Financial News

  • 22 January 2014, 14:01

Bugs: Coming To A Supermarket Near You?

The founders of Ento, a food start-up using bugs, believe that grasshoppers, crickets and locusts could be a solution to the world's imminent food shortage.

With the global population growing at a rate of 200,000 per day, the Royal College of Art graduates claim that insects are an energy-efficient and nutritious source of food.

Ento co-founder Jacky Chung told Sky News:

"There are more insects than there are people in the world, by mass.

"They win on so many fronts. Locusts, for example are about 72% protein."

Honey caterpillars croquettes and cricket tapenade are among the unconventional foodstuffs to feature in the company's pop-up restaurants, but Ento is facing difficulties marketing insects to a wider audience.

UK consumers are not traditionally receptive to innovations in food. In the past, the introduction of genetically modified food was met with hostility.

Andrew Opie, a leading expert in food sustainability from the British Retail Consortium told Sky News: "The biggest challenge is taking consumers with you so consumers see the benefit for them.

"We've seen with some of the technologies there hasn't been huge support to see that on the shelves."

Ento is currently navigating the complex path of legislation and production which is extremely complicated. There are currently concerns over the digestibility of chitin, the primary constituent of an insect's exoskeleton. The nutritional value of insects is also the subject of further research.

However, they are tried, tested and regularly consumed in other parts of the world. It is estimated that about a third of the global population consumes insects and in Malawi and Japan they are harvested en masse.

Peter Smithers, an entomologist from the University of Plymouth, looked at the "food conversion ratio" of insects.

"Insects are far more sustainable than the protein sources we're using today.

"If you compare farming the mammals or birds we currently eat with insects, insects give you so much more."

He estimates that it takes 10kg of feed to produce 1kg of cow protein. To produce the same amount of cricket protein, only 1.7kg is required. 

Mr Smithers concedes that winning over the general public will not be easy but believes the time will come when we will "rock up" to Sainsbury's and find a bag of crickets next to the bag of prawns and decide which we fancy for tonight's stir fry. 

:: Watch the news conference live on Sky News, on Sky channel 501, Virgin Media channel 602, Freeview channel 82 and Freesat channel 202.