'Crickets don't contain gluten, so we lost strength'

Crunchy Cricket Loaf
Crunchy Cricket Loaf
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Roberts Bakery innovation director Alison Ordonez on the development of its Crunchy Cricket Loaf, which contains flour from 336 insects.

Today’s consumers are keen to shop and eat more sustainably, and increasingly think about the impact they have on the planet. This is where our idea to develop cricket bread came from. Crickets offer significant environmental benefits to other animal sources of protein. For example, they expel just 1g of greenhouse gas per 1kg of protein produced compared to 2,850g for the same weight of beef. They require very low input – in terms of both water and feed – to produce a protein source rich in all nine essential amino acids, as well has being high in iron, calcium and B12.

There are very few edible insect brands and suppliers in the UK so, with it being such a niche ingredient, sourcing and cost can be an issue. After a little research, we made contact with leading insect food brand Eat Grub.

Since discussions began with Eat Grub at the end of last year, the company has increased availability of its pure cricket flour, which it now sources from the world’s only farm with Grade A BRC food safety certification. This has made it a little more accessible and cost-effective, although cricket flour remains much more expensive than normal flour due to its dry weight and relative rarity. But we believe the extra cost is worth it for the added benefits.

Our main technical issue was determining the addition rate.  Crickets don’t contain gluten, so we lost strength in the dough at higher concentrations. We also found that, on a white flour base, cricket flour didn’t look particularly good, so added barley malt flour and wholegrain wheat. This helped add to flavour and bite. We ended up managing to include 13% on flour weight without adding extra gluten.

Cricket flour on its own has a unique aroma, which can be off-putting at first. However, once baked with the above additions, it became a deliciously flavoured and textured loaf with wholesome depth and nuttiness. It’s also high in protein containing just over 13g per 100g, compared to wholemeal bread at around 10g.

Since news broke of our first batch of limited-edition Crunchy Cricket Loaves, we’ve had so much interest from consumers and trade customers, asking where they can buy them and if we can produce large-scale. We won’t be going into full production quite yet as each loaf has been created in The Exploratory (R&D centre), which is far away from our main bakeries that remain vegetarian and vegan. But, given the response, we are now looking at ways that we could produce on mass scale, so watch this space.

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