TAMPA (FOX 13) - Consuming bugs is now a consumer trend. Entrepreneurs looking for new protein sources are starting to see some success in selling edible insects, so we decided to get a taste of the trend – literally.
It’s called entomophagy -- the age-old practice of eating insects.
“[Bugs are] not only a good source of protein but a good source of fat, and it's the sort of fat that’s unsaturated, good for our brains and heart,” explained Theresa Crocker, the director of nutrition and dietetics at USF.
Specialized farms in the U.S. raise crickets for human consumption, and as health buffs look for alternative proteins, business has picked up for some startups specializing in bugs.
Chips called "Chirps," made by SixFoods, are marketed as having three times the protein of normal potato chips. They're sold by online retailer Thrive Market at more than 70 airport terminals and just got a deal on the reality show “Shark Tank.”
The creator sent us some cricket flour to try. We made some cookies, which got decent reviews.
Cricket flour is one thing, but are Americans ready to eat straight up bugs? To answer the question, we did what any responsible reporter would do -- ordered up hors d'oeuvres and threw a party in the newsroom.
“We've got chocolate coffee crickets, sour cream and onion, and sriracha crickets,” we offered, along with something called Bugitos. “It's just a toffee coconut Bugito -- you like mojitos, you like Tostitos, you like Doritos. How about a Bugito?”
Reactions from our colleagues varied.
“You can make it sound as cute as you want. It's still a mealworm. Ick,” complained reporter Aaron Mesmer.
Anchor Chris Cato contemplated, “So it's made with cricket flour. And that is ground up Jiminy?”
Web producer Margaret Grigsby kept it real as she analyzed some roasted crickets after she’d already popped a few in her mouth.
“I'm really glad I didn't look hard at it because I can see an eyeball, mmmm. Yuck,” she said.
And no, she’s not lying. If you look close you can see their buggy body parts.
Meanwhile, Mesmer was still trying to bring himself to eat a Bugito.
“This one isn't even covered with anything. This is just a straight up meal worm!” he pointed out.
But bugs go beyond novelty. Entrepreneurs say crickets could be the answer for global food shortages.
Crocker pointed out, “It's a highly biologically valuable protein. It's digestible by humans. Over 2 million people in the world eat bugs.”
So crickets could be the gateway “bug” to the world of edible insects.
Our news team was actually a big fan of those cricket flour cookies. The strong cinnamon cloaked what they found to be a bitter aftertaste from the crickets, which was prevalent in the other products. The sour cream and onion roasted crickets produced legit wretches and eye-watering, but the other flavors got shrugs from most tasters.
Perhaps web editor Chris Boex summed up the roasted bugs the best: “They taste a little bit like soybeans, dry soybeans. A lot like that. Just kind of a meaty, granola flavor; almost vegetable-like.”
Or maybe Chris Cato was more on point:
“After you chew it up really well, there's a little bit of a gross aftertaste. Not like I'm going to hurl, but like I wish I hadn't have eaten it.”
"They taste like nothing. They just taste like dirt,” said Margaret Grigsby -- until she came across that sour-cream-and-onion one that shut everyone else down. “This one has flavor, but it's not a good one.”
That one did her in, too. “Taste test is over. I need water.”
The global edible insect market was valued at $424 million last year.