There is a good chance that consumption of insects can be introduced to the food habits of Western European populations, according to new research that found Belgian consumers were 'ready to buy and cook' insects.
A team of scientists in Belgium investigated the socio-cultural and basic food formulation aspects related to edible insect consumption in a group of consumers - and found that eating insects was 'mainly well accepted' by participants in the study whatever their age or sex.
Led by Rudy Caparros Megido from the University of Liège, the team developed a series of hedonic tests associated with a survey about the perception of consuming insects (entomophagy) and purchase intentions, to determine whether there really was potential for insects to replace or complement traditional protein sources.
"This study shows the edible insects' potential to become a usual food ingredient in Western European populations," said the team. "Our results show that consumers are ready to buy and cook insects at home if they are able to associate them with familiar flavours."
Writing in the Journal of Sensory Studies, they added that their findings provide the first results on possible acceptance of entomophagy in Western populations, but noted that further research was needed, "and is in progress in our laboratory, to improve our understanding of insect neophobia and to know the real expectations of the population and the consumers of tomorrow."
Food Vision Event
'Insects as Foods' will be a key topic at the forthcoming Food Vision , an event organised by the publishers of FoodNavigator. Click here to find out more about FoodVision , taking place in Cannes, France in April 2014.Food Vision event. At the event Professor Arnold van Huis will be speaking about the potential for insects as mainstream foods.
The team recruited 189 participants from visitors to a Belgian insectarium, who were then asked a series of questions from a two-part questionnaire - the first one before hedonic tests and the second after this test.
Three questions were asked before the test: (1) Are you informed about entomophagy? (2) Are you really interested in eating insects? (3) Do you have a negative feeling toward entomophagy?
In the hedonic taste test, Caparros Megido and colleagues offered participants preparations of two insects - mealworm and house cricket - in different forms: "house crickets were baked at 200C for 15 min (1) or boiled for 8 min (2); mealworms were baked at 200C for 7 min (3) or boiled for 6.5 min (4); a crushed mix (1:1) of baked house crickets and mealworms (5); baked mealworms flavored with a pinch of dried vanilla (6) or paprika (7). Baked mealworms were also dunked in chocolate (8)."
After this taste test, the team asked a further four questions: "(4) Did you taste all of preparations? (5) Are you willing to eat insects in the future? (6) Would you cook insects at home? (7) If yes, in which form would you cook insects?".
They found that participants from different age groups responded 'similarly and positively' in agreeing to test the insect preparations, adding that no significant difference was observed between age classes for tasting all.
"After this experience, adults (more than 25 years old) were more willing to eat insects in the future," said the authors. "There is a positive correlation between liking a novel food for the first exposure and likelihood of consuming it in the future and it could justify the willingness of participants in our study to consume insects in the future because they generally appreciated insect preparations."
Indeed, Caparros Megido and colleagues concluded that the opportunity to introduce insects into the food habits of Western European populations was positive, adding that the integration of edible insects in human food was a potential solution to replace other animal protein sources in a much more sustainable way.
However, they also noted that because the research was carried out on visitors to an insectarium, the findings should be treated with slight caution, "because we surveyed people interested in insects."
"Popularisation and information spreading, starting by presenting the systematic proximity in animal classification between insects and crustaceans, could facilitate the integration of entomophagy in our feeding habits and behaviours," they concluded.
Source: Journal of Sensory Studies
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1111/joss.12077
"Edible Insects Acceptance by Belgian Consumers: Promising Attitude for Entomophagy Development"
Authors: Rudy Caparros Megido, Ludovic Sablon et al