Sainsbury’s has signed a deal with snack manufacturing startup Eat Grub to stock its smoky BBQ flavoured roasted crickets across 250 of its UK stores, with the first stock set to be delivered on Sunday (25 November). The product will be sold for £1.50 per bag of 50 crickets, with those keen to sample them promised a “crunchy texture with a rich, smoky flavour”.

Sainsbury’s claims that the move will make it the first UK supermarket to stock edible insects, amid growing concerns around the sustainability of producing traditional protein such as beef, eggs, pork and poultry.

“Insect snacks should no longer be seen as a gimmick or something for a dare,” Sainsbury’s head of future brands Rachel Eyre said.

“It’s clear that consumers are increasingly keen to explore this new sustainable protein source.”

Gram for gram, dried crickets contain more protein than beef, chicken and pork – with 68g per 100g of product. The protein ratio for beef, meanwhile, stands at 31g per 100g of meat.

According to WWF, farming cows also requires 12 times as much feed as farming the same amount of crickets on a gram for gram basis.

“As the population increases, we urgently need to look at alternative protein sources to make the most of land available for food production,” WWF UK’s food policy manager Duncan Williamson said.

“Insects are incredibly sustainable and can help to reduce our carbon footprint.”

Sainsbury’s is encouraging customers to eat the crickets alone as a snack or to use them as a garnish for dishes such as soups, noodles and salads. 

Bug-based grub

The move by Sainsbury’s comes at a time when more than 1,000 insect species are believed to be eaten around the world, predominantly across Asian and African nations. The UN estimates that two billion people worldwide regularly consume insects.

The global edible insect market is widely predicted to exceed $520m (£406m) by 2023, as population growth spurs the need for more sustainable protein sources.

Across Europe, the sale of edible insects has begun to gather pace in food pop-ups, upmarket online retailers and experimental restaurants. Ocado, for example, has been selling protein bars made from cricket powder since 2016, while French supermarket chain Carrefour recently moved to stock bug-based snack bars, pastas and granolas in 300 of its European locations.

Department store Selfridges, meanwhile, is planning to launch a pop-up “bug bar” in its flagship London store in February 2019. The event will follow on from its decision to stock chocolate-covered giant ants in its foodhall last year.

Sarah George

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