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“Do you eat insects?” Acceptance of insects as food by children

Valérie Hémar-Nicolas (Department of Management, RITM, Paris-Saclay University, Sceaux, France)
Gaëlle Pantin-Sohier (Department of Management, GRANEM, University of Angers, Angers, France)
Céline Gallen (Department of Management, LEMNA, University of Nantes, Nantes, France)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Article publication date: 15 July 2022

Issue publication date: 25 July 2022

759

Abstract

Purpose

While recent academic research on entomophagy has predominantly focused on adults, the purpose of this child-centred research is to obtain a better understanding of young consumer acceptance of insect-based foods.

Design/methodology/approach

Two qualitative studies were conducted with a total of 43 French children aged 8–13 years. Study 1 (n = 22), based on semi-directive interviews, and Study 2 (n = 21), based on focus groups, included projective techniques and exposure to different types of insect-based products to help children express their feelings and thoughts.

Findings

The evidence shows that in Western children’s minds, insects are considered as culturally non-edible. Children predominantly reject insects as food because of their sensory properties and the disgust they arouse. However, their interest in eating insect-based food is embedded within experiential contexts specific to childhood, in particular the peer group, which makes insect-eating fun and challenging, and the family, which offers a protective and reassuring setting.

Practical implications

The authors advocate changing children’s sensory perception of insect-eating food through sensory and participatory activities. Manufacturers and policymakers should also draw on children’s peer culture to associate insect-eating with positive social experiences and foster peer influence.

Originality/value

Drawing on cognitive psychology theories and the literature in food science on food rejection, the authors contribute to emerging consumer research on alternative food consumption (AFC) focusing on cognitive, emotional and social factors of acceptance or rejection of insect-based foods by children.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The students of the Master in Marketing Innovation of Paris-Saclay University and of the Master in Digital Marketing of Angers University are kindly acknowledged for their help in data collection. All the children are also kindly acknowledged for their participation.

Funding: This research was funded by project ANR CRI-KEE – Consumption and Representations of Insects – Knowledge on their Edibility in Europe (ANR-19-CE26-0003-01).

Citation

Hémar-Nicolas, V., Pantin-Sohier, G. and Gallen, C. (2022), "“Do you eat insects?” Acceptance of insects as food by children", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 39 No. 5, pp. 505-522. https://doi.org/10.1108/JCM-12-2020-4289

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2022, Emerald Publishing Limited

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