Insect: the Future of Food?

A thriving industry looks promising if consumer aversion can be overcome

Just now, Efsa, the European food authority has approved meal-worms as human food. According to the authority, mealworms are safe to be eaten. This makes mealworms the first insects to receive this approval. There’s a certain yuck factor that has prevented insect meals from becoming mainstream, a stereotype that a growing number of startups, such as Ellie, are trying to change.

Ellie operated a pop-up shop in Tokyo, where it sold silkworm burgers, soup and snacks. An excellent trial research attempt. They have expanded in relevance in recent years as population growth and urbanization have led to increasing demand for food while simultaneously polluting land and water resources through livestock production and overgrazing.

Another example is cricket powder used in snacks created by Gryllus, a Tokushima University-backed venture and one of Japan’s leading startups breeding and producing edible crickets.

As lockdowns triggered by the coronavirus pandemic hit the supply chains of global meat product manufacturers, demand for alternative protein sources such as plant-based meat is rising already. But also insect-based foods could see an uptick, according to some analysts. According to a landmark 2013 report by the FAO, titled “Edible Insects: Future Prospects for Food and Feeds Security”, pigs produce 10 to 100 times more greenhouse gases per kilogram than meal-worms. And Global Market Insights forecasts the market for edible insects to soar to $1.5 billion in 2026 from $112 million in 2019.

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