Would you eat a mealworm cookie or a cricket energy bar?

Researchers in Australia are feeling out what consumers might think of making insects a mainstream taste: something that's being increasingly discussed as the world looks for sustainable food supplies in a changing climate.

"We want to further investigate consumers' attitudes towards edible insects, evaluate taste preferences and consumers' willingness to buy such products," said the University of Adelaide's Dr Anna Crump, who is this week offering people at a local market samples of roasted crickets and ants, mealworm cookies and cricket energy bars.

"We will also be asking consumers questions relating to food neophobia - reluctance to eat novel or new foods.


"We'll be interested to see if a consumer's ethnicity influences their acceptance of edible insects."

In a preliminary online survey of 820 Australian consumers, the researchers found that 20 per cent had tried edible insects.

Of those surveyed, 46 per cent said they would be willing to try a cookie made from insect flour.

"In the earlier survey, consumers said they were most likely to try flavoured or roasted insects and least likely to want to try cockroaches or spiders," Crump said.

"In this taste test, we've chosen products that consumers are most likely to react positively towards - apologies to anyone keen to try a cockroach or spider.

"The samples we'll be offering consumers provide a good spread of the available insect products in Australia's marketplace, some of which may be more acceptable than others."

Crump said the research will help guide the development of an edible insect industry.

"In Australia, edible insects remain an emerging agricultural industry. Consumer research is needed to improve consumer acceptance of edible insects, so as to realise their potential as an alternative protein source."


Her colleague, Associate Professor Kerry Wilkinson, said edible insects could play a role in global food security.

"Issues such as climate change, increasing global population, scarcity of agricultural land and rapidly changing consumer preferences, particularly in developing countries where there is increasing demand for high quality animal protein.

"These food security issues will only be overcome by a shift in food consumption habits, particularly when we are talking about meat consumption."

In all, there were more than 1900 edible species of insects, many of which were a good protein source, and which consumed very little food themselves and produced few greenhouse gases.

The strange world of edible grubs isn't new to New Zealand.

One Kiwi company, Anteater, has been working with high-end food producers to make delicious dishes from insects to be served in restaurants throughout the country.

Its current range consists of wild harvested NZ lemongrass ants, native grass-fed locusts and South Island huhu grubs.

And last year, insects were on the menu at a sold-out dinner in Christchurch hosted by plant-centric chef Alex Davies.