Health conscious consumers a ‘huge opportunity’ for insect protein
A study from UK gym group PureGym found that 35% of gym goers would be prepared to try edible bugs as a source of protein. This figure that rises to 47% of people who exercise daily, compared to just 21% of occasional exercisers.
According to Eat Grub co-founder Shami Radia health enthusiasts present edible insect food processors with a significant chance to raise awareness of the benefits of insect-based proteins.
“There is a huge opportunity for us to sample and sell direct to customers via Gyms. With more and more people becoming interested in health and fitness, we feel gyms play a huge role in not just providing a safe space to work out but to educate their users on how to eat right,” Radia told FoodNavigator.
The PureGym survey found that a large majority – 72% - of people are not aware of the benefits of consuming insect protein. This is something Radia hopes will change.
“Insects are, nutritionally speaking, second to none. They are extremely high in complete protein, containing all nine essential amino acids, minerals like iron and calcium, and have the right kinds of fat like Omega 3 and 6. It makes so much sense for us to embrace this under loved food source, and the people who are most likely to move past the stigma are the people who buy into the reasons why. And for us, we have seen that our core audience are people who are physically active, who see the benefits in eating nutritious and wholesome food.”
Getting the message out
Radia believes that advocates of insect-based foods need to reach out to consumers and raise awareness of the positive aspects of insect consumption.
UK-based Eat Grub has taken a very strategic approach to this mission, eschewing traditional advertising in favour of social media. “Manufacturers and brands need to leverage social media to spread the word about why insects are such a great food source. Here at Eat Grub, we use influencers and brand ambassadors – people who have a voice in their respective fields to discuss why they eat insect based products. This is far stronger than a brand telling people ‘buy our products’.”
Radia feels that, once the message is out there, European consumers will overcome the stigma associated with eating insects and incorporate them into their regular dietary choices.
“We genuinely feel that insects will be embraced for the nutritious and sustainable food source they are. We don’t expect to see people in the West eating insects for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but even if they integrate them into a meal once or twice a week, it can make a big difference in terms of saving precious resources and as an important source of nutrition. Putting the protein aside, minerals like iron, calcium and zinc are harder to come by but are found in abundance in insects.
“Once people see, and it’s our job to show them, that insects can be delicious if prepared in the right way, then that is the final obstacle to overcome. We eat prawns and lobsters, which are essentially the insects of the sea: pretty ugly but damn delicious.”
Growth and innovation
Eat Grub is already seeing its growth rate increase as it gains listings in the UK and elsewhere in Europe, Radia continued.
Eat Grub is witnessing “huge growth” both in terms of sales and awareness, the food entrepreneur suggested. The company has secured listings with specialty retailers like Planet Organic and Sourced Market, as well as more mainstream retailers Budgens and Ocado. “We are also stocked widely throughout offices in London, including Google and Twitter,” Radia noted.
The company is “starting to export throughout Europe”. For example Eat Grub products are now stocked in SOK in Finland, which is the country’s largest major food retailer. “There is a growing demand for insect-based products in Europe especially in Scandinavia and Eat Grub are best placed to supply this,” Radia claimed.
As the company grows, it is also working to extend its product line-up and category reach.
Typically, products made with cricket powder represent an easy way for people to take the “first step” into insect-eating. “You get all of the nutritional and environmental benefits without seeing the insects themselves. We call it the gateway bug. Cricket powder, for example, is used in our bars as a source of protein, iron and calcium but we also sell the powder, which is a versatile supplement to shakes, food and flour.”
But Radia believes that consumption patterns will change as people become more accepting of edible insects. “Once acceptance of insects as a superfood becomes more common, there is no reason why more people won’t start eating them whole. There needs to be a bit more work done in showing people how to cook with them but, again, they are a versatile and delicious ingredient.
“That’s the main point, there are many different types of insects – all with their own nutritional benefits and taste. There are many different applications and categories that can be explored and are already being looked at by Eat Grub. Watch this space!”
Edible insects will be just one area of protein consumption that we will be exploring during the Protein Vision conference. The event will be staged on 7-9 March in Amsterdam. Registration remains open. Click here for more details.