CE26 - Innovation, travail

Consumption and Representations of Insects – Knowledge on their Edibility in Europe – CRI-KEE

Submission summary

Edible insect consumption in Western countries could become part of a healthier and sustainable food chain, which would aim towards meeting the existent growing food demand, and at the same time, helping with the preservation of the environment. This project aims to accompany nutritional transitions linked with the global changes. The global changes that we are living indicate a necessary behavioural evolution, which requires a better comprehension of the social, cultural, psychological, and sensory determinants, along with dietary preferences and practices. This study proposes this analysis, in order to identify possible innovations for food companies that are perhaps seeking to offer healthier, more nutritional and functional food, combined with strategies for public policies and regulations to go along with these changes in the patterns of consumption.
Entomophagy (eating insects) is a widespread practice in Africa and Asia, although it is in decline due to the westernisation of diets (van Huis et al., 2013). In westernized countries, entomology was gradually abandoned in favour of cattle breeding as well, and in great part due to cultural reasons (Much, 2012). However, insects represent a healthy dietary alternative for people in developed countries, and it could also represent a solution against famine for malnourished countries - which is commonly supported by FAO (van Huis et al., 2013). The interest in insects as a food source in the Western world has recently begun to increase, although it is mainly limited to a marginal and experiential consumption, especially because insects are mentally categorized as "culturally inedible" (Fischler, 1990). Insects usually represent the three basic reasons for food refusal (commonly highlighted in sociology literature), namely: danger, aversion, and disgust (Rozin et al., 2008). The major issue here should be to familiarise consumers with insects, in order to reduce the aversion related, first, to their taste and, second, towards changing the mental representations to be able to position insects into the "culturally edible" category (Corbeau and Poulain 2002). Such actions would consequently reduce the perceived danger and disgust associated to insects. The aforementioned three reasons for food refusal are somehow aligned with the three types of ambivalence (Beardsworth, 1995), which characterize a person’s relationship with his/her diet: health-illness, pleasure-displeasure, and life-death. More effective associated regulatory strategies could help in finding better ways of encouraging acceptance of edible insects, namely the acquisition of knowledge through communication and education, familiarization through exposure, the association with known flavours and foods, and the sarcophagus consumption of insects. The renewed interest of researchers for insects as a food source is quite recent (van Huis, 2013). However, this work is usually carried out within the medical and agricultural sectors (Looy et al, 2014). Little attention has been paid to the perception and marketing dimensions, and there are almost no registers of analysis of psychological mechanisms that are preventing such human consumption behaviour (Gallen, 2005; Looy et al, 2014). Researchers agree that the basis for rejection should be studied, and more attempts should be approached in order to overcome this rejection. Moreover, the consumer groups that are most likely to consume insects should be identified and targeted (van Huis, 2013). The objectives of this intercultural research are to identify mental representations of entomophagy, to target the least rejected insects types and the most acceptable forms in which they can be consumed, to locate the consumer group that is most favourable towards insects in this group, as well as what information and actions can promote their consumption in order to propose innovative pathways for businesses and public authorities.

Project coordinator

Madame Gaëlle Pantin-Sohier (GRANEM)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


LEMNA Laboratoire d'Economie et de Management de Nantes-Atlantique

Help of the ANR 369,360 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: September 2019 - 36 Months

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