Edible insects have attracted much Western interest in recent years due to their nutritional and environmental advantages. Consumers, however, remain aversive towards a class of items that is not traditionally considered to be food. While the focus is often on the Western disgust, looking at consumer perceptions in a culture that considers insects to be delicious could provide new insights into the psychological and cultural mechanisms that underpin these evaluations. This cross-cultural qualitative study explores how cultural exposure and individual experience contribute towards the contrasting evaluations of insects as food by those who do and do not eat them. Eight focus groups were conducted across two cultures—four in Thailand where insects are part of the local food culture, and four in the Netherlands where insects are generally not recognised as food. Within these cultures, two groups consisted of individuals who have experience with eating insects, and two groups consisted of individuals with little or no experience with insects as food. Cultural exposure created expectations of which species were more appropriate to eat and how they should be prepared, whereas individual experiences determined whether judgements were made based on memories of past eating experiences or based on the visual properties and item associations. This study provides insights into the acceptance and rejection factors of unfamiliar food items and identifies the factors to be considered when introducing novel food items that are not yet culturally acceptable as food.
- edible insects
- psychological distance
- quality perception
Tan Hui Shan, G., Fischer, A. R. H., Tinchan, P., Stieger, M. A., Steenbekkers, L. P. A., & van Trijp, J. C. M. (2015). Insects as food: Exploring cultural exposure and individual experience as determinants of acceptance. Food Quality and Preference, 42, 78-89. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodqual.2015.01.013