Interview with Conal Cunningham, founder of Mr Bug
Find out how lockdown inspired Conal Cunningham to love to Devon with his wife and launch Mr Bug, a bug snack for dogs.
What’s your career background?
Eclectic is probably the most appropriate word to use. From a short heart pumping stint in the marines to moving to London with my guitar, a pocket full of plectrums and a steely determination to be the next big thing in rock.
I enjoyed a little success but not enough to get the wider music fraternity to sway to my rhythm. At this point a polite intervention from my long-suffering wife suggested that it was time to live a little less in the moment and a little more in the future, which was the moment I set up a small Shepherd’s Bush studio, which to many people’s surprise, (including my own) become a leading light in its field.
When COVID took hold, my wife and I decided that this was the perfect moment to pursue our dream of moving to the countryside, so we set our sights on Devon where my military training had taken place earlier. The thought of an insect farm had been niggling at the back of head for ever and a day and after a few beers and a belly full of laughter I somehow convinced a good friend of mine to join my grubby venture.
As for my tentative first moved into pet’s world this came courtesy of my good wife who you’re starting to see is behind a lion’s share of my better ideas, who’d herself designed and patented a rather stylish poo bag keyring holder (the baggee) which enjoyed mild if not meteoric success.
What’s Mr Bug’s USP?
Delicious bug-based treats using the Rolls Royce of edible grubs the noble mealworms, meal worms with a rich Devon accent who’ve been brought up on local rural food and drink. Most grubs used in Europe emanate from the Holland and Belgium, who are a little further along the ‘grub acceptance’ curve.
Who is your ideal customer?
Well informed, professional 30s types, who care about what they wear, the latest trends and food movements, wordle and their dog’s wider wellbeing.
Why is Mr Bug so relevant today?
Because the planet is in turmoil and we need to start thinking a little more responsibly, tracking down more sustainable and ethical farming practices that are less land and water greedy and generate less carbon dioxide!
It’s also worth highlighting that grub appreciation that is already bedded down in 80% of the world’s countries is finally enjoying traction in a historically hesitant West (Europe and North America) where an over-arching ‘yuck factor’ had historically stifled progress. A responsibly fostered mealworm offers more calcium than milk, more B12 than salmon, more iron than spinach, and all nine essential amino acids.
What occasion is Mr Bug perfect for?
Responsible treat time. The great learning in human food is that snacking needn’t simply be lazy calories, excessive salt and pointless synthetic nasties because any food occasion can be a tasty yet nutritious pitstop.
The growing influence of pet humanisation means that the recent trend of dietary self-inspection (ingredient integrity, nutritional prowess… has spilled over into ‘pet parents wanting a better grasp of the family dog’s mealtime wellbeing.
What do you believe will be the next big dog food trend?
Entovegan appreciation is exactly that – dogs are the perfect staging post for humans to get on side with grub consumption. This is the future!
How did you move from idea to actual business?
Lockdown was the all-important call-to-arms to leave London and seek out a more rewarding rural lifestyle.
What’s the biggest single obstacle you’ve had to overcome?
The aforementioned yuck factor!
What lessons did you learn during lockdown?
Big cities aren’t the be all and everything!
What’s your advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Enjoy what you do! A job is an adventure not a life sentence, and seize the quiet time.
What food or drink brand do you admire most from afar?
Any brand with a ‘back-to-basics’ mindset that openly embraces nature’s plentiful larder. It’s time to get away from lazy fillers and over-processed unnecessaries. The days of mass market, one-size-fits all meal solutions for both humans and pets are long gone!
Is there any CSR strand to Mr Bug?
We’re a new-to-market start-up so there’s a limit to what we can do. HOWEVER we are employing and supporting young people who haven’t had a proper job before, helping them develop essential career skills like time keeping and personal organisation.
What’s next for Mr Bug?
Perhaps a protein bar for deserving hounds.
Find out more about Mr Bug.