Crickets – the new superfood?
Introducing crickets as a food product
In Uganda, the 2SCALE consortium is establishing a value chain for cricket as a food product. But, how do you market the nutritional benefits of crickets to a people who do not even eat crickets?
When the BoP Innovation Centre first came to us with the task to investigate how to introduce crickets into the Uganda market, we thought that for a nation that already loves nsenene – a kind of edible locust – this would be a walkover. After all, crickets are bigger and more nutritious. Then a quick research within the office revealed that though white ants and other insects are a delicacy in most of Uganda, crickets were considered inedible, even taboo in certain cultures.
However we had taken on the challenge and there was no other way but forward.
From no crickets to delicious cricket-bean sauce
The assignment was to develop a value proposition for crickets and cricket food products for the BoP market in central Uganda, so we proposed a tripartite research method, looking into the market, consumer behavior and the marketing approach to achieve the client’s objectives. The approach to this research though was very iterative as not all the steps were decided upon beforehand. Each step informed the next step.
The desk study
Searching for information on cricket as a food source in Uganda confirmed what we already knew: there was no public appreciation that crickets could even be consumed as a food source. Would the farmers want to produce cricket? Maybe, but who would eat it? Indeed there were a few farmers who had attempted to or at least were attempting to grow crickets albeit unsuccessfully. We could not even find cricket to taste. Was the reality out in the field any different?
The market research
This was a lot more promising. We targeted Masaka which is famous for the production of nsenene, the food most related to crickets, and were able to create sure consumer segments; looking at the active young workers in rural areas who need energy-boosting snacks; the school-going children in both primary and secondary school; and babies for whom processed cricket could be mixed in porridge. To reach these consumers, we concluded that we would have to reach the women as our channel to the target market. The challenge was still how to get them to want to eat cricket.
Curious? Please download the Market and Consumer Research here.
So we brought food experts together in a workshop setting and sampled roast crickets that we had netted from the shrubs – as that time, there were no farmers investing time in cricket rearing, with no ready market. The workshop resulted in various suggestions for how cricket could be eaten; whole as a snack or mixed with other foods.
With a new found confidence, we planned a sensory test in Masaka market, where the fresh and ready-to-eat nsenene is usually sold. We had to catch the crickets from the wild, as the farmers that we being trained to rear crickets, were left behind with production. We created a cricket menu: Whole snack, cricket in beans, cricket in groundnut sauce, crushed cricket samosa, etc. Though a few consumers completely refused to taste the crickets, the majority – some willingly and others with a little convincing from peers – sampled the dishes and liked what they tasted.
We had our answer:
Crickets are a viable food source in Uganda.
Consumer validation research
However, even with the positive reviews from the sensory test, the client requested a consumer panel; a door-to-door survey that gives quantifiable validation of the acceptance of crickets within low-income communities and enrich findings derived from previous research phases. As we wanted feedback from a large sample group, we gave up the hope of netting sufficient quantities of cricket, and so the client sent us a batch from TNO, an applied research lab the Netherlands, they are already breeding crickets for public consumption. B-Space is conducting this research in partnership with Text to Change, an organization that uses mobile technology for research and community engagement.
One village at a time
The next logical step would be to train people within communities to become ambassadors for crickets, supported with behavioural social marketing campaigns informing the consumer about the nutritional benefits of crickets. Starting small and expanding to other regions, we would get more and more people involved in shaping how crickets are bred, distributed and consumed.
We keep you posted about further updates!
About the 2SCALE Consortium for agribusiness
BoP Innovation Center (BoPInc) is an inclusive business accelerator headquartered in The Netherlands. Their mandate is to develop, learn about and accelerate inclusive businesses that serve the demand of low-income groups at the base of the pyramid with affordable, quality products and services. BoPInc is one of the three organisations in the 2SCALE consortium, the largest agribusiness incubator in Africa, with an objective to develop competitive agro-food industries that are targeting low-income markets. Together with the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC) and the International Centre for development oriented Research in Agriculture (ICRA), they provide financial services, technical assistance and build networks that connect farmers, buyers and intermediaries.