Edible insects have been promoted as a new food source in Western countries.
High in proteins, healthy fatty acids, vitamins and minerals, they can be good for our health and body if they are incorporated into a healthy diet. Requiring few feed and water, it could make sense to consider edible insects as a sustainable and ethical source of protein in Europe. While insects are eaten by 2 billion people worldwide, the idea is still in its infancy in European countries. One of the main issues is the psychological barrier also called the “Yuck factor“. For now, the majority of products whether it is insects as snack or protein bars with cricket flour are targeted to young people. But how do seniors react to edible insects?
YOUNG-OPEN MINDED PEOPLE: THE MAJORITY OF EDIBLE INSECTS’ CONSUMERS
Insects as a healthy and sustainable food source have been mainly targeted to young people. Since the beginning, it has been thought that people from 20 to 40 years would be more open-minded and keen to “jump on” this food revolution. From protein bars to snack or pasta, these products were developed for open-minded and health-conscious people. They combine the nutritious benefits of insects with healthy ingredients such as dried fruits to make cricket energy bars or whole flour to make insect pasta in a nice packaging to appeal to this audience.
Representing a large portion of the society and more and more aware of the environmental cost of our food system, this audience is becoming increasingly receptive to the idea of eating insects. As they are representing today’s generation and will educate tomorrow’s one, people from 20 to 40 is one of the key audience to change our food system. During the last 5 years in the industry, I’ve seen more and more people aware of insects benefits and willing to eat them. While this audience is receptive and children have no cultural bias, seniors seem to be increasingly interested in the topic. They are respected and transmit the culinary culture to the younger generation. A recent research conducted in Australia studied the case of seniors’ attitude toward edible insects.
SENIORS AND EDIBLE INSECTS: THE SAME BARRIERS AS FOR YOUNGER PEOPLE
As young people are more and more open to the idea of eating insects, the majority of the population is still facing this “Yuck factor”. As anticipated, more seniors were reluctant to the idea of eating. About 2/3 of the interviewees wouldn’t consider eating insects.
When conducting the interviews, the scientists faced the same 3 barriers as for the rest of the population :
- The cultural norm : “We don’t eat that here”
- The idea that insects are food of scarcity : “Eating insects is for survival”
- The health concern : “Is it safe to eat insects?”
For the other third of the audience who were okay with the idea of eating bugs, their advice for increasing the palatability of insects was the following :
- Eating insects is no different than other meat, it would be interesting to prepare them in a way as they would be invisible.
- Eating insects can be enjoyable, you should mix them with other delicious food
- Eating insects is safe and present some environmental benefits, you should educate more people about those benefits.
As this population is growing in Europe, its impact on shaping our food system can’t be neglected. And as a sensible part of this population is already aware of the benefits of eating insects, will the insect companies provide an answer to their new interest?