A ladle of ... insect proteins

The industry is constantly being moved by new trends – we track them down. In our series ‘A ladle ...’ we regularly present exciting projects and personalities from the food and gastronomy scene. Today, we dive into the world of SWARM. We spoke with founder Christopher Zeppenfeld.


It began with a journey through Asia and eventually became a high-quality protein bar that athletes and sports scientists swear by. With one distinctive feature: The protein used for the bars once had 6 legs. To find out why insect protein is good for the environment, read the interview with Dr Christopher Zeppenfeld, founder and CEO.

Christopher, you have been snacking your way through Asia’s insect-based cuisine: What was that all about?     

Eating bugs is not very common in Germany. But the facts actually speak for themselves: insects are full of great nutrients and also extremely sustainable. A report from the UN’s agricultural department in 2013 inspired us to think about insect products on the European market. It was not that easy to imagine eating bugs without batting an eye. We wanted to experience what it was like, so we travelled to a place where insects have been an integral part of the diet for quite some time: Southeast Asia.

When we arrived there, we bought motorcycles and for three and a half months we drove through Vietnam, Laos and Thailand, sampling the colourful insect landscape. There was something for everyone, from beginner-friendly pupae to the more adventurous hornet larvae. It quickly became clear to us that we would bring edible insects to Germany, but in a form that was more in line with our domestic eating habits – as a snack!

What makes insect proteins so valuable for the human body?

Basically, insects are a great source of protein due to their high proportion. In our products we use crickets that consist of up to 70% protein. Even better, this is very high-quality protein because it contains all nine essential amino acids. The body cannot produce essential amino acids on its own, but they are extremely important for building and maintaining muscles. Crickets are also rich in important micronutrients. For example, they contain a high amount of vitamin B12, zinc and iron.

Good for the body and good for the environment? What advantages do insect proteins offer over conventional animal husbandry?

Crickets are ectothermic, which means that their body temperature is determined by the ambient temperature. Therefore, they do not need energy from feed to maintain their body temperature. As a result, feed contributes directly to their body growth, allowing them to use it to produce protein. This high efficiency makes them very resource-friendly. Compared to cattle as a traditional source of protein, crickets require only about 8% of feed, 2% of water and produce less than 1% of greenhouse gases.

SWARM Protein

Cologne startup SWARM, founded by Timo Bäcker and Dr Christopher Zeppenfeld in 2015, offered food based on insect protein. ‘Actually, we thought it would be more likely that we’d find our target audience online. Initially, we planned a fairly linear sales structure with a start in e-commerce. But obviously we didn’t consider the food retail industry, which has been interested in our innovative products based on insect protein since we launched’, says co-founder Bäcker about the structure of the startup. During the Corona crisis, the Cologne-based start-up had to cease operations at the beginning of 2021.


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