Silkworm pasta, roasted grasshoppers and cricket protein bars could become a part of UK diets in the next decade.

That is according to Nick Rousseau, the founder of the Woven network which is aiming to establish insects as a source of human food and animal feed.

From now until 2050 the world’s population is expected to increase by 20% and will require a more sustainable source of protein than livestock, which takes up large areas of land.

Mark Ramsden of ADAS UK Ltd talks sustainability. Photo: Sarah Cole, Woven Network.
Mark Ramsden of ADAS UK Ltd talks sustainability. Photo: Sarah Cole, Woven Network

Insects, of which there are 2,000 edible species, reproduce quickly, are a good source of protein and require less land, according to Woven.

But there are many obstacles facing the industry, from meeting retailers’ expectations to establishing sustainable farming solutions.

A conference attendee tries some of the insect based food on display. Photo: Sarah Cole, Woven Network
A conference attendee tries some of the insect-based food on display. Photo: Sarah Cole, Woven Network

Nick said: “At the moment people see us as a quirky idea but I think there is something much bigger but we need to work together.

“You’ve got the novelty side where the insect is a snack itself but we’re moving towards bars with a protein component made up of insects, and mainstream products such as pasta and pizza dough being made with insects too.

“It’s a challenge but I think in 10 to 15 years it could be really big.

“It’ll be insects not as snacks but popping up as a component of food.”

Developing the idea, 60 entrepreneurs and academics met at the University of Nottingham, home to the university’s school of biosciences, to launch Woven, the country’s only insect-as food industry network.

Speakers examined the need to establish more insect farms, the nutritional benefits of feeding insects to animals, and the “colossal” problem of the stigma attached to eating insects in the western world.

There were also insect-based snacks from Yumpa, Crobar, Mophagy and Jimini for guests to tuck into.

It was also revealed that the emerging industry is valued at £1.2 million in the UK, and is predicted to sell 250,000 insect-based products in 2016.

A conference attendee trying a Yumpa protein bar. Photo Sarah Cole, Woven Network.
A conference attendee trying a Yumpa protein bar. Photo Sarah Cole, Woven Network

Research presented at the conference showed that 80% of people find it acceptable to feed insects to animals but while insects are already a part of billions of people’s diets in Africa, Asia and Latin America, the level of human acceptance to eat insects is far lower.

Many were quick to point the finger at I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here’s role in making eating insects seem like a punishment.

But Gary Bartlett and his son, Ben, of Bush Grub, which sells novelty insect products endorsed by the ITV show, said their goods had helped to bridge the gap. He added: “It is a massive way of getting any sort of edible insects into the public domain. For 11 months of 2015, a deli pot of edible crickets was our best seller.”

Further research conducted by PhD student Jonas House in the Netherlands found that only 27% of people were put off buying insect-based foods again due to the taste.

Price and availability were bigger issues, leading people to believe that insect-based foods could follow sushi to become integrated into UK diets.