Marketing Insects: Superfood or Solution-Food?

Carolin Schiemer, Afton Marina Szasz Halloran, Kristjan Jespersen, Petra Kaukua

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook chapterResearchpeer-review


In entering Western markets, edible insects are typically framed as the ‘solution’ to a number of challenges caused by unsustainable global food systems, such as climate change and global health issues. In addition, some media outlets also frame insects as the next ‘superfood’. Superfood is a marketing term for nutrient-packed foods, which are successfully promoted to Western consumers with the promises of health, well-being and beauty. However, the increase in the demand in the West is argued to cause negative social, environmental, economic and cultural consequences – externalities – felt by those who traditionally produce and consume the foods. These actors are located far away from where the superfood phenomenon materializes. Therefore, we detect a possibly contentious framing strategy through double-framing insects as both a solution and a superfood. We ask: how can insects be promoted as the solution to the negative externalities that arise from unsustainable Western consumption patterns, while at the same time being framed as a ‘superfood’, which cause those very externalities? As a point of departure for this chapter, we build on the research article Entomophagy and Power by Müller et al. (J Insect Food Feed 2(2):121–136, 2016), who raise a concern that the growth of Western insect industries might reproduce, rather than challenge, power imbalances in global food systems. Our analysis suggests that the tensions of double-framing insects as both ‘solution’ and ‘superfood’ might be the first step of pushing insects towards an unsustainable future, particularly because of two pitfalls common for superfoods: firstly, the homogenization of diverse practice, and secondly, universalized sustainability and apolotical solutions. However, our study finds also that insects differ from superfoods for two main reasons: for insects’ ability to add value locally and because of the involvement of sustainably-driven actors from the beginning of industry formation. Due to these differences, this study concludes that if the superfood pitfalls are avoided, insects have a potential to become a truly ‘sustainable superfood’.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEdible Insects in Sustainable Food Systems
EditorsAfton Halloran, Roberto Flore, Paul Vantomme, Nanna Roos
Number of pages24
Place of PublicationCham
Publication date2018
ISBN (Print)9783319740102
ISBN (Electronic)9783319740119
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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