Target: Aspire Food Group of McGill University’s MBA program
Goal: Praise McGill MBA students for creating a plan to make nutritious insects an appealing food source for consumers and an attractive business opportunity for farmers
Aspire Food Group, a group of McGill MBA students, won this year’s Hult prize for finding a new way to fight malnutrition in impoverished communities. They will now be able to use the prize money of one million dollars to implement their idea of insect farming — an easy, accessible way to furnish malnourished populations with a low-cost food rich in various minerals, iron, and protein.
It’s one thing to come up with a new affordable nutritious food source, another to convince people unaccustomed to it to adopt it into their diet, a challenge particularly daunting in the case of insects that seem to inspire aversion rather than appetite among the uninitiated. Disgusted by bugs, some can hardly stand looking at them, never mind eating them. Aspire Group’s marketing plan is remarkable precisely for its undertaking to not simply impose insects on populations hesitant to eat them, but to make them appealing enough to remove the hesitation. To get rid of the “yuck factor,” the students plan to process the tiny beasts into a powder that effectively bears little reflection of its origin.
The students have taken cultural sensitivities into account in researching how insect consumption could be best marketed to fit in with a country’s culinary traditions. The powder is likely to become a staple of local diets precisely because the students are planning to mix it with foods people already eat on an everyday basis. In Mexico, for example, they chose to add cricket powder to a popular base ingredient — corn flour. They seem to have made the right choice, judging by the taste tests. Among tasters asked to rate the taste of tortillas made of a corn flour mixture containing cricket powder compared to tortillas simply made of regular corn flour, the cricket tortillas won out.
Aspire Student Group has not only striven to make insects an appealing food for consumers, but they also made it their goal to make insect farming affordable and convenient in the cramped spaces typical of poor communities. There is no need for farmland, barns, or feed; just for room enough to hold a closet-sized container within a tiny apartment or a shack and a bit of feed such as grass that can be freely gathered in the insect’s natural environment. And all the hassle of buying and learning to operate equipment to turn the tiny beasts into a powder is something that farmers won’t have to worry about. The farmers would be left with the sole task of raising their stock that would then be sold to Aspire Food Group for further processing.
Sign this petition to thank Aspire Student Group for coming up with an effective way to raise, process, and market insects — a nutritious food that is both inexpensive to produce and consume.
Dear Members of Aspire Food Group of McGill University’s MBA program,
It is wonderful that you have developed a plan to promote the consumption of insects as a way to battle malnutrition in impoverished communities. The brilliance of your idea lies in the modest resources its implementation requires. Although insect powder is as nutritious as animal meat as both contain iron, protein, and various minerals, the costs of raising the tiny critters are significantly cheaper. Unlike farm animals that require a lot of land and feed to raise, insect cultivation only requires the space to hold a closet-sized container.
But affordability isn’t enough to convince people to put bugs on their plate. That is why we are grateful to you for coming up with a marketing strategy that acknowledges the fact that many people find them too disgusting to ever consider eating. You’ve addressed that issue by engineering a process to transform the critters into a powder with a texture and appearance that hides its origin. But even if a new food is nutritious, affordable, and doesn’t taste bad, it’s still a major challenge to get consumers to discover it and include it in their meals. You have managed to overcome even that hurdle by mixing insect powder into already popular foods, such as tortillas.
We want to thank you for conceiving of a project that would not only introduce a new, extremely affordable, and nutritious ingredient into the diets of impoverished populations, but would also integrate it seamlessly into the local cultures and make its consumption pleasant and easy.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: orthoptera_taxonomy via Flickr