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Edible insects: The panacea of new economic growth

Updated: Aug 23, 2022

Leveraging the global edible insect market to coincide with current market competitors is a new challenge facing businesses as they contend against long standing competitors like that of the meat market. As the economy continues to fluctuate with the turning tides of politics, it is no doubt that there are a number of economic parameters facing the edible insect market.

In order to gain the upperhand in a volatile food market, the edible insect industry is having to go through both emerging economies which can allow periods of growth but also pass through a range of legislative hurdles which are incorporated within the current legal framework.

To find out more about the economics of the edible insect industry, HOP spoke with Thomas Adler, an economics student at UCL whose recent dissertation focused on the ‘potential, challenges and opportunities in the edible insect market.’

Thomas told HOP “Essentially my thought process for choosing my dissertation topic was based on the fact that I wanted something that was forward thinking which could help the future in terms of sustainability and the overall food supply chain….Of course, the biggest challenge facing the edible insect industry is the meat market which has been a staple in the human diet for thousands of years. Yet, despite this, the edible insect market will progress when it comes to creating their own food category.”

From his economic research, Thomas told HOP that in order to change the current perception we have on edible insects, we must first look at how society perceives edible insects and then work to remove any aversions people may have. Thomas said, “I have two main findings; one is the supply side with companies focusing on the demand in making edible insects more appealing and creating a community around that. On an individual scale it works by increasing the amount of people that buy your product and getting the word out there, yet before we do that, we must first focus on the micro-level which is to change people's perception and behaviour towards edible insects and then marketing insects as an everyday food staple…Essentially in business, we need supply to coincide with demand, however, there are current setbacks in place due to lengthy government legislation…. The government needs to approve edible insects in order for them to be sold legally in the UK market as edible insects not only provide food security but also assists in food sustainability and food innovation… with this government approval, it will no doubt lead to the biggest change in consumer behaviour.”

Thomas Alder (

In a publication by Dr Geoffrey Knott, titled, ‘The role of disgust, social influence, and moral concern in insect consumption', it was shown that “Exposure to others consuming insects reduces disgust and increases acceptability….However, exposure only impacts beliefs under very specific circumstances.

In a recent study, it was found that “The accessibility and affordability of edible insects are high. They can be easily cultivated and procured to be incorporated into the daily diet as additives in various forms or as a whole, thereby enhancing the overall nutritional quality of the food. In addition to that, these call for minimal processing post-harvest, thus providing a highly economical alternative to the animal products which are today coupled with the rising number of diseases. Among the edible insects, beetles constitute the largest volume share. Insects are sustainable sources of amino acids and proteins. They are also rich in Omega-3, minerals, and iron. They make the perfect supplements for sportspersons. This rapid addition of insects in the food and beverage industry along with the shifting trend towards sustainable practices are likely to give a major push to the market.”

With a major push from organisations such as Woven and HOP, who together created the "first ever edible insect application to the UK Government", it is no doubt that the industry is gradually progressing. In a current article from the UK government, it was positively noted that the “Brexit Freedoms’ Bill will be brought forward to end to the special status of EU law and ensure that it can be more easily amended or removed….The Bill will make it easier to amend or remove outdated ‘retained EU law’ - legacy EU law kept on the statute book after Brexit as a bridging measure – and will accompany a major cross-government drive to reform, repeal and replace outdated EU law….These reforms will cut £1 billion of red tape for UK businesses, ease regulatory burdens and contribute to the government’s mission to unite and level up the country.”

In a statement obtained by HOP from Rachel O’Connor, a partner in the agricultural team at Michelmores, she said “The biggest benefit for the industry is its sustainability ventures. The consumer is now pressed by ensuring that their food is not going to have the adverse biodiversity and climate impact that it once had before. What we have demonstrated through years of scientific evidence is that this is an absolute game changer in how we consider our diets going forward, it's also a huge part in the sustainable circular economy and how we ensure that we put insects back in their rightful place in the future. In nature, there is no issue of waste because of insects as they complete this perfect, beautiful cycle where nothing gets wasted as insects convert organic matter back into really high protein which starts the food chain….For some reason in modern agriculture, we have totally lost this which is baffling when think about the power that it can bring to the food chain. What the edible insect industry is showing is that we can put that back in and fill that gap that is being left in order to make the circle whole again. I think that once we get over these legislative hearles, we will really be able to push forward again with this.”

As the economy changes, so too do the players operating this market. Business and researchers alike are striving forward in furthering awareness for the edible insect market within the UK in order to push for the legal reforms to be brought forward in order to make edible insects a staple within our current and future diets.

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