Said to be the protein of the future, insects are slowing making their way into the food scene in Malaysia. The Yum List chats with one of the key industry players, Kevin Wu, to find out about his project, Ento – Artisan Cricket Roasters.
What do you do and how did you get into the industry?
My name is Kevin Wu and I am the Founder & CEO of Ento. We farm crickets for human consumption! My job as a CEO is to drive the business in the right direction. This can include anything from HR, marketing, managing finances to devising sales strategies etc.
I managed to get into this industry by chance! I’ve always been passionate about sustainability and one day, I stumbled across a viral video of people eating crickets to save the planet! At first, I thought it seemed a bit weird but it turns out that crickets are highly nutritious and sustainable. Crickets are widely cited as the future of food and I can see why as they’re very efficient to farm and taste great!
Share with us an interesting story from behind the scenes.
A lot of my friends and family are often sceptical and ask, ‘Would people ACTUALLY eat crickets?’ My answer is, yes! Ento organises tasting booths for people to sample our crickets. For most people, this is typically the first time that they’re eating crickets! A majority of people have heard about crickets potentially being the future of food and most people are willing to try it. The ones that do try our product love it! We are offering something unique, tasty, nutritious and sustainable! In fact, one health and fitness influencer ordered 1kg of unseasoned crickets because our crickets are low in carb, calories and super high in protein and iron!
What’s the best/ worst part of your job?
The best part of the job for me is the purpose of our company. At Ento, we are solving a real problem for the future. The motivating factor for me every morning is to see a better and brighter future. Every day, we get to shape the way people think about food, the way people think about sustainability and the future. I love seeing the reactions of people who were extremely sceptical at first but after they tried our crickets love our product and our mission!
The worst part of my job is similar to most business owners. It is the level of responsibility that I must take from the very start. Another aspect is the uncertainty, especially when we were first starting out. As a startup with a brand new product in the market, we are constantly trying to find our business model and product market fit. Every day presents a new challenge. The journey over the past nine months has been like a rollercoaster with many ups and downs. Some of the ups have been selling out and running a backlog of orders that we simply didn’t expect. Some of the downs include production delay and the many mistakes that we made along the way but we treat our mistakes as an opportunity to improve!
What’s your favourite use of insect protein?
I really enjoy just snacking on our flavoured whole roasted crickets! There is no snack in the market that has such low calories and high in nutrients such as protein, iron and fibre. Our cricket snacks keep me full for longer and satisfy any mid-afternoon cravings!
The perfect day off would be…
I would love to start the day with some form of exercise! Then have my favourite coffee (One Half is my favourite at the moment), hang out with family over a meal, and stay at home. I’m trying to pick up cooking again, so it is a work in progress!
A day in the life of an entrepreneur is…
I like to start my morning slightly later to ensure that I get enough rest and avoid the traffic. I would then catch up on my emails and run through a series of small and short meetings – I dislike long ‘all hands on deck’ meetings because I find it an unproductive use of everyone’s time. I really enjoy catching up with my team members individually over lunch. After lunch, I usually hide away in my office to review work and drafts. I like to arrange dinner with friends who are from different industries; I always get to learn something new from them! If possible, I would squeeze in exercise if I don’t have any dinner plans. Usually, I work from home until late, this is a productive time for me to get work done without any distractions.
What do you do for fun?
I enjoy my catch-up sessions in small groups with close friends and family. My ideal place would be quiet cafes and bars. Like all Malaysians, I love trying out food in different places!
What’s something you’d like guests to know about Ento?
Facts and figures about our product:
High in protein (56% per 100g) – up to 3x higher than beef and chicken
High in iron (11.2mg per 100g) – 7x higher than kale
High in fibre (8g per 100g) – 4x higher than oatmeal
High in potassium (850mg per 100g) – 2x higher than bananas
Improves gut health
Less feed (2.1kg feed per 1kg crickets)- 12x lesser compared to beef
Less water (2 litres per 1 kg crickets) – 56x lesser compared to beef
Less land (15 sq ft per kg cricket) – 17x lesser land compared to beef
Fewer greenhouse gases produced – 3000x lesser compared to beef
What’s your favourite food and beverage pairing?
I really enjoy kaya toast and half boiled eggs for breakfast at Hainanese coffee shops with iced coffee, less sweet of course.
What’s your take on the sustainability movement in KL?
I think we are a few years behind countries in North America and Europe but it is definitely growing faster than most people think! Over the past couple of years, more and more health food stores and eco-friendly shops are cropping up across KL. I believe people, especially the younger generation are becoming more aware of their decisions and how it may affect society in the future. I think the movement will become bigger and stronger as time passes and I do hope that one day, everyone in society is well-educated about the importance of sustainability.
What’s in store for you in the upcoming months?
There are a few things that we are currently working on. We are planning on expanding our distribution networks for our cricket snacks and venturing into foreign markets such as Thailand and Vietnam. We are in the midst of launching our next product line, our 100% cricket powder. Our cricket powder has many uses including making: cookies, pasta, sprinkling, toppings etc.
What are you currently working on with Ento?
We are currently fundraising to expand our production capacity to meet future demands. We are also looking for distributors and places to retail our products. You can contact Kevin Wu of Ento – Artisan Cricket Roasters here: [email protected]