Gradually shifting attitudes? “More people interested in trying insect-based food,” says lobby group
19 Feb 2020 --- Changes in consumer dietary habits are signalling new opportunities for movers in the quickly expanding edible insect market. Significantly, low-input insect farming is aiding moves toward a more circular economy, as asserted by the International Platform of Insects for Food and Feed (IPIFF) in a recently published “Position Paper.” The Belgian umbrella organization calls upon the EU Commission to consider its sector’s contributions as a reliable partner in Europe’s ambitions to be the first climate-neutral continent by 2050.
“Across Europe, we see changing attitudes with regards to diets. There is an increasing number of people who are interested in trying insect-based food products – the trend is also supported by positive media coverage, information spreading targeting wider audiences and greater availability of insect products,” Christophe Derrien, Secretary-General of IPIFF, tells FoodIngredientsFirst.
Moreover, Derrien outlines that the nutritional benefits and reduced environmental footprint further boost the trend. “The gradual change in attitude around food and growing demand for high protein products for sport nutrition or dietary food creates growing opportunities for the insect food sector. We see edible insects as a potent complement to our diets, thanks to their high protein content, vitamins, minerals and prebiotic fibers – all important for the metabolism and immunity of the human body.”
“In terms of insects in animal feed, there is growing interest from farmers,” Derrien continues. “The EU aims at improving its self-sufficiency in terms of high-protein feed materials and farmed insects could be among the solutions to that. Similarly, insects are also very close to the natural diets of aquaculture, poultry and swine animals.”
“While insect proteins can already be used in products for the aquaculture market (since July 2017), we are confident that soon, such ingredients will also be part of the diet of chickens and pigs, for example – diversifying the spectrum of high-protein feed materials in the EU,” he asserts.
According to IPIFF members, up to a third of the food waste generated today (circa 20 million metric tons of former foodstuffs could be used for the feed/food chains, with several million metric tons of catering waste, which could be used in technical applications) could be suitable for insect farming – before it is classified as “waste.” In addition, insect production is pegged as having the potential to ultimately improve EU’s self-sufficiency in terms of animal feed materials.
Similar to other farming practices, IPIFF also highlights that insects generate by-products that could further be applied as a fertilizing product in agriculture. This process – taking place naturally in a wide range of ecosystems – reintroduces nutrients to the soil, providing numerous benefits for plant development. The application of insect frass (i.e. insect dejecta) has demonstrated positive results on plant growth and health, thanks to the presence of plant-growth promoting microorganisms.
In its Position Paper entitled The Contribution of the European Insect Sector to Improving Sustainability from Farm to Fork, IPIFF underlines a couple of elements of significance for the insect production sector, in particular with regards to the implementation of the objectives of the “Farm to Fork” strategy currently under development.
Last December, the EU Commission launched a comprehensive strategy titled the European Green Deal – an ambitious plan that aims to make Europe the first climate-neutral continent by 2050. As indicated by President Ursula von der Leyen, the “Farm to Fork Strategy for Sustainable Food” is a key component of the European Green Deal and it addresses matters of relevance for food production from farm level all over to consumers.
IPIFF’s Position Paper illustrates its view on topics included in the Green Deal Communication document. The organization believes that insect farming activities should receive equal attention under the EU Parliament’s common agricultural policy (CAP) strategic plans, helping farmers to maximize their contribution with regards to environmental and climate performance.
“Considering that the official launch of the Farm to Fork strategy is expected on March 31, we view this Position Paper as a constructive starting point with regards to the dialogue between the European institutions in charge of the Green Deal/Farm to Fork and the European insect sector,” concludes Derrien.
Buzzing with potential
The global race to accelerate sustainable food supply chains is in full throttle. At this year’s recently concluded 50th World Economic Forum Annual Meeting held in Davos, Switzerland, meat-free diets were a focal point of roundtable discussions, which included a DuPont-led session on “The Protein Revolution from Fork to Farm.”
Much of the buzz around insects involves their contribution to a circular economy by recovering nutrients from organic residues and bringing them back into the food value chain, helping industry increase sustainability while reducing food waste. Insects quickly gain body mass by eating low-quality food waste, which has a global supply potential of 1.5 billion tons, holding a potential of 100 to 150 million tons of underutilized proteins, according to Dutch insect protein manufacturer Protix.
Protix has highlighted that the insect protein industry is rapidly gaining traction, reportedly generating US$300 million worth of investments last year. Last June, the company opened a 14,000 square meter insect protein processing plant in Bergen op Zoom, the Netherlands.
In the same month, French agri-tech innovator Ÿnsect, earned €20 million worth of backing for a fully-automated, bio-based plant, which will house the industrial-scale farming of meal worms for premium animal feed and fertilizers.
In scientific developments, emergent lab-grown insect meat, genetically modified for maximum growth, nutrition and flavor, has been named as a viable and even a “superior” green alternative for high volume, healthy food production.
Meanwhile, as challenges in UK food production loom, a YouGov survey of over 2,000 people has revealed that a third of British adults believe an increase in insect consumption is likely, while nearly three quarters support an increased emphasis on new technology and innovation.
By Benjamin Ferrer
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