54. Mr Bug

Mr Bug is taking the lead on sustainable protein pet snacks by creating insect-based treats for dogs.

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Founder: Conal Cunningham, Paul Walton
Year founded: 2022
Website: mrbug.co.uk

The concept of consuming insects may raise a few eyebrows, and there remains a significant yuck factor for insect-based food in the West. But, here are a few significant statistics that might just change your mind…

First up, amid increasing environmental catastrophes, like the burning of the Amazon rainforest to make way for cattle farming, consider that some 80% of the world’s farmland is used to raise and feed livestock. Meanwhile, in 80% of the world’s nations, insects are treated as a human food source. So, could it be time that the West caught the bug for ingesting insects?

Mr Bug, run by Conal Cunningham and Paul Walton, is here to help shift the mindset. But, conscious of the hesitancy of UK consumers to embrace insect-based protein, Mr Bug is starting with a slightly more palatable proposition – doggie treats made from bugs.

Mealworms are the Rolls Royce of fine grubbery.

Don’t fancy feeding Fido his own fleas? It’s worth considering how poor the meat quality can be in more commonly available dog treats. Unless you’ve sourced a pig’s ear from the butcher’s shop, the chances are that the ultra-processed chews and snacks you’re throwing towards your good doggie are far removed from a pure meat diet. This, in turn, has a health impact.

“As with humans, pet obesity is rife,” the Mr Bug founders tell us. “Forty percent of UK dogs are morbidly obese. They’re essentially consuming junk food and treats that are bereft of credible nutrition.”

Mr Bug wants you to swap those poor-quality between-meal snacks for its high protein treats, which are created from mealworms.

Mealworms are jam-packed with protein, calcium, B12, iron, and all nine essential amino acids.

“Mealworms are the Rolls Royce of fine grubbery,” the founders reassure. “They’re jam-packed with protein, calcium, B12, iron, and all nine essential amino acids.”

If your four-legged friend has particularly exacting taste buds, they may take to Mr Bug’s range. There’s a ‘nutty one’, a ‘veggie one’ and even a ‘cheesy one’ to choose between. The Mr Bug team even worked with dog-friendly pubs in the south west so their treats will be available for purchase right next to your own pork scratchings. You may even feel tempted to try a bite with your pint.

As the UK's sole mealworm farm, the Devon-based Mr Bug offers consumers the chance to support home-grown industries. It’s not only bolstering the rural economy, but also championing a more sustainable form of farming.

Mr Bug is committed to a localised, circular economy. The company's approach sees its mealworms raised on Cornish bran, a vitamin-rich by-product of Cornish wheat milling. In return, their own farm’s mealworm manure acts as a nutritious, all-natural fertiliser that is returned to local wheat farms.

The business has received some encouraging financial backing so far. It was awarded a significant Innovate business grant following an extensive external review. It’s also received SEIS investment to help develop its operations.

Awards and recognition have followed swiftly. The founders appeared at Crufts and were interviewed on Channel 4 to showcase their different approach to dog nutrition. The business received the Global Good product of the year, a Nourish gold stamp for ingredient integrity, a Blue Patch for its environmental credentials, and a Good Shopping Guide ethical stamp, too.

There’s an exciting future ahead for an insect farming industry that’s poised for growth in the coming years – and it can’t come soon enough. According to findings from earth.org, insect farming saves about 100 times the carbon dioxide emissions and requires between 50% and 90% less land when compared to rearing livestock. The insect protein market is shaping up to be worth as much as $10 billion by 2030, and Mr Bug wants a piece of the pie.

As one of the top 100 businesses to watch in our 2024 index, Mr Bug is leading the way towards a better, more sustainable world for us and our four-legged friends.

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