Will the edible insects market move beyond whole cricket powder?

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Milled whole cricket powder is probably the best known bug-derived food ingredient aside from red food color carmine. But what other delights might edible insects yield for food formulators? Elaine Watson caught up with bug enthusiast Dr George Cavender to find out.

Dr George Cavender, research assistant professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln – who gave a presentation on bug ingredients at the IFT show, said the first thing to note when it came to bugs was the huge variation between – and even within - different species when it came to composition, with protein levels for example varying from 11-70%.

“Even if you look at closely-related species such as two different grasshopper species you can still see a lot of variety.”

But which bug-components have the most potential as high-value food ingredients?

Waxworm protein has functionality “similar to egg protein,” so had a lot of potential, he said, while some insects had pearlescent or opalescent shells that could be ground down to make interesting food colors. Chitin from the exoskeleton could also be converted to chitosan to create edible coatings, he added.

"We'e only scratched the surface of what insects can produce for this industry, but as with all things in business, profitability will determine feasibility."

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Dr William Kerr, a professor at the University of Georgia, told IFT delegates that whole cricket powders can form gels when heated, had emulsifying properties and some foaming capacity (although nothing like, say, egg white), and worked well in extruded corn-, wheat-, or rice-based snacks at inclusion levels of up to 15%.

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