UK consumers willing to try eating insects if marketed well, Canadean

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 4th August 2014
UK consumers willing to try eating insects if marketed well, Canadean
UK consumers willing to try eating insects if marketed well, Canadean

Insects are being touted as the healthy, sustainable food source of the future, but will consumers willingly dine on bugs? Global market research organisation Canadean asked 2000 UK consumers and found that marketing will be crucial in convincing consumers.

EU and FAO push for edible insects

Insects are predicted by many to be the superfood of tomorrow and are already popular in fine dining or as a novelty among more adventurous consumers.

But will they be able to move beyond a foodie fad and be embraced by the average consumer? The European Union thinks so: it has offered member states US $3 million to research the use of insects in cooking. Similarly, the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation has published a list of almost 2000 edible insect species.

With 40 tonnes of insects for every human on earth, Canadean said insects were “an abundant, sustainable food source that is rich in protein, iron and calcium and low in fat and cholesterol”.

However, they may prove a hard sell among more squeamish consumers. According to Canadean, 65 per cent of consumers said that they would not be willing to try foods made from processed insects.

Marketing will be key in convincing consumers

A major obstacle to insect eating is palatability. Canadean research found that consumers who were given detailed, flavour-focused product descriptions were more likely to consider eating insects, with 46 per cent saying they would be willing to try them.  In comparison only 35 per cent were considering trying insects when they were given minimal information about products.

According to Catherine O’Connor, Senior Analyst at Canadean, the way the insect-derived product is presented and marketed will be key in convincing consumers to give insects a try.

“Processed insects will be an easier sell than products where consumers can see the insects in front of them,” Ms O’Connor said. “To get past the disgust barrier, insect-derived foods must have a strong visual appeal and not be recognisably bug-based,” she said.

Marketing link to cultures where insect eating common

According to Canadean, another way to boost the appeal of insect-derived foods is linking them in flavour and design to cultures where insect eating is more common, such as Africa and south-east Asia.

Canadean’s survey found that 6 per cent of consumers who were willing to try insects would only eat them as part of a foreign cuisine. Moreover, receptiveness to insect-derived foods was higher among those who described themselves as eager to enjoy food from different cultures, with 51 per cent of them willing to try insects.

“Overall, these findings show that marketers of insect-derived foods will have to work carefully to convince consumers that insects can be a part of their diet,” Ms O’Connor said. “However, the interest is there, especially among those who are hungry for new and exciting food experiences,” she said.

Insects can be used for animal feeds too, new technology

Australian Food News has previously reported new technology that would bring ordinary flies into the food supply cycle, without being fed directly to humans.

In December 2012, Jason Drew,  a British born South African-based ‘environmental capitalist’  or ‘eco-entrepeneur’ toured Australia giving lectures and radio interviews on the goodness of the Fly for agribusiness and aquaculture. AgriProtein, the South African company Mr Drew chairs, produces animal feed from flies for use in both aquaculture and poultry production. Further details are reported here.