Once reserved for Fear Factor, one of the hottest trends in food involves mowing down on insects.
Whether mixed into a morning smoothie, served as hors d’oeuvres at events (like they were at Toronto’s Innovators Ball last fall), or baked into pasta dishes and cookies, edible insects are having a major moment.
The perks of an insect-heavy diet are that it’s environmentally friendly and nutritionally dense, which is why the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) encourages such a diet.
According to the FAO, insects require less water and feed, produce less greenhouse gases and need less land than traditional livestock. Protein-rich insects are also often high in fatty acids, fibre and micronutrients.
Plus, they don’t tend to transmit diseases to humans. Not to mention, some people feel better morally to opt for insects over animals.
“It’s moving away from the novelty. It’s moving away from the fear factor,” Eli Cadesky, co-founder and CEO of C-fu Foods in Toronto tells The Canadian Press.
C-fu Foods sells textured insect proteins that can substitute traditional meat, soy, eggs or dairy when cooking.
Cadesky’s second company, One Hop Kitchen, uses the product to make two Bolognese sauces. One is made with mealworm and the other with crickets. A bottle of the pasta sauce retails for US$9.99.
The majority of One Hop Kitchen’s customer base are 25 to 50 year-olds who identify as vegetarian, vegan or flexitarian (meaning they sometimes eat meat).
According to the FAO, globally, humans consume more than 1,900 types of insects, including beetles, caterpillars and even bees. The majority of these are eaten in Asia, Africa and Latin America. But others around the world are increasingly jumping on the insect bandwagon.
In North America, it’s all about packaging and familiarity.
The key to increasing its popularity in North America is to package it in ways that make it easy to add to the average person’s diet, Esther Jiang, the CEO of Toronto-based Gryllies tells The Canadian Press. Gryllies sells a pasta sauce made with crickets.
The trick to adopting an insect-rich diet is to begin incorporating the insects into familiar dishes (i.e. pasta sauce). Other insect-filled products that are gaining popularity include things like cricket protein powder, protein bars and stir-fries.
According to a report by Persistence Market Research, between 2016 and 2024, the edible insect market is expected to experience a compound annual growth rate of 6.1 per cent.
So, don’t be surprised to see more insect-filled offerings hit grocery store shelves and menu pages in the near future.