“When Ento was asked to write a blog post for Smarta about being a British brand, I was quite surprised. I had not given much thought to our national identity. Of Ento's four co-founders, Jon, Jacky and I are British, though my parents hail from Sri Lanka and Jacky's are from Hong Kong, and Julene grew up in Mexico! What unites us is our shared love of food, and concern for the environmental issues surrounding our food supply.
The four of us met at the Royal College of Art and Imperial College's Innovation Design Engineering MA/MSc course. We realised we had a common desire to creatively solve some of the most pressing issues that we face today on this planet. We all love food, but food security and how to feed everyone in the world is a massive problem we will all have to face in the future.
Through our research, we found that insects are an extremely sustainable source of food. They convert what they're fed into protein nine times more efficiently than cattle. If you feed a cow 10 kilos of grain, you will eventually gain one kilo of beef. If you give 10 kilos of feed to insects, you would get nine kilos of protein. In an agricultural farming system insects use less land, less water and less energy, and thus are much lighter on the environment. And that's not to mention how delicious insects are!
Our research showed us how promising insects are as a potential future food. What we also found was that no matter how good insects look on paper, when they're served on a plate, it is very difficult to take that first bite. We knew that as a team of designers, we could create a new food culture around insects, dressing and presenting them in the most desirable way possible and using our design knowledge and insight to really analyse and use the emotions we experience when eating food. And so Ento was born.
When we work on Ento we're always drawing on culinary references from around the world to create a whole new food culture around insects as a food. So though our name and products sometimes evoke Japanese bento boxes, we are also drawing from our knowledge of Mexican, Chinese and traditional English cuisine and cooking techniques.
Ento is thus quite hard to place culturally. However, we really think that the only place where the four of us could have met, with our diverse backgrounds, is the UK. Being in Britain has enabled us to draw upon an incredible diversity of foods and cultures. Meeting and studying at the Royal College of Art and Imperial College London provided the backdrop and framework that allowed us to get Ento up and running. So being British, for us, means being able to immerse ourselves in the incredible diversity and institutions of Great Britain. We believe that having a .co.uk domain is symbolic of that.
Having a .co.uk domain really allows us to emphasise the best bits about operating in Britain; the cultural diversity which makes up our team, that inspires our food and hopefully what will define our market. Compared with a .com domain, it also makes our company feel a lot more close and personal, which is genuinely the way we want to operate.
Our activities over the past year have been diverse, to say the least! After graduating, we got started by catering various events with insect canapés. We've served food at the Edinburgh International Science Festival, the Science Museum, 100% Design, and Futurefest.
We're also pursuing an educational mission by running workshops with children and asking them to redesign our planet's food supply. We even get them to brand their own line of insect food products for different markets. But our biggest event this year has been collaborating with Grey Goose's Iconoclasts of Taste project. With their support, we've hosted several cocktail and canapé evenings, culminating in August with our 'Eat Ento' pop-up restaurant, where guests were served a 4-course meal of insect cuisine.
This year we'll be further investigating how insect foods can be introduced to the UK market, where we believe there is massive potential for this delicious new food, not just with adventurous eaters, but with those who really want quality food and new eating experiences. We're really focusing on the UK market, which sometimes comes as a surprise to many people, who think that insects would be a great way to provide food in developing countries or famine-hit areas. We do think ideas like these are great and are worth pursuing, but we have a much longer term vision for the role of insects in our diets. We've found the diets in rapidly developing countries usually tend towards a more western menu.
As a growing middle-class becomes more and more affluent, the diet tends to include more meat and dairy, which puts massive strains on local ecosystems. So by popularising insects in the west, and proving them here to be the delicious and sustainable food that they are, we can hopefully act as a model for other countries' diets. Of course we have sights on the rest of the world too, but we think the UK is ready for our food now!”