Edible insects could be the next superfood, capable of delivering tasty, healthy and sustainable food – just don’t show consumers photos of the bugs, according to a study of 2,000 Britons conducted by research group Canadean.
Nearly half (46%) of those surveyed said they would be willing to try insects, if they received detailed, flavour-focused product descriptions. But only 35% would consider biting a bug if they were given only minimal information about products.
Catherine O’Connor, senior analyst at Canadean, said skilled marketing was the key to convincing customers to try insects on a plate. “Processed insects will be an easier sell than products where consumers can see the insects in front of them,” said O’Connor.
“To get past the disgust barrier, insect-derived foods must have a strong visual appeal and not be recognisably bug-based.”
Another marketing technique would be to stress insect-derived foods’s flavour and design and link them to cultures where diets including insects are more common, such as Africa and south-east Asia. Up to 6% of consumers who are willing to try insects would eat them only as part of a foreign cuisine, the survey revealed.
Eager to enjoy
Among those who described themselves as eager to enjoy food from different cultures, more than half (51%) were willing to try insects. But well over half (65%) of those surveyed were not open to persuasion – declaring they would not be willing to try foods made from processed insects.
“Overall, these findings show that marketers of insect-derived foods will have to work carefully to convince consumers that insects can be a part of their diet,” said O’Connor. “However, the interest is there, especially among those who are hungry for new and exciting food experiences.”
Meanwhile, the EU has offered Member States £1.76M to research the culinary uses of insects.
2,000 edible insect species
Also the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation has published a list of nearly 2,000 edible insect species. “With 40t of insects for every human on earth, insects are an abundant, sustainable food source that is rich in protein, iron and calcium and low in fat and cholesterol,” said Canadean.
“However, they may prove a hard sell among more squeamish consumers,” it added.
Still temped to try edible insects? London food start-up Ento is selling foods, said to be both healthy and sustainable, using edible insects.
Elsewhere, North American company Chapul describes its Thai bar as a “reviving and delicious mix” of cricket flour, coconut, ginger with a tangy hint of lime.
Further afield, Denmark’s Noma supplies beef tartar and ants.
Edible insects in numbers
- 46 – percentage of adults prepared to try eating insects
- 65 – percentage who would not
- 1.76M – £s offered to EU Member States to research the culinary uses of insects
- 2,000 – number of edible insect species
- 40 – tonnes of insects for every human on earth