How does it taste? Appreciation of insect-based snacks and its determinants

Elsevier, International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science, Volume 21, October 2020, 100211
Clara Cicatiello, Andrea Vitali, Nicola Lacetera

Entomophagy is increasingly seen as a potential solution to provide a sustainable source of protein. However, the attitude of Western consumers towards insect-based products is generally negative. This study was designed to evaluate the liking of four insect-based snacks among young Italian consumers through a tasting panel involving 62 participants. Two of the products showed the whole insects, while the other two contained insect flour as a main ingredient. The overall liking of the snacks was quite high, with a mean value of 6.48 on a 1–9 sensory scale; the chocolate bar with insect flour was the most appreciated product (6.95), followed by whole crickets (6.64), chips containing insect flour (6.33), and caramel worms, which scored the lowest (6.02). An ANCOVA model was used to test differences in the overall liking against a set of factors, including the features of the product (sweet/savoury, visible/invisible insect), demographical and behavioural variables, and the Food Neophobia Scale (FNS). A general distrust over new foods as well as the willingness to know all ingredients in a food negatively affected the overall liking of the tasted products. The liking was lower for snacks where the whole insect was visible, while no difference was detected in the liking of sweet and savoury products. Although strong cultural barriers still exist, young Italian consumers demonstrated an interest in insect-based products. Further research and communication may help to improve the perception of insects as a food among these consumers.