Does the edible bugs trend have the legs to succeed?

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Edible insects Food

Not a week goes by without media headlines talking about the potential of insects to help feed the world. But where does that potential really lie?

While much of the world’s population already eat insects in some form, the conversation on edible bugs has only recently taken off in Europe and the USA. Yet with growing demand for more sustainable sources of food, and an increased trend for alternative proteins, edible insects have been the focus of much media and industry attention.

Indeed, last year the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) released its assessment​ of insects as food, concluding that despite their potential benefits to health, the environment and livelihoods around the world, Westerners’ ‘disgust factor’ was a major barrier to more widespread acceptance.

However, with 2 billion people already regularly eating insects, Euromonitor describes them​ as a potential answer to food security concerns.

Speaking to a variety of stakeholders at the recent Hi Europe show, we asked whether the growing interest in edible insects is sustainable, and whether the potential for insects in the Western food supply lies in eating whole insects or creating flours and protein extractions for the wider food industry to utilise.

Neil Whippey, co-founder of UK start-up firm Grub told us that while whole insects are interesting for a small number of people who want to try new experiences, there is a much larger market for foods that use insect protein as a sustainable and functional source of protein.

“We really feel that the health food bar is the most popular​,” Whippey commented. “Not only is it very malleable in terms of what you can do with it ... but you can also go for that high end health food market.”

Ger van der Wal, CEO of Netherlands-based Delibugs said the aim for the future will be to make a variety of insect powders for the food industry to use, without the consumer ever seeing the whole insect.

“Now, there are some products in the supermarkets in Holland and Belgium, so that will quicken the acceptance of insects as food,”​ van der Wal told us.

“It is starting now, it’s a bit of a hype at this moment.”

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