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Massive growth projected for edible insect market

Man eats cricket with chopsticks

Crickets, mealworms, cicadas, grasshoppers and even the Black Soldier Fly look set to make the menu of far more consumers during the coming decade with new research tipping massive annual growth rates for the fledgling food category. 

The global edible insects market is projected to flourish at a cumulative annual growth rate (CAGR) of 26.5 per cent from this year through to 2027, taking the value to US$4.63 billion by then.  

To date, most insect consumption in Asia Pacific has been driven by drunken dares in Southeast Asian night markets, but in countries like Thailand and Vietnam, deep-fried rice worms, crickets and even scorpions are considered a delicacy. 

The new data comes from Meticulous Research published in a report with the rather torturous title Edible Insects Market by Product (Whole Insect, Insect Powder, Insect Meal, Insect Oil) Insect Type (Crickets, Black Soldier Fly, Mealworms), Application (Animal Feed, Protein Bar and Shakes, Bakery, Confectionery, Beverages) – Global Forecast to 2027. In volume terms it predicts a CAGR of 28.5 per cent to nearly 14 million tonnes of insects by 2027. 

Edible insects are popular among a variety of indigenous population around the world with about 1900 species consumed worldwide, mainly in developing countries. 

Meticulous says factors such as growing greenhouse gas emissions from livestock and poultry, along with high nutritional value, low environmental impact during their life cycle and the low risk of transmitting infectious diseases. 

“Edible insects constitute high-quality food for humans, livestock, poultry, and fish. Because insects are cold-blooded, they have a high food conversion rate,” the report explains. 

“In some cases, insects can be grown on organic waste-reducing environmental contamination. Therefore, edible insects are a serious alternative for conventional production or other animal-based protein sources, either for direct human consumption or indirectly as feedstock.”

Deep-fried worm beetle served in a burger. Image: Bigstock.

That notwithstanding, the report recognises that “psychological and ethical barriers to insects as food” will constrain the edible insect market’s growth, along with allergies among some consumers and a lack of regulatory framework. 

On the flip side, as consumers in developed countries pay more attention to their health including the risk of heart or liver disease, viral infections and calcium balance, along with perceived risk of cancer from long-term use of animal proteins, insects offer a more sustainable protein source. They can be raised on waste feed and water, cost effectively.

While the European Food Safety Authority is expected to soon approve the sale of insects, including ground mealworms, lesser mealworms, locusts, crickets, and grasshoppers for human consumption, only a  few EU nations currently use insect-based products as protein diets. 

“The region-wide approval is projected to bring a raft of edible insects for sale across European countries, driving the demand for edible insects,” says the report. “This approval will provide immense opportunities for companies operating in the edible insects space. Thus, the rising preference for alternative proteins over animal proteins as a rich source of protein & immunity booster during the current global outbreak of Covid-19 has created a new wave of interest in the edible insects market.”

Meticulous concludes that whole insects commanded the highest share of the overall edible insect market this year – in value terms – largely due to their widespread availability and low processing costs compared to insect meal. Crickets were the most popular insect to munch on. 

“The large share of this segment is mainly attributed to the well-established market for edible crickets, high nutritional value, easy farming and processing of crickets, their incorporation into various food recipes and products, and the increasing demand for cricket-based products, such as protein powders, protein bars, and snacks,” the report says.

Key players in the world market for edible insects include Protifarm Holding NV, EntomoFarms, Haocheng Mealworms, Agriprotein (Insect Technology Group Holdings UK), Ynsect SAS, Deli Bugs, Hargol FoodTech, Aspire Food Group, All Things Bugs, Tiny Farms, Global Bugs Asia, Beta Hatch, EntoCube, Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch, Armstrong Cricket Farm Georgia, Cowboy Cricket Farms, Entobel Holding, Entofood Malaysia, EnviroFlight Corporation, SFly Comgraf SAS, Hexafly, F4F SpA, Protix BV, Enterra Corporation, InnovaFeed, Nutrition Technologies Group, Protenga, and NextProtein SAS.

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