Updated: May 12
Edible insects are becoming increasingly popular all over the world. In many Western societies, they are seen as ‘fashionable’ and ’sustainable’.
Like fashion, is this just a passing trend? A fad? Or are edible insects on their way to becoming a widely accepted cuisine?
We explore the Western countries putting bugs on the menu.
If you haven't already, check out part 1—we explore more countries where bugs are seen as a delicacy.
The insect market will be worth $1.2 billion by 2023, according to The North American Coalition for Insect Agriculture (NACIA).
This is said to be influenced by younger generations being more open-minded about eating crickets and grasshoppers than their parents.
US entomologists have promoted the idea for decades with cookbooks and this has led the way for millennial-driven start-ups and family farms producing insect-based food of their own.
Since companies have been given investments from billionaires for their cricket protein bars and ‘bug and wine pairing’ events have been held nationwide, the USA is on its way to insect cuisine!
Over 40% of UK men aged 16-34 are interested in insect protein products. This strong demand stems from concerns about our environment and health.
Supermarkets around the UK are introducing cricket snacks, which is boosting their availability to everyone, as well as their visibility in the food industry. It’s claimed that they’re not just a gimmick but a new sustainable protein source.
Over in London, insect ice cream was handed out for free in 4 delicious flavours: Scurry Berry (mixed insect bits), Choc Hopper (grasshopper), Strawberries and Swirls (mealworms) and Nutritious Neapolitan (mixed critters)!
Operations have increased to 12 times more than its 2014 production at an insect farm in Ontario.
It’s thought that cricket powder is definitely driving the industry as it can be used so many different varieties of food and lacks the unappealing legs and antennas!
The market is also spreading into supermarkets, with Canada’s biggest supermarket Loblaws stocking cricket flour on their shelves. They’re testing the customer’s curiosity for the bugs and their willingness to explore new protein options.
Along with its growing availability, cricket flour can be added to many food items (smoothies, yoghurt, soup, oatmeal, baked good) due to its neutral flavour, while adding in extra protein!
4. The Netherlands
After being given $1.4 million for research into edible insects, The Netherlands are well on their way to being the next big innovators of the industry.
Dutch citizens want to bring the bug-eating culture to their everyday diets. They are receptive to foreign influences and want cultural diversity - and bugs are a great way to do it!
One Netherlands-based farm produces black soldier flies and raised over $50 million in 2017 to expand their business. The supermarkets are also buying into the trend and selling mealworms and crickets to enhance awareness.
Samples of chocolate insects are also given out to shoppers as a sweet treat!
5. New Zealand
Nearly 70% of Kiwis would try insects in powder form and over 50% would try them fried.
One chef interested in insect cooking thinks attitudes are changing and that edible insects are similar to organic food. 15-20 years ago, people didn’t want organic food because of its unusual appearance, but now? People love it.
Citizens of New Zealand are ready for the rise of insects, especially with companies selling honey-roasted crickets and barbeque-flavoured grasshoppers as treats, not just novelties.
Insect-based food only began being sold in 2018 and Germany started its journey with burgers. Move over bratwurst!
German insect-burger creators know the burger market is big (fast food giants generated billions of euros in 2017) and have boosted this well-loved market with their protein-filled mealworm burgers. Marketing to flexitarians, this idea will tactfully fill a gap in the market.
The burgers follow the idea that products will sell if they look tasty and smell delicious and while one customer was apprehensive to try one at first, they ended up getting another serving!
As the home of the ‘World’s Best Restaurant’, serving live ants on the menu, Denmark is well aware of the edible insect’s benefits.
This country is a pioneer in making bugs mainstream as they were the first to create a movie about entomophagy and first to have the government financing bugs as food and feed.
Being the hosts of the ‘Copenhagen Bug Fest’, Denmark are aiming to be the leaders of the insect-eating industry, with a €3.7 million research project in the works.
One of their popular ideas is using mealworm larvae in granola due to their nutty taste and tropical smell. What a tasty breakfast!
Almost 80% of Belgians are aware that edible insects can be bought in Belgium.
And over 11% have already eaten foods with processed insects in them, making Belgium another potential lover of bugs.
They want to follow in the footsteps of China, Mexico and Thailand. Since the Belgian FASFC increased the tolerated insect species on the Belgian market from 10 to 12, they’re definitely on their way!
The Federal Food Agency still warn citizens to boil or fry insects before eating them, but they’ve already hit the supermarkets with savoury vegetable spreads, nuggets, burgers and schnitzels all being on offer.
The edible insects industry will be worth $8 billion in 10 years time and with 60 native edible species, the market will flourish in Australia.
Entomologists believe that Australia’s wide range of insect-based products can beat the yuck factor and interest has already increased in the past 2 years.
A cricket and mealworm farmer in Tasmania has said that business is good and ground crickets have already taken off after being transformed into fusilli pasta, penne pasta and protein powder.
In a time when plagues of locusts appeared and became pests, Australia got the best revenge and a cookbook was created on how to cook them. The perfect solution!
A French insect producer raised €110 million for their business- the largest amount of funding for a start-up outside the US.
A further €20 million grant was awarded from the European Commission, which will allow its current production to multiply by 50 times. That’s a whole lot of bugs!
While this company produces insects for feed rather than food, it still reflects the growing trade- it’s certainly going in the right direction!
The first French farm to raise edible insects is found in the south of France and the trend is beginning to spread nationwide. While many insect dishes are still rendered experimental, one restaurant in Nice labels its scorpion and grasshopper dishes as ‘alternative’ instead, which will lead to the taboo being forgotten.
Edible Insects.... Regulations?
The reason why the West are so far behind in the edible insect game can be traced back to regulations.
Food agencies and health departments try to decipher what we can and can’t eat and where you’re from can affect this.
In non-Western countries, insects have always been traditional cuisine and are rarely packaged, imported exported. In Anglo-Saxon countries (UK, USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia), it has now been authorised to import and sell insects, and not just as novelty items. But in non-English Western countries, edible insects still need some approval and ruling before hitting the shops.
So, by law, the edible insects industry cannot yet be equal everywhere. But with western countries becoming open-minded to the idea, entomophagy is becoming more mainstream.
But where in the world are these changes happening?
Join the Rest of the World!
2 billion people are eating insects worldwide- and this enjoyment will only spread further!
More countries are being provided with money for businesses and research, as well as education for entomophagy as a cuisine. This is a vital step for the food industry and an increasing number of countries around the world want a taste of those delectable bugs.
So, if you haven’t already, why not give insects a go?
BeoBia™ By Lucy Godber