Mealworms

One of Europe’s largest supermarkets will sell burgers and meatballs made from mealworms

Coop Insekten Burger_Mid Res essentoEssento’s burger, made from mealworm larvae, that will be sold at select Coop locations in Switzerland. Essento

Beef might taste delicious, but producing it exhausts our planet’s land and water. As a result, more chefs and retailers are searching for alternatives that taste like beef — including insects.

Starting May 2017, Coop, one of Switzerland’s largest wholesale retailers, will start selling “burgers” and “meatballs” — both primarily made from mealworm larvae — at select grocery locations. It will partner with Essento, a Swiss startup that makes food from insects, Switzerland’s the Local reports.

Coop plans to eventually offer more insect products beyond burgers and meatballs, Essento co-founder Christian Bärtsch tells Business Insider. He declined to specify what they will be and how many Coop locations will carry Essento’s products.

Coop Insekten Baellchen_Low Res EssentoEssento’s meatballs, made from mealworm larvae, that will be sold at select Coop locations in Switzerland. Essento

Packages of the insect burgers and meatballs will sit in the refrigerated meat section.  When Essento’s team created the products, it aimed to make them taste and look as close to beef as possible, Bärtsch says.

Until recently, Switzerland’s food and safety office mandated that retailers aiming to sell products that contain insects get a special permit. But in December, the office announcedthat anything can be sold as long as it respects normal food safety regulations .

Other startups are also experimenting with insect-based. The San Francisco-based company Tiny Farms offers open-source farm kits so that people can raise edible insects at home. In 2016, famed chef Kyle Connaughton joined Brooklyn-based startup Exo to create protein bars using homemade cricket flour. All of these startups  tout insects as a more sustainable protein than meat.

Mealworm larvae doesn’t sound too appetizing, but Bärtsch says Essento is trying to change consumers’ attitudes around eating it. With the new Coop partnership, he hopes that bug burgers will become more mainstream.

“Collaborating with a large supermarket chain enables us to reach a broad consumer group,” he says.

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