Interest in 3D printed food is becoming more widespread, with 3D printed chocolate, sugar shapes, and pasta already having made their debuts.
In London South Bank University, however, food scientists and product designers have teamed up to create something new: 3D printed insect-based snacks.
If you can get past the skin crawling feeling, you may be able to stomach this news. Insects could create a sustainable food source for the world’s growing population. They are also extremely nutritious, high in protein and minerals, including calcium, iron, and magnesium. Creating insect flour and 3D printing insect paste helps remove the “gross factor,” and disguise the fact that you’re eating bugs.
Of course, as practical and innovative as this process may be, the project is not without challenges. Food safety concerns and issues with taste are two hurdles that the project faces. And, of course, there’s the other issue: will consumers actually be willing to give 3D printed insect paste a try?
The high fat content of the insect material means that it has a short shelf life and can quickly turn rancid. Also, as you may have guessed, insect paste is not so delicious in its natural form and requires flavoring to make it more palatable.
Currently, the team is looking for ways to mask the flavor and for techniques of reduce the fat in the paste in order to increase shelf life. Additionally, since the bugs they are using are produced for wildlife, there are safety issues to address before the product is able to be marketed - to humans, that is!
While the team says that in the medium term, this food is likely to be of interest to animal feed manufacturers, the hope is to eventually be able to incorporate the insect flour into bread, cereal bars, and other snacks, as well other 3D printed foods.