Post Categories: May 2016

Trending Tastes

Bugs… For Breakfast?

For many Americans, the idea of eating bugs elicits an instant “yuck!” or “no way!” But what if we stripped away the crunchy, leggy parts and focused on the environmental and health benefits? According to Popular Science, a number of startups are betting consumers will bite. Since 2012, over 30 companies specializing in cricket-based foods have opened up shop in North America. Others are venturing into the world of grasshoppers, beetles and some of the 1,900 other species of edible insects around the world.

Eating insects is far from a new idea. They were a staple for our hunter-gatherer ancestors, and are still quite common in many other cultures around the world. For example, fried locusts are a common street food in Thailand, and people in Mexico consider pan-roasted red ants a delicacy.

trendPic2But these examples are a long way from what companies hoping to break into the mainstream have to offer. Hoping to get past the visual and textural “ick” factor, most of these companies are incorporating ground, powdered or pureed versions of insects into their products. Think tortilla chips made with cricket flour instead of corn, protein bars made with insects instead of soy, or a nutty chocolate spread made with mealworms instead of actual nuts.

Why use insects at all? The United Nations says they are an ideal protein source for the world’s ever-growing population. In addition to producing high-quality protein similar to meat and fish, they’re high in fiber, vitamins and minerals. Farming them also has less impact on the environment as compared to raising livestock. They require less energy and water, and they give off fewer greenhouses gasses.

“If you take 10 kilograms of feed, you can get one kilogram of beef,” said entomologist Marcel Dicke in an interview with Popular Science. “But you can get nine kilograms of locust meat. If you were an entrepreneur, what would you do?”

Insect on a fork in a restaurantIn addition to capitalizing on the pound-for-pound payoff, insect entrepreneurs are hoping to capitalize on several growing consumer trends. The first is the increasing demand for dietary protein. More than half of adults say they want to add more protein to their diets, reports market research firm, The NPD Group. More consumers are also looking for sustainable products—and more than half say they’ll pay more for them, according to a survey from Nielsen.

For now, whether there’s truly enough a demand to bring insects from the realm of childhood dares to grownup dining tables remains to be seen.