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.
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