In the last years I have been focusing my studies on different topics: from sustainability in the wine sector to the fish market; from Geographical Indications to Genetically Modified products.
More recently, in 2017 I started my MarieCurie project "CONSUMEHealth. Using consumer science to improve healthy eating habits" at the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell University. However, another area of research was greatly under my investigation during the last five years: the consumption of edible insects by Western consumers.
In briefly, entomophagy is a normal component of human diet in Asia, Africa, Central and South America, however in Western culture it tends to be viewed with disgust and as a practice for times of famine only. However, since January 1, 2018, after the approval by the European Commission of the new Regulation on Novel Food (Regulation (EC) No 2015/2283), it might be easier to find insect products on the market in all the EU member states. So far, intensive on-going research on edible insects was carried out in Northern Europe, particularly Belgium and the Netherlands, where some species are already authorized for sale. Nowadays it became also important to study the entomophagy trend in the Mediterranean area.
In the last couple of months, two manuscripts which involve investigating the perception of Italian consumers and entomophagy have been published. In the first study, the aim was to investigate how sensory-liking attribute perceptions (appearance, taste and organoleptic characteristics) can change between a readily visible vs a processed insect product before and after tasting. Results indicate that texture and appearance of insects are perceived as stronger barriers than taste. Moreover, both unprocessed and processed insect-based products generate more positive perceptions after tasting compared to expectations. In the second research, the aim was to explore the relationship between willingness to try (WTT) and behavior of eating insects, where the independent variables were food neophobia (FNS), sensory property expectations, and previous consumption. The results show that males are more open to trying insects than females, and food neophobia are negatively correlated with the willingness to eat insects. The findings also indicate that the first exposure to insects positively increases consumers’ sensory property expectations. Intention to try is a strong predictor of the behavior of eating insects.
In summary, the positive experience of tasting products with both visible and processed insect may lead consumers to reconsider their initial negative expectations and attitude towards entomophagy. Future studies will need to take into consideration drivers which might influence repeat consumption intentions after tasting, so that insects become integrated into diet (House, 2016) and will need to consider a range of different food categories that vary in their similarity with Mediterranean cuisine, such as insect-based pasta or pizza products. In fact, in Italy insect tastings have so far been carried out only in tailored-made entomophagy conferences or research experiments where the product is presented unprocessed or as an ingredient in processed food.
Sogari G., Menozzi D. & Mora, C. (2018). The Food Neophobia Scale and Young Adults’ Intention to Eat Insect Products. International Journal of Consumer Studies. 2018; 1-9. https://doi.org/10.1111/ijcs.12485
Sogari, G., Menozzi, D. & Mora, C. (2018). Sensory-liking expectations and perceptions of processed and unprocessed insect products. Journal on Food System Dynamics, 9 (4), 314-320. http://dx.doi.org/10.18461/ijfsd.v9i4.942