Updated: Apr 23
What do you imagine when someone says cricket crisps or roasted mealworms? Are you on a street corner in South East Asia sampling a deep fried tarantula, or you watching a challenge on an episode of Survivor? This cuisine, known as entomophagy isn't a new concept with Ancient Romans and Greeks known to have indulged. Today, however, we have become so accustomed to what we consider proteins, and insects are yet to be commonly one of them.
With entomophagy ticking two out of three pillars of sustainability: people and planets*, what is needed to change consumer opinion and take up a protein that supports a sustainable future?
And with the pillars of sustainability aligning with the three key areas of what consumers deem most important in their purchasing decisions, we need to break down what we know about the positive impact of entomophagy.
Research shows that health and nutrition are at the forefront of consumers minds when they step into their local grocery store. We are cutting back on our sugar consumption, dairy and seeking the latest food fads. Insects are packed with protein, good fats and are high in calcium, iron and zinc. Human health= people box ticked.
When surveying a group of 1000 Australians to uncover the perceptions, values and behaviours of Australian consumers and businesses towards environmental sustainability, PHD Research discovered that over 90% are concerned about environmental sustainability. While that figure is enlightening, only half are proactive in their day-to-day activities. Insects are recyclers of nutrients, pollinators and form an essential part of the food chain; dictating biodiversity. Because breeding insects isn’t a land-based activity, there is no land clearing required, and they emit considerably fewer greenhouse gases. As a poster food choice in a circular value chain, they can be fed organic waste streams and are light to export. Planet box ticked.
So if consumers knew more about how the edible insect trade confidently ticks two of the three pillars to sustainability boxes, would they give entomophagy an opportunity in their pantry?
If we are to integrate insects into our daily diet, it is vital to provide solutions to consumers that integrate and fit conveniently into their day to day life. By transforming insects into formats that consumers are familiar with will allow these nutrient powerhouses to be more readily accessible and accepted.
In October last year, grocery store giant Woolworths released cricket powder under their Macro brand. Skye Blackburn, entomologist and food scientist, formed The Edible Bug Shop, a platform to sell products but to also educate consumers on reconsidering their misconceptions. A large part of Skye’s work has been selecting and breeding insects that have amazing nutritional profiles but also can easily be hidden (taste, texture, colour) resulting in her success to date.
Perhaps we need to focus on slowly integrating insects into our food like Blackburn’s dark chocolate with ants instead of selling the sustainability factor of entomophagy. And when the cuisine becomes more widely acceptable, we can drum the message of entomophagy’s contribution to a better tomorrow.
*Note that not enough evidence supports profits however it is considered a low capital investment in the developing world. Click here to learn more about entomophagy’s potential and current market in South East Asia.