This SA entrepreneur is turning caterpillars into biscuits and chocolates that are gaining global attention

Abu Mubarik February 09, 2023
Vesela tried to woo reluctant customers with biscuits and protein bars at a recent food fair in Johannesburg's upmarket Sandton district EMMANUEL CROSET AFP

Caterpillars or mopane worms in South Africa are a valuable source of protein and are also environmentally friendly when farming and requires no extra water or land. They naturally breed and feed on mopane trees, which grow in hot and dry regions of southern Africa.

Mopane is eaten in many communities in South Africa’s Limpopo province. It is often cooked in a sauce of onions and tomatoes. One South African entrepreneur wants to export the delicacy to the rest of the world but not in the form it is popularly consumed in South Africa, according to AFP.

A chemical engineer by profession, Wendy Vesela is turning caterpillars into tasty snacks. She turns the black and green mopane caterpillars into savoury biscuits, sweet chocolate protein bars, cereals or smoothies and pizza toppings. She works with rural women who gather the mopanes before they are gutted, boiled and dried. They can subsequently be used whole or milled, she explained to AFP.

According to her, she ventured into turning caterpillars into snacks so as to change the way edible caterpillars are viewed and eaten, particularly in Western Europe, where many still have fears eating insects, according to AFP.

Vesela said her organic products have caught both local and international attention. The caterpillars are “a healthier option of protein,” she told AFP. And it’s “not a worm. So, people have just to get over that fear.”

At a recent event, Vesela pitched her products to potential customers in Johannesburg’s upmarket Sandton district. Health experts have said over the years that mopanes are a better source of protein than many other foods consumed. They are high in protein, essential fats and minerals, particularly iron.

Since Vesela started her venture nearly three years ago, there have been rising demands and she plans to expand her business and have multiple harvests a year.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: February 9, 2023


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