When the U.N. declared back in 2013 that we humans should eat more bugs, it was an idea that many couldn’t stomach. This suggestion was made as part of the UN’s larger and quite serious focus on global environmental issues and potential food shortages. And no matter how queasy the notion might make someone, edible insects are rich in protein and sourcing them has low environmental impact. In many parts of the world, bug eating is not some foodie trend, but a way of life. Deep friend insects can be bought from Thai street vendors as easily as a hot dog from a food cart in Manhattan.
National Public Radio recently profiled a Thai entrepreneur looking to bring this favorite street food to the grocery and minimart snack aisle. To woo the uninitiated bug eater, he is relying on familiar chip and crisps flavors like barbecue and cheese, while on-pack messaging promotes the health benefits of the treat inside. Are bug products on their way to becoming the subject of MR explorations of the future? Will BuzzBack soon be leading eCollage studies to determine the best positioning for mealworm larva puffs or cricket breakfast flakes (Try them with milk!). And how would we tackle the concept generation sessions on potential flavors?
It makes one wonder – is the ick factor culturally ingrained? Earlier this year we released a report that explored global attitudes around the idea of Healthy – which included snacking. No one in Russia, Brazil or the U.S. named a single insect to their list of sought after healthy snacks.
That would suggest that Americans probably aren’t quite ready to view bugs tossed in their salad as a welcome addition – this still ranks up there as a legitimate reason to complain to the waiter. However, American consumers have been enjoying a bug-based additive already – and most are probably not even aware that they are. Chochineal, carmine or carminic acid is a colorant made from crushed South American insects that give many processed foods their red color.
But bugs by choice? It’s going to take some marketing brilliance and powerful positioning to make that idea palatable. And maybe it will be the Millennials who will lead the way on insect cuisine. Our most recent study of their attitudes and behavior when it comes to food & nutrition found them to be more adventurous and willing to try new things. But to be fair, we didn’t specifically ask them if those new things had antennae or ectoskeletons.
To learn more about our Healthy Report or get more information about Millennials & Nutrition, click here.