The trail to a half million metric tons of insect protein

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In a new report, “No More Crawl: Insect Protein Will Grow Up in the 2020s,” Rabobank outlines the path to increasing scalability for the insect industry.

3 levels of scaling

Rabobank expects a global market potential of up to 500,000 tons for insect protein as an animal feed component by 2030. The current volume of insect protein is estimated at around 10,000 tons. To outline this scaling path, the company created a model that consists of three phases: a scale-up phase, a broader useful life, and a maturity phase. (see Figure 1). In the scale-up phase, Rabobank expects price ranges between 3,500 and 5,500 euros. In the second phase, prices are expected to drop by € 1,000 per ton. When the sector reaches maturity in the third phase, prices are expected to fall by a further EUR 1,000 per tonne.

Pet food market: important role in the first two phases.

The pet food market will play the biggest role in the first part of the journey to scale as it is currently the largest market for insect protein. It is forecast that insect protein as an ingredient in pet food will reach 150,000 tons by 2030. Pet food with insect protein as an ingredient is classified in the premium segment. This segment will grow. Pet owners are willing to pay higher prices for special feed. In the scale-up phase, prices will remain high and therefore developed countries will stimulate demand for insect-based pet foods. Also in the second phase of scaling, the number of pet food companies using insect protein in formulations is expected to increase. However, according to Rabobank, Aquafeed will become the largest market for insect protein if prices drop during the ripening phase, as pet food is a smaller industry.

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Aquafeed Market: insect protein used alongside fish and soybean meal

Rabobank expects the Aquafeed market to cover 40% of the insect protein market by 2030, a global market potential of 200,000 tons. Currently, only a few tons of insect proteins are used in Aquafeed, as the nutritional qualities do not compete with the current price level of insect meal.

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Positive properties of insect protein – beyond nutrition

Rabobank sees a potential market in North America and Europe as both fish meal and soybean meal need to be reduced for sustainability reasons and insect protein is a potential alternative. This would be the first small phase in scaling. The second phase is based on the functional properties of insects in Aquafeed. Research shows that the inclusion of insect proteins has some positive features that are beyond nutritional value, such as: B. Palatability, Improved Gut Health, and Antioxidant Function. However, more research is needed to enable profitable scale-up. In this phase of scaling, Rabobank expects that insect protein will be used in low inclusion rates alongside fish meal and soybean meal.

Even in the final phase of scaling and beyond 2030, Rabobank does not expect insect protein to replace fish meal or soybean powder, although the cost level of insect protein will be more comparable to fish meal. Rabobank sees insect protein and oil as new categories of raw materials that can be combined with fish meal or soybean meal to create more powerful and sustainable water feed.

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Poultry and pigs

Rabobank estimates the potential of 70,000 tons of insect protein as laying hen feed. The potential for broiler feed is limited to 50,000 tons. The great potential in the laying hen feed market is based on the fact that the egg market offers space for the marketing of insect-fed eggs as a concept. The market potential for broilers is limited due to the high price compared to soybean meal. Rabobank expects a small market share of 30,000 tons for pig feed. Due to the specific market dynamics for pigs and the higher price compared to soy, Rabobank regards pig feed as the smallest market for insect protein.

Turning point for the insect industry

Rabobank expects that after reaching half a million tons, the industry will find it easier to expand the offer. After reaching half a million, it would take much less time to double production and exceed a million tons. The rate of growth depends on R&D, legislative changes, capital inflow and marketing.