Food production from insect flours: is it possible? 

This is Francesco Majno and Edoardo Imparato's mission. These two entrepreneurs came up with the idea seven years ago and shortly thereafter set their sights on this project.

Majno is 35 years old and lives in Turin, while Imparato is 34 years old and lives in Milan. Both are originally from Lombardy's capital city. 

The company is called Small Giants. Majno is also a former student at the Politecnico, where he obtained his Bachelor's and Master's degrees in communication design.

The start-up was born in 2017 from the two friends' idea. The choice to leave England was a regulatory one: there, there was regulation for food created with insect flour, whereas in Europe this was still not the case, it would come later. Now things have switched somewhat, as we will see later.

The Small Giants brand and the first product were launched in November 2020. In 2023, the company was moved to Italy, to Milan. It was a full relocation: both in legal matters and in terms of production and logistics. The target market is also Italy.

Small Giants currently offers three products (cracker bites, crispy bakes and easy mixes) and has an estimated turnover of €300,000.

We interviewed Majno who clarified many aspects of this innovative company (“innovative for Europe”, he would say). 

Francesco Majno and Edoardo Imparato

How did this project come about? 

"More than what we were studying at university, it was something we were interested in. Edoardo and I have been friends for a long time. We have always wondered about food sustainability, we both don’t eat meat, for both sustainability and ethical reasons. We look for alternative sources of protein. As a result, we were passionate about insect flour, and we read an FAO document that was a beacon, for us and for many. It explained various aspects including that different species of insects have long been consumed in different parts of the world”.  

What are the characteristics of food made from insect flour? 

"Environmentally and nutritionally they are outstanding. They are superfoods. Crickets, for example, have a very high protein content, up to 80%. And from an environmental point of view, they have a very low demand for water, land and feed and have lower greenhouse gas emissions compared to traditional animal proteins such as red meat”. 

In short, you decided to try it... 

"Yes, after reading and studying all this we were fascinated by it and asked ourselves: how is it possible that this super food exists and nobody in Europe is considering it, in fact, they’re disgusted by it?" 

And what did you choose to start making foods with? 

"We decided to use a flour, which is more familiar, and can be used to make a number of products, trying to give it a traditional and more palatable form for us western consumers." 

If you had to identify a philosophy behind Small Giants? 

"Trying to bring insects as a sustainable protein into the diet of us Westerners, and not doing so as an exotic extravagance but as an everyday food." 

What products did you start making? 

“Crispy bakes, snacks, cracker bites and now we have launched a new product, an easy mix for making burgers, meatballs, and falafel that replaces things made with meat." 

Do you have insect farms here in Italy? 

"No, and I don't think we ever will. The people who farm them are experts, and the farms are also very complex to manage. We buy flours made from the common cricket or buffalo worms, which use to make our crispy bakes. We have two different farmer/suppliers. I am one of few with EU authorisation to market these flours”. 

Where are these two farms? 

"One in the Netherlands, which supplies us with buffalo worm flour and the other in Vietnam, for cricket flour. The climate in tropical countries is ideal for insects, because they are cold-blooded animals”. 

Do you encounter more issues with red tape or cultural resistance from people to these foods?

"Mainly red tape. Such as having to leave the UK. We are strongly constrained and, rightly in my opinion, controlled. Health and hygiene constraints are also vast. That's the first problem, it's a product that will remain niche for a while, because you have to convey too many things. The first response you get from the average person is “why should I eat something made from cricket flour?” For people used to experimenting, it’s a good thing and they go for it, but many people are more reluctant, because they don't associate insects with food”. 

Exactly how many products do you make and sell? 

“Currently three. Cracker bites with a percentage of cricket flour. They are crackers that have three times the protein content of any other type of traditional cracker. They are also high in vitamin B12 and have other micronutrients. If you eat a 40-gram packet, you are eating 10 grams of protein. Then there are crispy bakes and easy mixes that you can use to make burgers”. 

Do you any interesting titbits to share? 

"Well, for example, we already consume half a kilo of insects per year, unknowingly. It is impossible to remove insects from crops. Tomatoes, lettuce, ears of wheat, all will have some. Italian law allows what they call “insect contamination”. So everyone already eats insects”. 

Tell us about the move from the UK to Italy, how did it happen and why? 

"There were several reasons. Until Brexit we were selling our products in a well-known chain, the second largest in the country. Then with these new regulations, they actually went back on these products. We would have preferred to stay in Italy from the start, but out of necessity we started where we could actually do it”. 

And can your products be found in Italian supermarkets? 

“Not yet. We are talking to supermarkets, but as the regulations are recent and supermarkets take a long time, we have not yet succeeded. The interest is there. By September or so you might be able to find Small Giants products on the shelves”. 

How do you sell your products then? 

“In Italy on the website or other distributors, which, however, are not the same as large-scale organised distribution. In Poland, for example, we can be found in Ochan, a very important supermarket, and we hope to get into another one soon”. 

How many people work at Small Giants? And what is the turnover? 

“Full time there are three people, then there are a number of collaborators and consultants. The turnover for this year is expected to be around €300,000”. 

How did your studies at the Politecnico influence your career path? 

“At Small Giants my studies in communication design have served me well. For example, to give the brand identity. And it has certainly had a positive impact on the partial success, so far, of our brand”. 

The name Small Giants is very cute.. 

"We chose it after rebranding with a London-based communications agency." 

We're all done, is there anything you want to add? 

“I would like to say this: on 21 June we launched an equity crowdfunding campaign, in essence we are selling a part of the company to investors. Minimum contribution to enter 250 euro (all info can be found here)"