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Are insects the superfood of the future?

Insects are being touted as the healthy, sustainable food source of the future, but will consumers be willing to dine on bugs? Canadean asked 2000 UK consumers.

Insects are predicted by many to be the superfood of tomorrow and are already popular in fine dining or as a novelty among more adventurous consumers. But will they be able to move beyond a foodie fad and be embraced by the average consumer? The European Union thinks so: it has offered member states US $3 million to research the use of insects in cooking. Similarly, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation has published a list of almost 2000 edible insect species. With 40 tonnes 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. However, they may prove a hard sell among more squeamish consumers. According to Canadean’s survey, 65% of consumers say that they would not be willing to try foods made from processed insects.

Marketing will be key in convincing consumers
A major obstacle to insect eating is palatability. Canadean research finds that consumers who are given detailed, flavour-focused product descriptions are more likely to consider eating insects, with 46% saying they would be willing to try them.  In comparison only 35% are considering trying insects when they are given minimal information about products. The way the insect-derived product is presented and marketed will be key in convincing consumers to give insects a try. According to Catherine O’Connor, senior analyst at Canadean, “Processed insects will be an easier sell than products where consumers can see the insects in front of them. To get past the disgust barrier, insect-derived foods must have a strong visual appeal and not be recognisably bug-based.”
Another way to boost the appeal of insect-derived foods is linking them in flavour and design to cultures where insect eating is more common, such as Africa and south-east Asia. Canadean’s survey finds that 6% of consumers who are willing to try insects would only eat them as part of a foreign cuisine. Moreover, receptiveness to insect-derived foods was higher among those who described themselves as eager to enjoy food from different cultures, with 51% of them willing to try insects. O’Connor explained, “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. However, the interest is there, especially among those who are hungry for new and exciting food experiences.”

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