How technology supports sustainable revolution in the pet food industry? Interview with Dr. Ina Henkel, CEO of EntoNativeAnna Sawicka
4 January 2021
Reading Time: 6 minutes
Since this year Kiwee has collaborated with Tenetrio, Potsdam based company producing innovative, sustainable insect-based food and snacks for dogs. We have rebuilt the online store from the scratch. The main goals have been to improve the processes and the UX, to highlight Tenetrio's mission. Below you will find interesting insights about the background of the strategy shared with us by Ina Henkel, the CEO of Tenetrio.
How did you get involved in the “edible insects' world" and why did you decide to start the TENETRIO?
The idea for TENETRIO was born at the University of Potsdam, where Katrin and I were working as research assistants on nutritional issues in developing countries. During business trips to Asia and Africa, we first came into contact with the topic of "edible insects". Over time, a research project developed into the business idea of actually putting the potential of edible insects into practice. The resource-intensive use of meat as well as the deplorable state of affairs in the pet food market was the motivation for us to break new ground. After Sabrina also got passionate about the idea, the team of founders was complete. With insects as an alternative protein source, we want to offer dog lovers a sustainable, balanced, and healthy diet for their four-legged friends.
What is a good answer to "why should I buy your insect-based dog food”?
As a dog owner, you want to have a carefree time with your animal friend. The basis of a happy dog life is a healthy and wholesome diet. However, more and more dogs suffer from food intolerances. Especially for dog owners with allergies the search for the right food becomes a real challenge. And this is not only due to the compatible composition of the food, but also, for example, to the incomprehensible or even intransparent declaration of the ingredients. Insect-based food from TENETRIO offers dogs with such nutritional requirements a safe option.
Our product philosophy follows a minimalist approach: as few ingredients as possible, as many as necessary. We do not add sugar, gluten, colorants, or flavor enhancers. The ingredients are transparently declared so that the owner knows exactly what he is feeding his pets.
Furthermore, thanks to the use of sustainable insect protein, the products make an active contribution to protecting the environment. We like to illustrate this with the example of the important resource "water". A dog weighing approx. 40 kg saves a whole 11,500 liters of water with the daily ration of our dry food, the VEGETABLE GARDEN, compared to a product containing beef. And so that you can actively monitor your own contribution to the environment, we note on every package how much water is saved.
What is the advantage of insect-based pet food prepared over traditional pet food?
In general, a dog must absorb proteins, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals through its food. If he gets all of these nutrients in sufficient quantities through his food, nothing stands in the way of a carefree dog's life, i.e. he can maintain his bodily functions, keep his immune system intact and strengthen his muscles. Insects contain high-quality proteins and a complete amino acid profile. They are therefore an equivalent protein source to conventional meat suppliers. The vitamins and minerals they contain form an ideal basis for the dog's metabolic processes and the immune system. Insects are also a very sustainable source of protein. Breeding insects saves resources because they only require a fraction of water, food, and space. Thanks to the slightly nutty taste of insects, dogs also get their money's worth.
Are the insects a suitable protein source for dogs?
Insects are proven to be a great and above all adequate protein alternative that is in no way inferior to conventional meat suppliers such as cattle, chicken, or fish. We use mealworms for our products. They are healthy because they have a complete amino acid profile. This means that they have all the amino acids a dog needs. The protein content of the mealworm is comparable to that of beef. Mealworms also have a high content of unsaturated fatty acids. The essential fatty acids, linoleic acid, and other omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are particularly noteworthy. As already mentioned above, insects provide the quadrupeds with many micronutrients, which we know from vegetables and fruits. Thus mealworms provide the dog with many vitamins such as biotin and minerals such as magnesium, which are important for healthy skin and shiny coat, among other things.
Does it help the planet if a dog eats insect-based food?
This is a very important question that drives us at TENETRIO on a daily basis to provide even more dogs with insect-based food and thus achieve a sustainable effect in terms of environmental protection. We currently assume that in just under 30 years, around 10 billion people will populate our unique planet. The healthy nutrition of all people is a real challenge. Since dogs are an integral part of our civilization, more of them will have to be provided with healthy food. We at TENETRIO are convinced that there is no future for conventional meat production here. We urgently need alternatives!
The breeding of insects is much more environmentally friendly and efficient than that of conventional farm animals. Insects do not need the energy to maintain their body temperature and can therefore put the energy from their food directly into their own growth. As a result, they require less food and also much less water than conventional farm animals, such as cattle. Their space requirements are also significantly reduced, as they love dense population density, unlike mammals. Besides, they emit hardly any greenhouse gases and thus contribute very little to the greenhouse effect. Another advantage of mealworms: they are 100% edible. This means that no further waste is produced during the processing of the animals.
Could insects be the wonder food of the future for humans? Are we going to eat insects in the future?
As a nutritional scientist, the core of a healthy diet for me is a varied diet. But in terms of sustainable nutrition, we have to rethink today and focus more clearly on sustainability. I am convinced of the potential of edible insects as a sustainable protein alternative and I believe that edible insects have a role to play in all our diets. Changing food culture is a lengthy process and animal foods are firmly anchored in the Western menu. Insects offer a real animal protein alternative. I see how well this can work when we cook insect buffets with children or young people. Expanding the sustainable menu with curiosity is the challenge and insects can make their contribution here.
What will be the impact of insect-based pet food on the pet food market? Is the European market ready for insect-based pet food?
The issue of sustainability is becoming increasingly important in the pet food market. The growing awareness of sustainable consumption and the willingness of future generations to actively address this issue is changing the market. From packaging to alternative protein sources, many topics are being addressed by the many players in the market. However, the insect market is still very manageable. The data on market shares is virtually non-existent. However, the number of market players who have recognized the potential of insects is increasing noticeably. Often as an extension to an existing portfolio of conventional meat sources, more and more products containing insect protein are being introduced. The increasing consumer demand makes it necessary to address the ever-pressing issue of sustainability and to develop the market accordingly.
What are the essential features in your online store, which make the customer experience awesome?
We have put a lot of love and energy into our web presence. Thanks to the cooperation with great partners like Kiwee, we have created an online store that makes it easy for customers to find all relevant information about our products. It was extremely important to us to give a fresh appearance that does not preach with a raised forefinger but makes it easy for dog owners to find out the advantages of our products. We are transparent in what we do. This should be reflected in our online store. And of course, our abundance of products should be presented in an appealing way. The bestsellers, for example, are immediately presented to the customer at a glance thanks to the slider.
Whether treats, dry or wet food, with us, the customer finds a wide range of products for the vital and sustainable nutrition of the dog. Even in the sometimes hectic everyday life the complete supply of the dog needs to be secured. Here we make life easier for dog owners with our subscription function and offer the possibility to always have sufficient food in the house.
We want to make the ordering process as easy as possible for our visitors and offer different payment options and flexible payment methods.
It is very important to us to share our knowledge with our TENETRIO community and to help them with advice and support. We are happy to involve experts when writing blog posts and are constantly expanding our guide with tips and tricks on all aspects of dog health and the carefree life with your four-legged friend.
What are your plans for the nearest future?
Using insects as a sustainable protein alternative is a challenge we face every day. We see ourselves to some extent as pioneers who tirelessly inform and sensitize on this topic. With TENETRIO we are developing vital and sustainable nutrition to give as many dog owners as possible a carefree life with their four-legged friend. On our way, we are focusing on the German and German-speaking market and successively on other European countries. Our goal is to turn more and more pet owners into world-changers and make their feeding plans more sustainable.
If you would like to know more about cooperation between Kiwee and Tenetrio, read our case study.