Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
School of Nutrition and Food Sciences
Expanding the consumption of edible insects has been proposed as a strategy for global food security due to their sustainability of production and high nutritional value. In the U.S.A., the idea of eating insects is generally unappealing. This research took a methodical approach to understanding U.S. consumers perceptions of insects as food- specifically, products made with cricket powder. Recent consumer-oriented entomophagy research (2015-2020) was reviewed to consolidate understanding of Westerners’ perceptions of edible insects and to evaluate research trends. An online survey of 1,005 U.S. consumers investigated appropriate products for insect protein powder incorporation (based on willingness to try; WTT), identified reasons for aversion, and tested the effect of entomophagy benefit information on WTT. Based on the findings, whole-wheat snack crackers were formulated, substituting whole-wheat flour with cricket powder (Acheta domesticus, Gryllodes sigillatus) at increasing levels. Liking, preference, and acceptability of snack crackers were measured, and data were used to propose a modified consumer rejection threshold, a modified hedonic rejection threshold, and a newly developed rejection tolerance threshold and rejection range. These results informed practical limits on cricket powder addition in snack crackers. Additionally, the effects of cricket powder on physical properties and U.S. consumers’ perceptions (color, texture, flavor, and overall perceptions) of snack crackers were analyzed. Western consumers are hesitant to accept insects as food, and while disgust and fear are prevalent responses, so are a group of newly coined “food-evoked sensation seeking emotions.” Protein supplementation (protein bars, protein shakes), snacks (crackers) and baked/cereal products (bread, muffins) were most appropriate for insect incorporation, and unfamiliarity with entomophagy was the biggest hurdle to trial intent, followed by concerns about sensory quality. Newly proposed rejection-type threshold methodologies can provide practical guidance for food product development and quality control applications, including use of novel ingredients. Cricket-based snack cracker development should continue using between 4% and 7.9% cricket powder, until issues of darkness, hardness, and flavor are improved, or until cricket’s sensory properties become familiar and appreciated. Information can influence intention, but familiarity and positive eating experiences through enjoyable insect-based products may be key to changing attitudes, negative emotions, and ultimately consumption behaviors.
Ardoin, Ryan Paul, "Evaluating US Consumers' Perception of Foods Made with Cricket Powder" (2021). LSU Doctoral Dissertations. 5443.