Made with Insects, This Textured Protein Mimics Dairy, Eggs and Meat


Eli and Lee Cadesky have entered the tofu business, but in their own way: They make it out of insect proteins. The Toronto-based brothers recently launched their cricket and mealworm product lines C-Fu FOODS and One Hop Kitchen, which also specializes in insect Bolognese.

The brothers will join us at Food Loves Tech on June 10-12 (learn more and get your tickets here!), where they’ll offer side-by-side tastings of their products versus traditional alternatives. We recently caught up with Eli and Lee to learn more about their businesses and how their potential customers react to eating bugs:

Edible Manhattan: Cricket protein is gaining a lot of traction in the snack/energy bar space right now, but you guys are making cricket-based tofu and using the product in sauces, burgers and even ice cream. Why this direction?
Lee Cadesky: I am an engineer, and at home I became interested in food technology and molecular gastronomy. I found myself toying around a lot to make better food for myself and at some point I realized my hobby was worth pursuing as a career. So, I went for my master’s of food science from Cornell. I came to study edible insects by way of intense research on dairy science, its protein makeup and what gives cheese its texture. Realizing there was a lot of opportunity in edible insects, especially when it comes to food security, I got involved in a competition, Thought for Food, to see if I could make crab out of insects. I built a lab in my home and started playing around. That’s when I called my brother Eli and asked him to join me.

In February of 2015, we presented our product at a competition in Lisbon, which gave us great exposure. After that, we officially started C-Fu FOODS in March 2015, just as we both started the last semesters of our master’s (Eli’s is in business administration). As of now, we’re making textured insect proteins that function as meat analogues or that can be flavored and used as dairy and egg replacements. We also make protein powders and wholesale cricket flour—it’s a great product for many applications.

EM: If I were someone who dabbled in meatless proteins often, I’d see the jump from regular tofu to your C-Fu products as a pretty daunting one. How do you bring potential customers into the insect-loving fold?
Eli Cadesky: We really do believe insects will have a strong impact as a meat-replacement. They’re widely available and less expensive to raise. To better help future customers see and taste the impact, we really focus on experiential marketing. At trade shows, we offer a blind tasting of three products: two insect-derived and one beef. First, it’s important to note that these aren’t just crushed insects. We derived protein from the insects which are then made into either powders or our animal protein replacements. So, once we get past the fact that you’re not biting into a cricket or worm, people warm up to it. We actually have more people try our food than not.
LC: A large portion of people come and tell us there’s no way they’re tasting or that they just appear nervous or timid. But these people wind up tasting all three. These activations are simply  an invitation to try something new. Once people see one or two people do it and not gag or run away, they are reassured that it actually tastes good.

EM: You said it’s a blind tasting of three, including beef. What are the two insect-derived items?
EC: The product we’ve been focusing on now is our Bolognese sauce from our newest venture, One Hop Kitchen. We offer a mealworm sauce and a cricket sauce. For the testing, we use a store-bought traditional Bolognese as well. To be clear, we’re not blindfolding people and asking them to taste. We place three dishes out first and invite people to smell it and look at it—you won’t recognize any bugs.
LC: We bring the ingredients, like the tofu block, the tomatoes and spices so it smells and looks familiar. Customers can feel the tofu block and have a tactical relationship with the ingredient. Bringing in the last sense of tasting it isn’t too big of a leap from there.

EM: Neat. Maybe I am ready to try! Are you selling directly to consumers or wholesale only?
EC: We currently sell protein powders and extracts to other businesses. One Hop Kitchen was a product we launched to work off of our core competencies. We had the raw ingredients and decided we could move into a space where there weren’t any insect products. For the past month, we have been selling our sauces at trade shows and farmers markets but have now launched an international crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo.

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