More and more people are seriously considering insects as a source of protein. The environmental benefits are manifold, but can regional start-ups in Central and Eastern Europe overcome consumer resistance to the idea that bugs can be food?
Eating insects, also known entomophagy, is part of many traditional diets across the world. Insects such as crickets and mealworms are safe for human consumption and are a great source of protein.
There are environmental benefits to consider as well. Rearing insects produces less greenhouse gas and uses less land and water compared to livestock. Insects also have a higher “feed conversion” — they can convert feed to protein more efficiently than traditional food animals such as pigs.
Globally, there are already many start-ups turning insects such as crickets into food and selling them, either as protein powder made from ground-up bugs or whole – sometimes flavoured, sometimes not.
In Central and Eastern Europe, Czechia has emerged as a regional hub for this nascent sector, boasting several high-profile start-ups.
One of these is Terraz, producing a new twist on an old favourite — pasta made from cricket flour. Another is Entoway, selling a protein supplement made from plant protein and crickets.
“It all started as a student business project,” explains Martin Masár of Entoway. “As a food scientist when I found out about entomophagy I was excited and sad at the same time. Excited that insects represent a valuable, healthy, and sustainable food source, sad that we don’t use this food source simply because we think it’s disgusting. I wanted to change that perception among European customers.”
And perceptions might be slowly changing. According to Data Bridge, the market size for insect-based food in Europe is expected to reach a value of 425.17 million euros by 2027.
“The biggest challenge is the learned perception that insects are something unpleasant and disgusting. It’s just a social norm in Europe and North America,” says Masár.
“Sushi or lobster were once considered disgusting and now are considered a delicacy. We have found out that this perception can be pretty easily changed among educated people, when we show them the scientific facts and we convince them to try them out for the first time.”