While the thought of eating insects turns many consumers’ stomachs, it may prove an alternative way to increase protein content in diets, with Mintel’s research highlighting consumer demand…

Indeed, concerns over weight management and appearance have helped propel demand for protein, with consumers across Asian, European and American markets consistently identifying protein claims with helping to build muscle or manage satiety. Across many European markets, more than 10% of consumers find high protein claims in spreads a key factor in purchasing decisions.

Interest in protein fuels innovation

wormspreadsThis interest in a protein rich diet has helped fuel product innovations, such as the growth of nut spreads in many markets. In an effort to broaden the use of high protein claims beyond nut spreads, a Belgian food manufacturer has recently launched a range of sweet and savoury spreads with high protein claims using a novel source, meal worms.

Green Kow has launched two meal worm based spreads, carrot and tomato flavour, with plans to follow up with dark- and milk- chocolate spreads shortly. The company have based their proposition on three main selling points: taste, nutrition and sustainability. Farming meal worms is also the core of the company’s sustainability credentials as Green Kow claims this is both a less polluting and more efficient farming method than traditional meat or poultry raising, meaning the company has a more measured environmental footprint.

A more sustainable food source

Mintel’s consumer trend, Hungry Planet discusses the pressures a growing population is putting on food supplies. Based on real term pricing, the cost of food is higher than any time since the mid-1980s. Rising populations and increasing affluence is putting particular pressure on key foodstuffs. Products like Green Kow’s bug spreads reflect the emphasis organisations such as the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) have placed on edible insects as an alternative to meat and poultry.

Grubs up: Millennials most open to trying insects in food

The concept of foods containing edible insects is likely to be a difficult sell to the majority of European consumers, as while consumers may agree insects offer a good source of nutrition, the “yuk” factor remains high and interest in trial is fairly low.

However, Mintel’s The Ethical Food Consumer UK 2015 report suggests targeting products to appeal most to 16-24 year olds, and especially younger men as these groups are significantly less likely to find the thought of edible insects disgusting and are most open to trial. For example, one in 5 (19%) UK men aged 16-24 would be interested in trying foods made from edible insects, compared to 15% of UK women of the same age group.

This in part is likely to reflect the general sense of adventure among younger consumers, but also reflects the higher demand for any source of protein, particularly among younger men.

What we think

Overall, it is likely that high protein claims based on alternative protein sources will increasingly become a feature for sweet and savoury spread innovations in the next five years. However, the lack of novel food approval currently limits insect foods in Europe. Even if approvals were to be granted, significant consumer attitude barriers remain before this food source gains widespread acceptance. Ways around this include identification of protein benefits that can help consumer willingness to try, with younger men offering the best potential for early adopters.

David Turner is Global Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel and joined the company in 2012. During a 20-year career in the food and drink industry, he has gained commercial experience in CPG and foodservice markets, leading the brand and private label marketing activity for major dairy, foodservice and spirits brands.

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