Insects on our plates? 🐛

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Potential, challenges and opportunities in the edible insect market

Our food system needs a complete overhaul

  • 🐄 Meat, eggs and dairy are responsible for 80% of the emissions of a European diet.
  • 👩‍🌾 4/5 of agricultural land is used for livestock feed and grazing but produces 1/3 of protein supply.
  • 🥩 Demand for meat will be rising as developing nations become more prosperous.
  • 🏰 Entomophagy has been recorded across history and societies, from Aristotle to John the Baptist, via China and the Americas.

The environmental benefits of insects creates a business opportunity for entrepreneurs

  • 🦗Crickets have double the protein content of chicken and triple its calories.
  • 🌍 Land and water use is just a fraction of what is needed for traditional meat sources.
  • 💪 They are the most efficient at converting feed and protein into edible food.

Consumer perception is the biggest challenge for edible insects

  • 🪳Insects are met with disgust.
  • 😱 Neophobia makes consumers wary of unfamiliar food products.
  • 🎁 Insects are still stuck in a gimmick phase.

Companies are tackling consumers head-on

  • 😋 Indirect entomophagy is the most common tactic to reduce disgust by hiding the insect (ex: insect powder).
  • 🌿 Sustainability arguments appeal to environmentally-conscious consumers.
  • Forming a certain identity (religious, environmental, fringe) is key to customer loyalty.
  • 👫 Creating a community around eating bugs increases acceptance.

Potential solutions companies can employ to break the consumer acceptance barrier.

  • 💊 Selling insect by products such as oils, fertilisers, pharmaceuticals and feed can improve familiarity.
  • 👶 Children are more open to eating insects.
  • 🔑 Edible insects should not compete with meat and should create a novel food category. Consumers do not want to substitute meat for insects but do want to make their diets more sustainable and healthier.
Praying Mantis

Historically, novel foods acceptance was initiated by a boost in supply, — can the government help?

  • 🔬 Governments can use edible insects to improve their food security and sovereignty, foster innovation, develop trade and meet their climate pledge.
  • 👩‍🔬 They should mitigate the risk of biodiversity leakage, dangerous genetic engineering and unintended health and economic consequences.
  • ⚖️ Edible insect development can be supported through carbon pricing initiatives, innovation & entrepreneurship funds and a better legal framework.

This is a summary of my final-year undergraduate dissertation in Economics at UCL (2022). Full text and references can be found here.