The range, said the company, comprises easy-to-incorporate, neutral-tasting, odorless and light brown ingredients. Derived from the Molitor mealworm, they can be used in the production of dry and wet pet food.
The ingredients contain protein, at up to a level of 71%, and they have a low ash content (less than 5%), said the developer.
A useful indicator of the protein quality of an ingredient, in human foods, is the Digestible Indispensable Amino Acid Score (DIAAS) — and increasingly, an analogous 'DIAAS-like' score is being used to rate pet food ingredients, noted Ÿnsect.
The ileal digestibility of each IAA in the ingredient is expressed as a percentage of known dietary requirements for adult and young animals, as compiled by regulatory bodies such as The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO). If every IAA in an ingredient achieves a value above 100% (i.e., greater than the reference value), then the ingredient is considered to be a complete protein source. Otherwise, the ingredient is given a DIAAS score corresponding to the value of the lowest-scoring IAA — known as the limiting amino acid (LAA). The LAA in question must be supplemented elsewhere in the diet.
A recent study measured DIAAS-like scores for three of Ynsect’s mealworm-based ingredients, two defatted meals and one hydrolysate.
The company said the data show all three of these ingredients scored highly for both adult dogs (72%, 79%, 96%) and young dogs (83%, 83%, 87%). “These scores are comparable to the highest quality animal proteins (beef, salmon), and higher than poultry and most common plant proteins. Indeed, with its score of 96%, one of our defatted mealworm meals was one of the very highest scorers for adult dogs; and with reference to pups, all three mealworm ingredients scored higher than most of the animal and plant ingredients for which scores are available.”
The same study also calculated DIAAS-like values for cats: with reference to adult cats, all three were found to be complete protein sources. For kittens, the scores were lower, at 64.1-77.6%, but comparable to available values for traditional animal protein, according to the findings.
Limiting amino acids
Mealworms are low in the essential amino acid, methionine.
However, Ynsect said that in traditional pet foods based on animal protein sources, the LAA for adult dogs is consistently methionine, and, for puppies, it is threonine—so it is already established that in pet food production, these amino acids will need to be added to the diet.
“These are the same amino acids that are limiting for the mealworm proteins tested, meaning that any supplements required are already standard within the industry. Furthermore, for all three mealworm ingredients, with reference to adult dogs, methionine was the only amino acid to achieve a score less than 100% – meaning that once the standard methionine supplement has been added, the protein source becomes complete.
“Hence, there is no technical barrier to the use of mealworm protein as a pet food ingredient.”
The company noted that the LAA for corn — currently the most common pet food ingredient — is not methionine, but either lysine or tryptophan: thus, there is a complementarity between corn and mealworm proteins, such that if a pet food were to be made from a mixture of the two, each could supply the LAA that the other was lacking.
Market development strategy
Last month saw Ÿnsect confirm that the pet food market was one of the pillars of its development strategy. It also revealed that its new vertical farm in Amiens is preparing to make its first deliveries in 2023.
Antoine Hubert, founder and CEO of Ÿnsect, told us then that the company is "refocusing on a path of profitability" and thus concentrating on projects that are profitable in the short term.
Animal feed market development is on hold, for now: "In this context, the group is focusing on high value-added products in the pet food, bird food, plant food and human food markets. But animal feed remains one of Ynsect's major challenges. Aquafeed is not left out, and we will continue to pursue our current projects and expand when the global economic environment becomes more favorable."
Pet food is a huge market, one where mealworm ingredients can respond well to the industry's nutritional and sustainability needs, in Europe, in the US and beyond, said Ÿnsect.
The company started delivering products to the pet food sector back in 2016. “We entered the US market in 2021, supplying high value-added protein to Pure Simple True LLC - a dog Food start-up based in Seattle, WA - selling ultra-premium and luxury food for dogs under Bernie’s brand. This partnership was an important step not just for us, but also for the industry as a whole, and paves the way for a healthier, more natural, and environmentally friendly diet for our pet friends."
“Insect-based pet food has more than 50% acceptance rate among US pet owners according to Emerton Market research (versus 36% in 2019), and the recent study we carried out with OnePoll also found that 83% of dog and cat owners in the USA would be willing to feed their pets with insect-based ingredients, according to Ÿnsect. “These surveys show that interest in insect-based pet foods is growing rapidly,’’ said Alice Pabst Landon, head of marketing at the France-based innovator.
Ÿnsect is looking to rapidly increase its order book, which, it reported, is currently estimated at more than $175m in signed contracts and $1bn in agreements under negotiation. Those contracts and the potential other deals cover the entirety of its activity, including a sizable portion for pet food, it added.