Eating insects will soon go mainstream as bug protein is set to explode into an R114 billion business
- Edible insects are set to become an $8 billion (roughly R114.3 billion) business by 2030, according to a new report from Barclays.
- Eating bugs is becoming increasingly common as the global population swells and Gen Z seeks more sustainable alternatives to traditional meat.
- Restaurants and supermarkets around the world are already serving up edible insects, making the category increasingly attractive to food industry giants such as Nestle, PepsiCo, and Tyson.
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As plant-based "meat" takes off, Barclays looks to bugs as a major part of the future of alternative proteins.
The insect protein market could be worth $8 billion (roughly R114.3 billion) by 2030, up from less than $1 billion (roughly R14.3 billion) in 2019, according to Meticulous Research data cited in a Barclays report published Monday.
According to Barclays analysts, eating bugs is set to become increasingly popular as the global population swells, making it an attractive investment for grocery chains, food makers like Nestle and PepsiCo, and - perhaps one day - massive chains like McDonald's.
Roughly 2 billion people in 130 countries already regularly eat insects. Eating bugs is far more sustainable than traditional meat products, with the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization encouraging the consumption of insects since 2003. And, Barclays notes, as the "most health-aware and environmentally conscious" generation, Gen Z is less likely to dismiss the idea of eating insects because of the "yuck factor."
The explosive rise of plant-based "meat" highlights a growing appetite for alternatives to traditional meat products.
"We see plant-based meat alternatives as the current source of disruption within protein and in the longer term also see cultured meat as an option," Barclay's report reads. "However, we see future potential for insect protein to also be added to the menu - another alternative that has received less attention thus far."
A number of smaller edible insect companies are already on the market, such as American cricket snack company Six Foods, Shark Tank-backed cricket protein company Chapul, and Finnish insect snack and meat substitute company Entis.
Grocery chains including Sainsbury in the UK, Loblaw in Canada, and Amazon-owned Whole Foods stock bug-based items. Independent restaurants have insects on the menu, helping push the notion of eating bugs into the mainstream, similar to how sushi restaurants were able to convince Western diners to eat raw fish.
"[O]nce considered a weird and whacky food, part of sushi's transformation into the mainstream was helped by it trickling down from top-end restaurants through to the supermarket shelves," the report states. "We are starting to see this with insects as well, with insect-based restaurants such as Grub Kitchen in the UK and The Black Ant in New York."
As restaurants and supermarkets normalize edible insects, food manufacturers acquiring smaller brands and developing their own bug-based products seem to be likely next steps in edible bug boom.
Tyson has invested in plant-based meat and cultured meat, and highlighted the demand for cricket protein in its 2019 list of food trends. Nestle told Barclays it is conducting research and development into various insect species and launched a pet food product made with crickets earlier this year. And, while PepsiCo said that it is too early to determine its long-term plan for insects, the company has selected insect snack brands to take part in its accelerator program for emerging brands.
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