With an eye on the sustainability and health benefits of cricket-based food.
Burgsfoods was founded by Sander Peltenburg and George Brandenburg in 2017. Burgsfoods is a company that creates meat substitutes that consist of insects, mainly crickets and grasshoppers. Their journey began with different experiences. Sander’s experience with eating insects started in The Netherlands, where he tried crickets for the first time, and then in Thailand where he tried them for a second time. “Both times it was horrible” he states when recounting these experiences. For George his journey began with sport nutrition and wanting to find a more sustainable source of protein. When they started working with insect products they would make meatballs and sausages, and experiment with cricket flour. But it was the hamburgers that allowed them to convince their family and friends to try it. Nowadays they have ‘De Krekerij’ as their brand where the focus is to create the best product they can for the food service.
So what is the goal? “Creating a sustainable alternative to meat consumption that people want to eat.”
They joined the WorldStartup portfolio in 2018 under the Foodstars programme. This enabled them to connect with a lot of people on different levels. They were connected with an investor, which enabled them to raise funding and be able to survive their first year. Sander was happy with the people at WorldStartup from the start. “If you feel comfortable with the people, it is a good idea to join forces in some kind of way.” Especially when you are in the first part of the startup process, and you are just getting to know the ecosystem.
“We have developed a burger with a super low ecological impact and a nutritional value equal to beef.”
When Burgsfoods, now De Krekerij started out, no one was looking for these products. Even at the present most chefs are not necessarily interested in products made from insects, which meant that De Krekerij had to learn how to convince them that the taste of insects was not as bad as they thought prior to convincing them on buying the product. The first time that De Krekerij sold their products was during the ‘Welcome to the Village’ in 2016. During this festival they had a week to test out their product, and to see how successful it would be and what they could do to better it. They had made 342 burgers, all of which sold out instantly. These days they’ve managed to establish a pretty good model which leads to the chefs they reach out to, to be more willing to say yes to trying out the product and including it in the menu. It also doesn’t hurt that De Krekerij has an easy time with getting media attention. They have had a spot at Zwarte Cross where they were a big success, and they had an interview for Dumpert Eten, from which they got several requests from chefs wanting to try their products.
One of the challenges they had to overcome when starting this venture was the fact that the price of insects was too high, while the supply and the quality were too low. This left them with two options. Getting insects to be as tasteless as possible and utilizing spices to make them taste good, or feeding the insects well in order to have them taste good. De Krekerij are advocates for the latter, as they learned that feeding crickets higher quality foods, would make them taste better. The challenge was convincing the farmers to feed their insects high quality food. Sander also admits that Covid-19 was a “good slap in the face” that led De Krekerij to somewhat rethink their business model. But one thing is clear. Sander doesn’t regret any of the mistakes or challenges that have come along with this journey.
“Our greatest achievement so far has been getting our team together.”
Sander believes that De Krekerij is very much about the people. Happy with the people in his team, Sander also mentions that they are all from different backgrounds. With a main team of 6 employees and 6 interns they manage to achieve great things. One thing that also helps them with keeping their team happy is their team communication strategy coach, with which they meet regularly. This enables them to resolve more personal things and make sure that everyone is in the right places and liking them.
For now De Krekerij has 10 restaurants where their products are on the menu. As the developing insect market is mostly in Europe, that is where De Krekerij has decided to focus their efforts. Their main goal for now is to gain more traction within The Netherlands. Prior to Covid-19 they had set out a goal to have their products on the menu of 75 different restaurants. “If we have 33 restaurants by the end of the year, I am happy” Sander states. In terms of long-term goals, De Krekerij wants to become the go to place for insect products for white labelling, but Sander also wants to someday speak at an European Institution and at the United Nations about the topic of using insects as a sustainable alternative to meat. But for now Sander mentions that: “Oftentimes it’s the small positive things that keep you going.” Together with that statement Sander tells us a story about this older lady they once met in Nijmegen while doing a test run. This lady was skeptical and had a bunch of questions. Mostly she was intrigued if she could try the crickets in any other way than as a whole insect. They gladly mentioned to her that their burgers were on the menu. After having ordered it, they saw the lady take her first bite of the burger on the terras in the sun and then being lost in amazement, as she did not expect it to taste as good as it did. Sander mentions that it is moments like those that keep him going.
Sander believes that entrepreneurship can be learned. “The basics are there, if you learn them, then you should technically be able to run a company.” For any person looking to start their own Startup, Sander had two tips: “Overcoming the fear is the main part, as the more you do it, the more you get used to it.”, and “The first step towards entrepreneurship is starting.” He also recommends being as open as possible and getting as much information as you need as fast as you need it. If you don’t know something, there is someone out there that does know it, and you probably can just reach out to them.