How Entrepreneurs Are Helping American Consumers to Accept ‘Bug Food’
Entomophagy, the practice of eating insects, shows just how much emotion outweighs rationality in consumer culture
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has recognized insects as a viable solution to food scarcity and security for the past 5-10 years, but American consumers have been slow to accept bug food, largely do to what is referred to as the ‘ick factor’. Year after year, new dishes are concocted and new products are launched with the anticipation that American consumers will come to accept the idea of eating insects. But perhaps the solution lays in the practice of branding itself.
According to an NPR segment: “Intelligent cutesiness is a good way to describe this entire sector. The thought is if you can make people laugh with a pun or a cute graphic, it might be enough for them to let their guard down.” A handful of “big-infused” start-ups are popping up in Utah, Massachusetts, Texas, and California each taking different approaches. Hopper Foods, for example, uses cricket flour by pulverizing the bugs down to a powder so consumers are not grossed out.
Another Texan company, Little Herds, takes an advocacy-based approach and operates as a non-profit. This enables them to operate more fluidly and targeting consumer segments more precisely to spread the clear environmental benefits of entomophagy.
Once you start making comparisons to other forms of protein like beef and pork, insects looks a lot more environmentally friendly. Most of the people we talk to are willing to take a bite. Once they take that bite and they are knowingly eating an insect, it breaks down a lot of those internal barriers. It gets them to question what is food to me, what do I consider food?
As is apparent from this quote, Little Herds’ founder Robert Nathan Allen does not see the adoption of bug-eating in a strict business lens. He is also vocal about the need to establish more holistic regulation, research, and food grade insect farms.