Entrepreneur Leah Bessa is a food fundi on a mission to turn ice cream and dairy products made from insects into a mainstream alternative in shops and restaurants.

The Gourmet Grubb journey started when I was doing my Masters in Food Science, researching alternatives to meat as a source of protein and fat in human diets. Realising that there are already plenty of plant-based alternatives available, my focus shifted to dairy. Alternatives such as almond milk aren’t sustainable because of the land, water and particular climate required to grow industrial quantities of almonds,” explained Bessa.

When asked why it is important for us to consider insects as part of our diet, Bessa said that the main reason is that the world is fast becoming over populated and traditional livestock won’t keep pace. “The greenhouse emissions from livestock coupled with the acidification of the soil from the manure make meat production unsustainable. And the soil where crops are cultivated are losing nutrients, again because of pressure on the land and lack of crop rotation to allow the soil to recover,” she said.

The first product to emerge from Gourmet Grubb was Entomilk, which redefines the way we think about insects as a food source. The name comes from the term ‘entomophagy’, which is the practice of eating insects. Entomilk is a healthy alternative to traditional dairy and it’s sustainable and environmentally friendly. Ice cream was the logical next step and it’s filled with proteins and minerals including iron, zinc and calcium.

This product development was initially self-funded by Bessa and her three partners. Later the team obtained a grant from TIA (Technology Innovation Agency) to work with CPUT on validating the products and compiling the nutrient information. Now that Gourmet Grubb is coming out of the prototype development phase, the work lies in educating and creating a market for the goods.

“We now need to obtain seed funding to make our delicious ice cream available on the shelves. I’m currently doing my PhD in Food Science and ideally I would like to make Gourmet Grubb my full-time career!”

Leah Bessa will be on the entrepreneurs’ panel at FundEX on Thursday 16 August.