Many environmentalists are starting to explore the potential of insects as a food source, which could contribute to a more sustainable future.

While grocers have not historically placed significant emphasis on sustainability, many are now addressing it as food & grocery retail becomes more aware of its benefits, as well as the potential value-creation for consumers.

An unfairly stigmatised practice?

Entomophagy– the practice of eating insects – has played a crucial part in the evolution and development of humans since prehistoric times. According to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation, over 2 billion people (around 30% of the global population) currently participate in the practice.

Negative connotations associated with the consumption of bugs remain a great inhibitor to the popularisation of entomophagy, particularly in the western world. However, there are vast benefits of propagating the insects as a food source as they are not only a great source of protein but are also incredibly sustainable. Per 100g of cricket as sold by Eat Grub, the newest addition to UK grocer Sainsbury’s alternative selection, there is 69g of protein, 9.5mg of iron and 75.7mg of calcium. These nutritional statistics should really bug poultry farmers, as the popular bird only contains 19.5g of protein, 9mg of iron and 14mg of calcium per 100g.

An environmental move

As consumers continue to become more environmentally and health conscious, grocers should consider stocking insect food items. These not only bring health benefits but are also far more sustainable and cost-effective to produce. 

Traditional livestock farming is a major contributor to global warming, and according to Eat Grub the production of 1kg of protein from beef leads to a 2.85kg production of greenhouse gasses. This is exorbitantly higher than the production of the same amount of insects, which only releases 1g of greenhouse gasses. Furthermore, the insects can be farmed with much smarter land utilisation, as well as requiring less feed and water to maintain. All these efficiencies can be passed on to customers, providing a lower priced protein source. 

The negative opinions around bug consumption can be overcome by increasing the usage of insects as an ingredient in food products and supplements, rather than selling them as a standalone product. 

There is also huge potential in the health & beauty sector, where bugs can be used as an alternative source of protein for supplements. This is opposed to whey protein, which is a by-product of the dairy industry. Those who predict insects will slowly start to be incorporated into western diets say retailers should react early to current changes in consumer sentiment.