IGA invests in edible bug revolution

The IGA has announced it will stock edible crickets. The addition of Grilo products to IGA shelves comes on the back of increasing demand from customers for more sustainable sources of protein.

“We are passionate about bringing our customers new and exciting products that they wouldn’t usually be able to find,” says the HG Retail Group.

For people looking to reduce their environmental impact while also meeting dietary needs edible crickets offer the perfect substitute.

“Grilo Protein is one of these such products and we are proud to support this innovative and local company who is committed to supplying healthy, sustainable and future conscious food that tastes great!” said Rob Outridge, IGA owner, Maleny.

Eating crickets has previously been uncommon in the West, largely due to the ‘ick’ factor associated with eating bugs. However, consumers are now recognising that not only are crickets mild in flavour, but their nutrient density, sustainability and versatility make them a more sustainable and delicious protein alternative.

IGA’s move to add Grilo products to their shelves is incredibly exciting and demonstrates the growing understanding for the need to find food solutions that meet both planet and human needs. We believe the growing trend of consuming insects will result in a healthier planet and healthier bodies. Here are three reasons why Grilo products will now be on IGA shelves:

Environmental alternative 
Crickets are the most sustainable source of protein on earth. They require far less resources (water, land, feed and energy) than other popular sources of protein, such as chicken, beef or pork, and produce 80 times less methane than cows. Given that 18% of greenhouse gas emissions is a result of livestock production, cricket’s growing popularity should result in a significant lowering of emissions.

Nutrient dense 
Crickets are extremely nutrient dense, containing 69% protein, vitamin B12, Omega 3, iron, potassium and calcium. Their digestibility is higher than that of plant proteins, making it easier for the body to extract and absorb all those nutrients.  Given the busy lives lead by most people and the impact of good nutrition on mental and physical health, the need for accessible, easily prepared nutrients is great.

Versatile and delicious 
Given their mild, nutty flavour, crickets are extremely easy to incorporate into meals and smoothies; sweet or savoury. Alternatively, Grilo energy bars are an extremely convenient and delicious means of meeting daily protein requirements.

Could edible insects help global food security?

Adelaide consumers are taking part in a University of Adelaide research study to help realise the potential for edible insects as a food industry.

Researchers will put consumer attitudes to the test at Adelaide Central Market this Thursday 8 June and Friday 9 June with an offering of roasted crickets and ants, mealworm cookies and cricket energy bars.

“We want to further investigate consumers’ attitudes towards edible insects, evaluate taste preferences and consumers’ willingness to buy such products,” says Postdoctoral Fellow Dr Anna Crump, who’s working on the project with project leader Associate Professor Kerry Wilkinson and other researchers from the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine and the School of Humanities at the University of Adelaide.

“We will also be asking consumers questions relating to food neophobia – reluctance to eat novel or new foods. We’ll be interested to see if a consumer’s ethnicity influences their acceptance of edible insects.”

 In a preliminary online survey of 820 Australian consumers, the researchers found that 20% had tried edible insects. Of those surveyed, 46% said they would be willing to try a cookie made from insect flour.

“In the earlier survey, consumers said they were most likely to try flavoured or roasted insects and least likely to want to try cockroaches or spiders,” Dr Crump says.

 “In this taste test, we’ve chosen products that consumers are most likely to react positively towards – apologies to anyone keen to try a cockroach or spider. The samples we’ll be offering consumers provide a good spread of the available insect products in Australia’s marketplace, some of which may be more acceptable than others.”

 Dr Crump says the research will help guide the development of an edible insect industry.

 “In Australia, edible insects remain an emerging agricultural industry. Consumer research is needed to improve consumer acceptance of edible insects, so as to realise their potential as an alternate protein source,” she says.

 “We hope to be able to pinpoint target markets for edible insects and ways of encouraging their uptake by consumers as an alternative protein source.

“As such, this research will help to identify strategies for realising the potential of edible insects, not only in the domestic market, but also as a high-value product for the export market.”

 Associate Professor Kerry Wilkinson says edible insects could play a role in global food security.

“Issues such as climate change, increasing global population, scarcity of agricultural land and rapidly changing consumer preferences, particularly in developing countries where there is increasing demand for high quality animal protein,” Associate Professor Wilkinson says.

 “These food security issues will only be overcome by a shift in food consumption habits, particularly when we are talking about meat consumption. Edible insects could provide one solution. We want to look at ways of overcoming barriers to insect consumption in Australia.”

Eating insects has long made sense in Africa. The world must catch up

Eating insects is as old as mankind. Globally, 2 billion people consume insects, a practise known as entomophagy. It is more common in Africa than anywhere else in the world. The continent is home to the richest diversity of edible insects – more than 500 species ranging from caterpillars (Lepidoptera) to termites (Isoptera), locusts, grasshoppers, crickets (Orthoptera), ants and bees (Hymenoptera), bugs (Heteroptera and Homoptera) and beetles (Coleoptera).

The dominant insect eating countries are the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Congo, the Central African Republic, Cameroon, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Nigeria and South Africa. The most commonly eaten insects include caterpillars, termites, crickets and palm weevils.

Scientists have long proposed insects as feed or foodstuff for animals. But views about entomophagy differ widely: food conscious lobbies and scientists promote insects as novel foods while at the other extreme people view eating insects as crazy. Between those two extremes are communities that have been practising entomophagy for ages.

Most edible insects are harvested from the wild. Little effort has been put into how they could be mass produced and used as a source of protein more generally. To do this, it’s important that the biodiversity of edible insects is understood better, and that indigenous knowledge is uncovered.

To get even this far, however, attitudes to entomophagy need to change. The Food and Agriculture Organisation, anticipating scarcities of agricultural land and water as well as nutrients as the world’s population increases, has spearheaded a fierce propaganda campaign promoting the benefits of entomophagy. Despite this there is still a reluctance to use insects as food. Added to this is the fact that current biodiversity conservation efforts unfortunately overlook the world of insects.

This needs to change.

What’s in a name?

Documenting indigenous knowledge systems would be a useful way to promote entomophagy. One of the challenges is that African dialects don’t necessarily provide descriptions that could be used in scientific knowledge. Often species are described based on visual features according to the host plants they feed off or the seasons in which they occur.

By contrast, the French term for insect – la bestiole – refers generally to a variety of disgusting insects like flies, cockroaches, bugs or even spiders (which of course are not insects) unfit for human consumption.

Africans have never considered edible insects as pests or a nuisance.
Shutterstock

But people living in Africa have never considered edible insects as pests or a nuisance. Perhaps we need to think of a new appellation for edible insects to kill the disgust factor. A simple language analogy between 30 ethnic groups in 12 sub-Saharan countries provided tentative names for edible termites. These are, “Tsiswa”, “Chiswa”, “Chintuga”, “Inswa”, “Iswa”, “Sisi”, “Ishwa” or “Esunsun”. Any of these indigenous names could be used to market termite based products.

Map showing hotspots of edible insects in Africa.
Saliou Niassy

Opportunities and success stories

Insects are rich in nutrients such as amino acids, which are often absent in conventional foods. They have been used as such for ages by indigenous communities like the Mofu living at the border between Cameroon and Nigeria in the Mandara area, the Nganda people living in tropical forests in the DRC and Bushmen in Namibia and South Africa. They can be used as food and also as feed for other animals or medicine.

Given their nutritional value and their potential for mass production, insects could help address the challenge of food security. New entrepreneurship and business opportunities can be incubated in the food and feed systems and pharmaceuticals sectors. This in turn would lead to job creation.

Examples of this potential already exist. The caterpillar Cirina sp is among the most popular edible insects in west Africa. An enterprise, FasoPro, has developed various products using the insects to contribute to food security in Burkina Faso. Their business model is inclusive, involving local people.

In the DRC a Food and Agricultural Organisation funded project trained hundreds of farmers to domesticate the palm grubs Rhynchonphorus sp “Mpose”. This initiative contributed to reducing the clearing of palm ecosystems during harvesting of the valued insect. The same experience has been reported in Cameroon.

But the potential remains largely untapped. Many countries on the continent are eagerly searching for alternative protein sources for animal feed. This is particularly noticeable in the poultry sector where the growing scarcity of resources to produce the ingredients needed for feed has led to an increase in feed costs. Insects could provide a solution.

The major challenge, however, is perception. To uncover the real value of insects, strong education programmes are needed. This can be done through a structured framework covering both inventory, technology upscaling, safety, processing and legislation.

The Conversation

Saliou Niassy, Project Manager, University of Pretoria, PostGraduate School of Agriculture and Rural Development, University of Pretoria and Sunday Ekesi, Principal Scientist and Head of the Plant Health Theme, International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Top image : Flickr

European push for more edible insects

At its General Assembly meeting held on 19 September, IPIFF – the European Umbrella Organisation representing the interests of Insect Producers for Food and Feed – called for regulatory changes so as to authorise insect proteins as fish feed.  IPIFF also underlined the need for guidance & collaboration in the preparation of ‘novel food’ applications.

“IPIFF puts the safety of our food and feed first,” said Antoine Hubert, IPIFF President. The IPIFF members producing insects for the EU market only use plant based material as input, for which the European Food Safety Authority found no risk as long as producers comply with best hygiene practices for the rearing and processing of their animals (opinion from 8 October 2015).

“This is precisely the case of the IPIFF members who comply with very stringent risk management procedures, in accordance with the EU food and feed safety legislations,” added Hubert.

For Tarique Arsiwalla, IPIFF Vice President, “the fulfilment of these conditions should pave the way for the authorisation of insect PAPS as feed for aquaculture animals.”

For IPIFF, “a new ‘status quo’ on this issue would hamper the growth of the EU insect producing sector which has a leading global position, whilst restricting the availability of this promising source of protein for EU farmers & customers,” added Arsiwalla.

Europe is highly dependent on protein imports (70%) and re-equilibrating this protein imbalance is among Europe’s priorities. Furthermore, allowing the use of insect PAPs in aquaculture will accelerate investments in and further growth of the EU insect producing sector, which has a leading global position.

Finally, IPIFF underlined the importance of establishing workable rules for insect producers who are seeking for an authorisation to market their products as food under the new EU Novel Foods legislation.

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