Small Giants

Interview with Francesco Majno, Small Giants

Are insects the future of food? We interviewed Francesco Majno, co-founder and CMO of Small Giants, a brand of insect-based crackers.

We had the fantastic opportunity to interview the co-founder and CMO of Small Giants, Francesco Majno. He talked to us about their thoughts behind bringing insects, a staple in most Asian diets to the western world. He also explained the reason for their recent rebranding, changing their name and design, which looks great! Francesco truly believes insects are part of the future of food and that we will be seeing an increase in their consumption.

By the way, their products are not fried insects on a stick as you might be picturing, but crackers. We have tried them and they really are good! Dip it in hummus or some guac and it makes for a perfect protein-filled snack.

1) How did the idea of creating snacks made out of crickets come about?

I have been friends with Edoardo for a long time. After reading the eye-opening report Edible Insects – Future prospects for food and feed security by FAO we started discussing why we don’t eat them ourselves when they are a normal part of people’s diets elsewhere, most notably in East Asia. We started to think about how best to introduce them to Western diets. We came up with the idea of using insect flour to make crackers as high-protein snacks. Our first Crické product launched in March 2019 to test the readiness of the market. We then took all the learnings from that first product and fed it into the development of our new brand Small Giants, which launched this November 2020.

2) Congratulations on the FAB awards! Your rebranding looks amazing, when did you decide it was time for a new look?

Small Giants is a rebrand of Crické. Crické was launched in the UK in 2019 to disrupt the EU’s healthy snacks market with insect-based products. After attracting thousands of consumers and building a community of fans and enthusiasts for the products, we decided to revamp the brand with a new identity.

After launching our first range of insect-based snacks as Crické we had been growing quite fast and there were opportunities for further scaling up – we closed an investment round of £150K in March 2020. The first brand, Crické, had been entirely crafted by us and with very limited budget, so it had many critical pain points and areas of improvement, such as issues in pronouncing Crické, not supporting the product expression, and doesn‘t help clarify the product‘s nature. Crické was referring exclusively to crickets limiting the possibility of expansion to other insects. With Crické the brand expression was not always meeting our customer expectations and brand essence needed to be better aligned to our brand values.

After gathering various feedback on essential brand-related topics during events and with online surveys from customers, stakeholders, and industry experts, we believed the time was exactly right to redefine our brand expression starting from our name.

We decided to take the risk and go the extra mile with a new identity.

Led by our design director, Andrea Di Nardo, we collaborated with Midday studio and the talented Brazilian artist, Fernando Molina, to imagine and to give shape to our new visual essence. We want to spark a movement for an entirely new way of snacking and to open consumers’ minds to the benefits of bugs with fantastic new flavours and a great product range. So wanting to smash a very stubborn taboo, the only way for us is to go bold! The new brand needed to be both visually and verbally striking to make people sit up and listen. By creating some giant crickets characters entirely covering the front of the pack, it’s very difficult not to grab people’s attention. With our snacks, we make the weird wonderful and the brand had to communicate exactly this, something quirky could also be amazing!

3) Have you seen any differences in consumer acceptance from it?

Yes, the acceptance has surely changed thanks to the new brand and the new product range but also to a different way to communicate. Communicating all the benefits, for the environment and for our health, that edible insects can bring is extremely important to drive the acceptance towards this new food. What doesn’t work is to push on the thrilling factor such as using strong images of hairy tarantulas or proposing weird recipes with insects. We need to communicate all the good reasons for eating insects rather than using shocking images only to impress. At Small Giants, we believe our idea of insect-based snacks with no visible insects is the ideal way to try insects for the first time without feeling any ‘yuck factor’.

4) What were the biggest challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?

Dr. Tilly Collins, senior academic at the Imperial College London, affirms: “Insects are good for us: they are rich in protein, fat, and can be a significant source of vitamins and minerals. Consuming insects is already an everyday practice for two billion people worldwide.” But in the West insects are not considered as traditional food and herein lies the challenge. Giovanni Sogari, a consumer researcher at the University of Parma, stated: “The so-called ‘yuck factor’ makes the thought of eating insects repellent to many Europeans.”

Our current range of snacks are Great Taste Awards winners and the judges highlighted: “We can see them being used for many culinary uses, such as with cheese, paté, snacks or canapés.” Meaning that the current range of snacks not only has gained international recognition in the world’s largest and most trusted food and drink awards but also that insect-based food could be a competitor with traditional foods in terms of overall product quality. So, we are confident that the direction taken could really help towards a wider acceptance of insects as part of our daily eating habits.

5) Do you believe we will see more insect-based products in the future?

Yes, I have no doubt about it. Our food habits have constantly been changing during human history and we are now witnessing an epochal transition from traditional meat-based proteins to a wider range of alternatives. This is happening because people are increasingly aware of the devastating impact of traditional proteins. In the past, when a new food was introduced into another culture, it usually took quite a long time to be accepted. Today, the acceptance phase has drastically shortened.  We should be aiming at game-changing solutions and insects are among the most promising alternatives, offering huge advantages both in terms of nutritional values and sustainability.

6) Where do you see Small Giants in 5 years?

While our journey has just begun, Small Giants was born in October 2020, the response has been very good so far. We have already secured a listing in a major UK supermarket, Sainsbury’s, our online sales are growing rapidly all over Europe and we won an EU grant to develop our new range of products! The amazing feedback that we are receiving from both customers and journalists clearly proves that the concept is correct and that this kind of product has a bright future ahead. Our long-term strategy is to introduce a new range each year in order to strengthen our positioning in the savory snack market. We aim at sparking a movement for an entirely new way of healthy snacking and at introducing insects into our everyday diet!

For more interviews like this one, click here!

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