Researchers baked cookies and cakes using butter made out of insects, and the taste testers could not tell the difference. Is insect larvae the breakfast spread of tomorrow?
What is the best substitute for butter? According to new research, the answer might be larvae fat.
Selected insect varieties such as crickets, grasshoppers and mealworms are high in protein, fat, fibre, as well as vital minerals including calcium and iron. They’re also better for the environment, consumption-wise – production of insect products produces fewer greenhouse gasses, requires less feed, water and land usage compared to the more conventional livestock farming.
Even so, the visual appeal, low availability, price, poor image and unfamiliarity of these ingredients have rendered this nutrient-rich and eco-friendly food source practically unacceptable to Western tastes.
To combat this prejudice, a team of scientists in Belgium believes that boosting the development of insect ingredients will increase consumer exposure and drive uptake in the future. In a study led by Ghent University’s Daylan Tzompa-Sosa, researchers surveyed reactions to bakery products containing an ingredient made from insect fat.
To combat this prejudice, a team of scientists in Belgium believes that boosting the development of insect ingredients will increase consumer exposure and drive uptake in the future.
Black soldier fly larvae fat (BSL LF) is made up of 70% saturated fatty acids, with lauric acid accounting for over 40% of that portion. This makes BSF LF not only solid at room temperature but also more digestible than long-chain fatty acids.
Baked cakes, cookies and waffles with and without insects were consumed by the 344 participants in the study. Each product was formulated with either 0%, 25% or 50% of BSF LF butter substitute.
It was found that in cakes and cookies, 25% of BSF LF did not alter the taste according to participants. In waffles, up to 50% BSF LF could be used to replace butter without influencing the participants’ acceptance. Regarding texture and colour, BSF LF hardly affected the participants’ perception, a testament to the similar structure and functionality to butter.
Broadly speaking, however, the food items containing 50% BSF LF were more closely associated with “rancid aroma”, “off-flavour” and “bad aftertaste”.
Tzompa-Sosa’s team believes that, eventually, a higher substitution of BSF LF into mainstream food products could be achieved using a refined version, one that is the product of future research that explores the reduction of off-flavours.
They also noted that countries of which bakery products “are an important component of the eating culture, like Belgium, the possibilities and the relevance for integrating them with innovative insect-based ingredients is high.”