Why this is important to Wisconsin businesses: The edible insect market in Korea has been steadily growing and there may be market opportunities for Wisconsin companies.
It has been almost six years since the South Korean government started to focus on the edible insect market. According to a 2016 report by the Korea Rural Economic Institute, South Korea’s edible insect market size was expected to reach about ₩537 billion ($44 million USD) in 2020.
Edible insects have a shorter breeding period than other livestock and are considered highly nutritious as food because they contain abundant protein, unsaturated fatty acids, and vitamins and minerals. South Korea’s agriculture ministry said more than 2,500 farms and companies were involved in the edible insect business in 2020. Insects are being used in pet food as well as for human consumption.
South Korea has become one of the advanced edible insect markets in the Asia Pacific region. South Korean food processing company CJ CheilJedang addressed edible insects as a smart alternative to traditional protein early on, and signed a partnership agreement in 2016 with the Korean Edible Insect Laboratory Knowledge Coop to devise ways to use insects as ingredients in ready-to-eat products and recipes.
The edible insect market is still in the early stages of growth; however, insect snacks and insect protein bars have been launched by the Korean food industry. In addition, the number of pet owners in Korea has increased, and many of them view insect-based pet foods as premium quality because of their potential health benefits.
With the growth of the edible insect market, the South Korean Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs has set aside ₩360 million ($300,000 USD) to support the insect farming business. The government’s National Institute of Animal Science is also helping entrepreneurs and pet food companies by sharing its research findings and technology for using insect-based protein.
The South Korean government has officially approved 10 insects for use as food products: pulmuchi (locusts), grasshoppers, silkworm pupae, silkworm larvae, mealworm larvae, two-spotted crickets, Kolbe beetle larvae, Japanese rhinoceros beetle larvae, darkling beetles and western honey bee larvae.
As South Korea’s edible insect market is expected to continue to grow, it could be worthwhile for Wisconsin companies to look for opportunities there.