Are you in the target market to eat insects? The easiest uptake will be by a young male who claims to care more about the environment, believes they are progressive and adventurous about food, and already doesn't care about meat. 

Matching those criteria, the likelihood that this type of person is willing to eat insects as a meat substitute is estimated more than 75%, according to a new paper published in Food Quality and Preference.

The authors investigated the role of personal and food-related attitudinal determinants of consumers’ readiness to adopt insects as a meat substitute. It was conducted in Flanders, Belgium and involved a population of typical Western meat consumers.  16.3% of participants claimed to be ready (16.3%) or definitely ready (3.0%) to eat insects as a meat substitute. Men were found to be more than twice as likely than women to do so.

Deep-friend scorpions in Beijing. How well you fit in there is a matter of age and gender and whether or not you think grossing your American friends out is cool. Photograph: Claro Cortes/Reuters, link: Guardian.

A 10-year increase in age led to a 27% decrease in the likelihood of eating insects. “Men and younger consumers seem to have a more adventurous taste orientation or they find the idea of consuming insects less disgusting than women and older consumers,” said Wim Verbeke, senior investigator and professor of agro-food marketing and consumer behavior at Ghent University.

One drawback is that food neophobia may be lessened in that target market but food technology neophobia is likely greater. The anti-meat demographic that does not like it for ethical reasons is unlikely to like insects once papers claiming insects are being tortured come out, and people most likely claim the most about food and the environment are most likely to be regressive about food technology and agricultural science.

The 2013 FAO ‘Edible Insects’ report found insects compared favorably to meat in terms of environmental impact and feed conversion. The consumer study confirmed that people recognize the environmental benefits of the eating of insects instead of meat. 

“An increase of one unit in the importance attached to the environmental impact of food choice increased a person’s likelihood of eating insects by more than 70%. By contrast, consumers were not yet convinced about the possible health benefits of eating insects,” said Verbeke. “Consumer insight, such as provided by this study, is important for a successful positioning and marketing of insects or insect protein in Western societies, either as a food for human consumption or as a protein source in animal feed. A stronger acceptance of insects in Western societies may in turn contribute to halting the reduction in the use of insects in developing countries where insect-eating is now in decline owing to an increasing westernization of local traditional diets.”

Citation: Profiling consumers who are ready to adopt insects as a meat substitute in a Western society', W. Verbeke,  Food Quality and Preference, DOI: 10.1016/j.foodqual.2014.07.008. Source: Ghent University