Poor attitudes in the west will stop insects being food

By Nicholas Robinson

- Last updated on GMT

The west needs to overcome its fear of eating insects
The west needs to overcome its fear of eating insects

Related tags Nutrition Agriculture

Insects are unlikely to become a viable solution to feeding the increasing global population if western attitudes towards them remain negative, according to a leading analyst.

A decline in meat supply and a rise in demand for it would spur food businesses to look for alternative proteins, as the global population reached a predicted 9bn by 2050, said Media Eghbal, head of countries’ analysis at Euromonitor International.

“The answer ​[to feeding the world] could be insects, which are already being eaten in many parts of the world by an estimated 2bn people, according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations,” ​she said.

Viable food source

However, the most obvious challenge to insects becoming a viable food source for the future was the negative attitudes towards eating insects in western cultures, which had to change, she added.

“Insects are of nutritional value being high in protein, minerals and vitamins, while also a healthier alternative to fattier meat,” ​said Eghbal.

“Another benefit is the fact that they are relatively low cost to farm, compared to traditional agricultural methods and, therefore, could also provide an income for emerging market consumers.”

The number of households with an annual disposable income of £6,000 had risen by 298M between 2000 and 2013 in the emerging ‘BRIC’ economies (Brazil, Russia, India and China), she added.

BRIC economies

Within the BRIC economies, expenditure on meat had risen by 123% during the same period, while global meat and poultry production was estimated to reach a record high of 311Mt this year. Such a rise would increase the pressure on the meat industry, Eghbal claimed.

Various companies and governments around the world had already invested in research and were experimenting with insects in different ways, she said.

Research into insects as a viable food source has been taken more seriously as food security becomes more pressing as a result of a growing population and extreme weather, which has affected harvests.

Meanwhile, recent figures from New Nutrition Business have suggested that the overall value of the edible creepy-crawly industry would reach £230M​ by 2020.

Entomophagy – the eating of insects – was considered normal  by more than 2bn people worldwide, said the report, and could be worth a considerable amount as an industry if western consumers could get past the ‘ick factor’.

European consumer meat expenditure

European consumer meat expenditure

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Already a market

Posted by Julian Mellentin,

Nick Rousseau's comment below is absolutely correct. The "insect deniers" clearly don't realise that there already is an embryonic market of foods using insects as an ingredient and that many of these foods have good taste and texture.

The "early adopter" consumers are already embracing insects. Slowly, steadily, the market will grow.

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No-one would disagree that this is a challenge but...

Posted by Nick Rousseau,

Clearly, everything you read about insect protein becoming part of our diet points to the Yuck factor as a key barrier but this is far from insurmountable and there is research that is showing certain groups that will accept it more easily, and certain forms of delivery will also be a lot more acceptable. Evidence in the US is that demand is growing rapidly and insect based products are now available in thousands of mainstream shops selling food products, primarily focusing on novelty/gluten free/sustainability as the selling point but if this market discovers they are actually fine to eat then I am sure it will spread.
I offered Chocolate Chirp Cookies (made with cricket flour) at my (15 year old) daughter's birthday party and the reactions were mixed but a couple quite liked them representing 20%!!

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Insects provoke extreme reactions

Posted by Julian Mellentin,

Since we published our white paper on whether insects can be a food ingredient in the west we have learnt that the subject provokes extremely negative reactions from some people!

One thing you can be sure of about "new foods" - if people are saying "no-one will ever eat or drink that" the food is sure to be a success. For examples see food history: sushi, sashimi, Quorn, coffee, energy drinks, probiotic yoghurts and many, many more!

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