, serving up insects on our plates?

On the contrary, it’s a very logical one! Two and a half billion human beings eat them more or less all over the world.  We also know that, until a hundred or so years ago, some of them were still eaten in these parts of the world (maybug soup, for example). What’s more, Lucy, the grandmother of all of us, was already eating insects well before anyone ate meat. And, at the risk of repeating myself, it would be completely stupid to miss out on so many qualities contained in a single category of food. Because insects are delicious, they’re packed with nutrients and breeding them has little impact on our environment (5 x less feed than in conventional farming, not much water and much less in the way of greenhouse gases).

How is the market responding to your products, in Belgium and abroad?

The main thing is to find the right way of presenting insects to the consumers. At The Green Kow Company we’ve decided to incorporate them by mixing them with everyday products such as tapenades, soups, ... In order to create the recipes for these products that we’re devising, we’re able to count on the double-award-winning Walloon chef, Sang Hoon Degeimbre. And we’re very proud to have been selected by Delhaize to be, together with them, the first in Europe to offer products containing insects in a volume retailing chain (September 2014). Others are offering whole freeze-dried and flavoured insects in delicatessens. In the end, it will be up to the consumer to decide. This small revolution has just begun ... and it’s no doubt a bit premature to draw conclusions. One thing is for certain, attitudes and behaviours have certainly changed since we entered the market in November 2013! It’s now a matter of developing new products and finding customers in the Netherlands and in Switzerland, because that country is also in the process of opening up.

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