We were in a meeting when we received the email. A supermarket chain with 400 stores ordered thousands of our products! It was hard to hide our excitement as this was a big step for our company and the insect industry as a whole. We quickly realized there’s no time for celebrations, getting the order was just the beginning. Thousands of SENS bars and SENS breads is not something that was lying in our warehouse ready to be shipped.
Most supermarkets were afraid of putting insect products on their shelves. It surprised us that Penny Market turned out to be the biggest innovator and risk taker. We knew that Penny stores, just like Billa or Merkur are a part of a big retailing group REWE so we treated this opportunity as a pilot project for insect products. It was big and we didn’t want to mess it up. We thought: if we succeed here we can do it anywhere.
Creating SENS bread
But let’s return back to reality because there was quite a lot to do. For example, the above mentioned SENS bread made with cricket flour was still just an idea, no such product existed! But for a startup this is not a new situation – turning ideas into reality with limited time and resources is the norm.
Because cricket flour has a neutral taste, we knew it wouldn’t affect the flavour. We just needed to test how it reacted with other ingredients. We contacted small baking companies willing to experiment and were surprised by the result - cricket flour worked perfectly! We immediately got in touch with larger scale bakeries to make the final product. Many rejected us because of the legislation status of edible insects. As usual there was a bit of luck involved but in the end we found a bakery that was happy to be the innovator. Our breads and bars were produced just in time for the delivery date and we could breathe a sigh of relief.
Making edible crickets legal
But another crisis was already brewing. We became the hottest news item in the country when our products hit the stores. Every magazine wrote about the supposed scandal - bread filled with crickets sold in supermarkets! We received a lot of support but also something we tried to avoid since the beginning. The Ministry of Agriculture asked for a legal explanation: "Insects are not fully legal, how do you justify selling them? “
We crafted a one-pager about how we perceive the legal status, sent it to the Ministry, and waited. If they said no to our interpretation of the law, we would have had to take back all products from each of the 400 supermarkets and there would also be a hefty fine. When we added the numbers it was clear, this could bankrupt our company.
After a painful week of waiting we received a reply. Your interpretation of the law is correct and based on it we fully legalized house cricket (Acheta Domesticus) as an edible insect for everyone in the Czech Republic. That’s right! We changed the legislation!
In the following weeks we sold out in almost all Penny stores across the country. We also proved that we are able to deliver and support a big product launch. All of this resulted in Penny ordering SENS products again and also in the listing of SENS bars into more retailers around the EU. Great news for the edible insect movement!
We are fulfilling our vision one store at a time. :) You can try our bars right here!