Ento founder, Kevin Wu speaks to BusinessToday on how the startup came about and what it has grown into
After leaving his corporate legal profession, Wu spent two months travelling across North and South America, and it was in Mexico City that he stumbled upon fresh tacos topped with grasshoppers and crickets. The dish considered a regional Oaxaca delicacy, appealed to Wu.
“I felt the crunchiness and buttery flavour of the cricket tacos and it was tasty, so I immediately thought, why weren’t more people consuming bugs for food!” Wu asks.
“As I did some preliminary research on Google, I found out that crickets were high in protein and other nutrients and also highly sustainable to farm requiring less land, water, feed and emits far fewer greenhouse gas emissions. I also found that consuming insects have been backed by credible organisations and research centres including the United Nations and the Wageningen University and Research,” he adds.
It was at that moment that Wu came across the vast problems and challenges facing our current food supply chain and how alternative proteins could be a solution to the problem.
In response, Wu looked to purchase cricket protein in Malaysia and found that most options were either based in US or Europe and they were prohibitively expensive due to high farming costs.
“As I did some further research, I found that crickets were farmed in small batches in cold climates as prices were very high to expensive labour and energy costs. Hence, the idea to start a cricket-based protein company based in warm and humid Malaysia was born,” Wu tells BusinessToday.
Two years since its establishment, Ento now generates up to RM20,000 in monthly revenue and has a wide range of products including sourdough bread, cakes, cookies, granola bites, whole roasted bugs, among others.
A Sustainable Option
As the world population is set to increase to 10 billion people by 2050, Wu says we need to increase our current food production by 70 percent.
“We know today that we cannot sustainably increase our current food production because current demands are already threatening our ecosystem with issues such as deforestation, overfishing, soil erosion, high use of steroids, growth hormones and antibiotics,” he says.
With insect and cricket-based protein, Wu highlights the far superior form of nutrition present in them. For instance, per 100g basis crickets have three times more protein than beef, seven times more iron than kale and four times more fibre than oatmeal.
“Crickets are also sustainable to farm and in comparison, with traditional livestock such as beef, cricket farming requires far fewer resources to produce,” he adds.
Wu shares with BusinessToday that it would require 20 times less land, 2,000 times less water, 12 times less feed and 100 times fewer greenhouse gas emissions. “This makes crickets the Tesla for food nutrition!”
Wu and his team intend to work closely with key stakeholders to build their distribution channels and increase the number of retail points so customers can easily access their products.
“We also plan to launch one of the world’s first Ento Burger Patty to emulate the successes of Beyond Meat and Impossible. Higher in protein, all natural, free from processed ingredients,” Wu says.
The startup has also been recently accepted into Sunway iLabs’ Super Accelerator programme which started on Oct 12 and runs till Dec 18. Through the programme, Sunway will give the startup access to its resources across 13 business divisions as well as the township of Sunway City Kuala Lumpur, which is a living lab that continuously engenders innovation and ideas within a thriving ecosystem.
Ento is set to be working with the Sunway Malls and has been introduced to key retailers such as 7-Eleven, Family Mart, MyNews, Jaya Grocer and more.
“Through this introduction, Ento will be able to expand its distribution and provide customers with easier access to our products. We already have proven traction in convenience stores, and we aim to replicate the model across the region,” Wu concludes.