With experts predicting global food shortages in the future, entrepreneurs are looking to monetise new alternatives for the human diet, most notably by farming insects for protein.
While the trend has yet to really take off – held back largely by cultural perceptions and the relative rarity of insect protein, which is not only a novelty but also hasn’t yet become widely available. Nonetheless, insects are becoming a staple ingredient in animal feed and insect farms are multiplying in France.
Specifically, it is becoming increasingly common for cat and dog food, as well as farmed fish feed, to be produced using insects. Many farms have order books full up for the next three years, with some able to produce 500 tonnes of insects a year.
But if it’s good enough for animals, when will we see supermarket shelves filled with insects?
Everything appears to be in place and the first EU permits for insects as a “novel food” were issued in mid-2020, providing legal clarity about breeding insects for human consumption.
Belgian’s history with this so-called “novel food” dates back to 2014 when the Belgian food safety agency AFSCA, known for its conservatism, issued official advice on the food safety aspects of insects destined for human consumption: “In the search for alternative dietary protein sources, insects appear to offer great potential,” it said and approved ten species of worms and crickets for sale on the Belgian market.
After the EU passed a law on “novel food” in 2018, Belgian companies sent applications to the EU for three insects: crickets, mealworms and locusts. What followed, some two years later, was a race between Belgian companies to seize the largest part of the market, which was exacerbated by interest from foreign investors who wanted to get in on the new trend. But despite the potential benefits and gains, consumers were less convinced.