Insight: Combating global food crises with edible insects
July 5, 2019
A study by the University of Leeds, UK, and the University of Veracruz in Mexico, has found that the techniques of producing edible insect products should be geared towards the preferences of younger generations.
With a strong focus on commercialisation and processing, this could then pave the way for the normalisation of consuming insects as an alternative form of protein intake.
Study author Dr Alan-Javier Hernández-Álvarez, from the School of Food Science and Nutrition at Leeds, said: “Edible insects are fascinating. Although humans have eaten insects throughout history, and approximately two billion people around the globe regularly eat them today, research on the subject is relatively new.
“Edible insects could be the solution to the problem of how to meet the growing global demand for food in a sustainable way.”
He continued: “In some European countries, consumers, particularly young adults, have shown interest in new food products that use insects in un-recognisable forms, such as flour or powder used in cookies or energy drinks.
“Developing efficient large-scale processing technologies that can develop insect powders could go a long way to helping introduce insects as a common source of protein and nutrients.”
Younger generations are more likely to be open to new experiences when it comes to food and beverage choices, with a surge in consumers opting for alternative diets such as flexitarianism and veganism.
“Promoting insects as an environmentally sustainable protein source appeals to the current attitudes in the younger generation,” said study author Dr Guiomar Melgar-Lalanne, from the University of Veracruz.
“Another successful strategy involves serving insects as snacks between meals, which would increase inclusion of insects in daily diets. These types of snacks are increasing in popularity in the global market.”
The cultivation of insects for food produce takes up less physical space than traditional meat farming. The study also indicated that for insect-based products to become a completely viable industry, the appropriate technology and resources must be developed for the leap into indoor farming to meet demand.
Hernández-Álvarez noted: “Food is only the tip of the iceberg for insects’ sustainable potential.
“Refining extraction technologies could make insects a feasible and sustainable option for replacing some currently available functional ingredients. These aspects should be a focus of future research and technological development.”
By Harriet Jachec