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Sustainable eating with Small Giants insects

The start up is clearing the consumption of insects in Italy, despite the general prejudices


Fights have been brushed between guanciale lovers and pancetta lovers, in search of the perfect carbonara; parliamentary questions for the genre of arancin*: in Italy, food is a more sacred institution than the Pope. There are revolutionary realities, which are trying to introduce foods far from Western habits; Small Giants is one of these: pioneers in Italy, has developed snacks and pasta based on insect flour. We talked about it with Francesco Majno, co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of this start-up.

I would start with the name. Small Giants: does it refer to the potential of insects or in your industry do you feel like "little giants"?

I never thought so in this light! They are the giants, the insects: they have enormous potential, a real superfood: they are an important source of sustainable proteins, minerals and vitamins.

Tell me the first time you tasted them!

Me and Edoardo (CEO and co-founder of Small Giants, ndr) we tried them in Thailand, where they have always been part of their food. The trip, however, was not the only spark that ignited the project.

So what was it?

We’re both vegetarians, meaning we don’t eat meat. 8 years ago, from a chat between friends was born the curiosity to explore other sources of alternative proteins. For several factors, insects were the answer.

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Un post condiviso da Small Giants | Insects as Food (@eatsmallgiants)

And what were the factors?

The first is certainly cultural: 2 billion people already consume them. Other determinants are related to their sustainability and potential in terms of nutritional value.

But your products are not prepared with 100% insect meal: do you think you can get there?

Difficult, in two respects. The first is of a technical type, because a pasta with only insect flour would have difficulty in maintaining cooking; moreover it would have an exaggeratedly unbalanced protein intake: today our pasta, made with 10% of cricket flour (Acheta Domesticus)It already contains 22% protein, double that of wheat alone. Secondly, an economic factor: it would cost much more.

Since 2021 in Europe you can consume insects in the form of flour, yet prejudices are not lacking. Do you have haters?

That we can talk about insects as food is a step forward! Today the debate is ideologized: many are sceptical, fed by colossal hoaxes. It would be nice if the time taken to go against what we do was used to inquire. Already today it is estimated that on average we involuntarily consume half a kilogram of insects: they are widespread food contaminants, tolerated by law. Yet there is not the same indignation.

Surely there are more who appreciate you: what is the identikit of your typical customer?

The customer of Small Giants is between 25-40 years old and we are curious to try a new experience. What drives it is the attention to the issue of sustainability and the interest in nutrition.

Do you have any stores? Is the department store ready to welcome Small Giants?

It is generally difficult to land in supermarkets, for what we do is even more difficult because we would be the first! In Naples we started something with some stores of large retailers, but generally they are small independent stores that welcome Small Giants products.

Brands and packaging are wonderful! I imagine they are part of the strategy to make insects more "palatable" to the customer!

They are essential to communicate a novelty like Small Giants! To create them, we collaborated with a London studio and with the Brazilian illustrator Fernando Molina. The giant insect on our packaging represents us fully, and is useful to differentiate on the shelf.

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Un post condiviso da Alessandro Prazzoli (@sprezzel)

Pasta, bars and snacks: what new product would you like to hybridize with insect flours?

We are developing others: after the Easy mix, an ideal preparation for burgers and meatballs, sold out, we are thinking of throwing cookies. But the uses of insect flour are many, many recipes! 

In ten years we will see again, the bugs will be cleared, like today’s sushi all you can eat: how do you see Small Giants in 2034?

There is no doubt that it will be successful, as it has been in the past for other good foods: the impetus will also come from the current historical moment, when we need to reduce the impact on the planet. One immediate way we have is to have a conscious diet. It’s all about getting insects accepted as food. In general, the sector will expand and be successful; having moved in advance we will have a leading role. We also hope to have competitors: it means that integrating insects in your diet will no longer be a taboo.



Illustration by Gloria Dozio - Acrimònia Studios