Eating Bugs… on Purpose
Saint Joseph’s University hosts lecture on edible insects, including samples.
Friday, October 20, 2017
PHILADELPHIA (October 20, 2017) — Nearly 80 percent of the world’s population eats insects. Much evidence suggests that insect production could one day be an environmentally sustainable source of protein for the United States. Yet, most Americans find the practice disgusting — excluding, perhaps, in extreme game shows on television.
Saint Joseph’s University’s Department of Food Marketing will host a lecture that analyzes the edible insect market on Tuesday, Oct. 24, from 12:30 to 1:45 p.m., in Campion Student Center’s Forum Theatre. At the lecture’s conclusion, attendees will be invited to sample some cricket snacks. The event is free and open to the public.
Held in conjunction with the Pedro Arrupe Center for Business Ethics, the event features Vincent Vitale, business development and marketing director for Aspire Food Group. Vitale’s talk will focus on the growing trend of edible insects and Aspire’s strategies for bringing insects into the Western, non-Latin markets.
“The biggest challenge is getting consumers to try the product,” says Emily Moscato, Ph.D., assistant professor of food marketing. “Sensory evaluations are critical in trying new foods: people want to see, taste, touch, smell and even hear what they’re eating. That requires a lot of of convincing and sampling — or Beyoncé to endorse it.”
Her research explores how consumers categorize insects and dishes featuring them. Much evidence exists about U.S. consumers’ disgust, says Moscato, “but what more can we learn about these reactions? What characteristics of insects increase their appeal?”
Moscato has been collaborating with Aspire on their Aketta cricket brand. Nearly 60 students in her undergraduate food marketing class “Understanding Food Customers and Consumers” must build a marketing plan using consumer insight to promote the insects among millennials. She cites that one of the project’s biggest obstacles has been price, since edible insects are a new and smaller market.
“Insect products are predominantly premium-priced,” Moscato adds, “because consumers see unfamiliar products as high-quality and more legitimate when they’re expensive. Eating crickets is suspicious enough: you don’t want to further add ‘cheap’ as an association.”
Even with the challenges of launching insect products into the food market, Moscato remains hopeful, saying, “Remember, there was a time before Greek yogurt was in every store.”