Have you heard of the bug-based diet?

Holly Branson with the founders of Yum Bug
Kami White
Holly Branson
Holly Branson's writing
Published on 12 April 2023

What happens when an insect scientist and a foodie walk into a bar? They invent a range of edible bugs, and launch a business called Yum Bug.

Yum Bug is the most brilliant start-up, launched by Leo (a food branding guru) and Aaron (an entomologist). Leo and Aaron connected on Instagram through a shared love of insects, and then worked together to invent a range of cricket-based ingredients (including mince and strips) that are a whole lot healthier and more sustainable than most protein alternatives. They’re genuinely really tasty too.

Yum Bug's aubergine cricket dish
Yum Bug

This all happened in lockdown, when the pair had time to turn their big ideas into a proper business. My husband, Freddie, heard about Yum Bug in 2021 and we invested in it soon afterwards when we learned that insects are a sustainable, delicious superfood and that over two billion people in 80% of the world’s countries eat bugs. If more people in the Western world followed suit, we’d be looking at a much healthier and more sustainable food system. 

As part of my Investing With Purpose series, I caught up with Leo and Aaron at their test kitchen in London, where we cooked up some bug-filled tacos and discussed the key ingredients to launching a sustainable start-up. Spoiler alert: the tacos were delicious and if you were none the wiser, you would never know you were munching on insects.  

Investing With Purpose: Holly Branson chats to the founders of Yum Bug

I loved hearing how passionately both Aaron and Leo spoke about the future of food, and about how bugs can address sustainability issues in the food system. As Leo put it:

[We can] create a more sustainable food system by taking insects mainstream.

The reason bugs are so sustainable is that the farming requires significantly less land and water than other proteins, and the insects release considerably less CO2 and GHG emissions. I really love how Yumbug’s crickets are farmed in England too - fantastic for both providing employment and reducing food miles. 

I was also fascinated by their approach to convincing people that bugs can be delicious and nutritious. As Aaron and Leo mentioned, you need to catch people in the right headspace. This is why they approached restaurants instead of supermarkets. When you’re at a restaurant, you’re more inclined to try something different (especially if it’s packaged within an exciting dish) than when you’re doing your weekly shop. This is such clever advice for any start-up that sells innovative but unconventional products, that might require a bit of persuasion.

Holly Branson cooking tacos with the founders of Yum Bug
Kami White

It was brilliant to see that Leo and Aaron aren’t afraid to put themselves out there and have a bit of fun with their marketing. They often go out in giant bug costumes to hand out samples and put Yum Bug’s name on the map. It reminded me of how Dad raised awareness about Virgin in the early days, when they didn’t have any money for marketing. I’ve also inherited my dad’s love of costumes, so I couldn’t resist trying on an insect suit myself too…

Thank you to Leo and Aaron for cooking up such a feast for me, and for creating the grub of the future. It’s brilliant to see Yum Bug dishes popping up in pubs and restaurants all over London, and I can’t wait to see what happens next. 

Head to www.yumbug.com to see what all of the fuss is about, or become a stockist too.