Are insects the next essential ingredient?

Posted by Lani Thorpe on 16th July 2018

ASIDE from the odd brave soul who’s munched on a skewered scorpion from a Bangkok market stall to score bragging rights with friends back home, it’s safe to say the average Aussie probably doesn’t indulge in an insect diet all too often.

And yet, nutritionists and food scientists suggest we should.

When you learn about the dietary benefits that creepy crawlies offer, it’s not hard to see why. Insects, particularly crickets — which form the bulk of the current marketing offering — are a rich source of protein, essential amino acids and minerals, and low in saturated fats and carbohydrates.

Edible insect industry destined for growth

Add to that an argument for a more sustainable, eco-friendly food source versus the conventional option of livestock production, and the edible insect industry seems destined for growth.

“A cricket’s footprint is tiny, if you compare it to livestock,” says Martina Meyer, co-founder and marketing head of Grilo, a small business based in Byron Bay that produces and sells cricket food products.

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“Animal products like meat, cheese, milk and eggs are often our biggest source of protein but these are a huge drain on environmental resources. On the other hand, crickets and other edible bugs require far less land, water and feed to produce the same amount of protein,” Martina says.

The challenge of eating bugs

But the stats are one thing. How can consumers get past the challenging concept of, well, eating bugs? In reality, over two billion people around the world already enjoy edible insects on a regular basis. Turns out it’s just Western countries that have been slow to adopt the habit.

That’s set to change, says Martina.

“I do believe the perception of eating insects is changing. Every year there are more and more companies creating delicious products using edible bugs and we can see a huge product range already on the market.”

What do bugs taste like?

The million-dollar question for the uninitiated: what do insects actually taste like? The consensus seems to be that most bugs have a subtle, nutty flavour. And for those not keen on chowing down on a creature in its original form, food producers have created products that are a little more palatable.

Grilo’s best sellers, says Martina, include its cricket powder — a flour-like product that can be used to boost protein in smoothies, breads, cakes and so on — and protein bars.

With the world’s population growing exponentially and the ever-increasing burden on Earth’s resources, it’s a no-brainer to explore alternative food options. Looks like insects may soon move from pest to plate.