Recherche et Applications en Marketing
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Innovation is a strategic lever that companies can
use to develop and consolidate their competitive
advantage (Tidd et al., 2001). In the food industry,
France is one of the most innovative countries
alongside the United States.1 And with rising demo-
graphics, the depletion of natural resources, increas-
ing health concerns and more diverse commercial
offers, Western food models are undergoing mas-
sive change (Van Huis et al., 2013). These transfor-
mations have encouraged companies to introduce
radically new products to the market, primarily
protein-rich products (legumes, seaweed, insects).
In the United States, where a colossal amount of
capital is being invested,2 there are many examples
of this: seaweed-based shrimp (New Wave), milk-
free dairy products (Willow Cup), a plant-based
mayonnaise (Just Mayo) and substitute meat prod-
ucts made using plant combinations (Beyond Meat
and Impossible Food). In France, this transition has
been slower but is nonetheless underway (e.g.
Ici&Là has developed steaks made from legumes).
Cognitive acceptance mechanisms of
discontinuous food innovations: The
case of insects in France
Université de Nantes, France
Université d’Angers, France
Université d’Angers, France
In a context of changing food consumption patterns, discontinuous innovations are a major challenge for
the food industry. This article aims to identify the cognitive processes underpinning the acceptance of
discontinuous food innovations through the study of classification and encoding mechanisms of mental
categorisation. A qualitative study applied to entomophagy explores these mechanisms according to the
extent of product processing and their consequences on acceptance by consumers. These results enrich
Behavioral Decision Theory and help manufacturers understand the marketing levers that can be used to
facilitate acceptance of these innovations.
categorisation, discontinuous innovation, entomophagy, food behaviours, heuristics, representations
Céline Gallen, Laboratoire d’Economie et de Management de Nantes-Atlantique (LEMNA), IAE Nantes – Économie & Management,
Université de Nantes, Chemin de la Censive du Tertre – BP 52231, 44322 Nantes Cedex 3, France.
791785RME0010.1177/2051570718791785Recherche et Applications en Marketing (English Edition)Gallen et al.
2 Recherche et Applications en Marketing (English Edition) 00(0)
Such innovations, which do not conform to mental
representations, are challenging traditional cogni-
tive schemas and destabilising existing categorisa-
tions, and can lead to new behaviours (e.g.
flexitarianism, vegetarianism and veganism). For
this reason, they are described as ‘discontinuous
innovations’ (DIs; Robertson, 1971). Insects pro-
vide the context for an interesting case study.
Entomophagy is seen as a nutritious, environmen-
tally friendly, economic and sustainable alternative
to animal-based protein and is attracting more and
more interest from researchers (Raubenheimer and
Rothman, 2013; Van Huis, 2013). It is actively sup-
ported by the Food and Agriculture Organization
(FAO) as a way to support the food transition linked
to the global changes we are seeing today (Oonincx
and de Boer, 2012; Van Huis, 2013). However, con-
sumer acceptance is the primary obstacle to the
development of this food source (Van Huis, 2013).
In Western culture, insects fall under the category
‘non-edible in my culture’ (Corbeau and Poulain,
2002). In a break from consumer representations,
entomophagy is now challenging mental categori-
sations and leading to new behaviours. The objec-
tive for companies who want to introduce DIs to the
food market is to ensure they will be accepted since
purchasing intentions for these products are weaker
than for incremental innovations (Alexander et al.,
2008) and the commercial risks are high (McDermott
and O’Connor, 2002). In fact, very few innovations
launched in the food industry proved to be success-
ful.3 Recent studies have shown that this is mainly
due to a lack of customer orientation on the part of
the firms involved (Evanschitzky et al., 2012;
Imram, 1999) and the inadequate alignment between
the product and consumer expectations (Henard and
Szymanski, 2001). The higher the level of innova-
tion, the more difficult consumers find it to catego-
rise the product and the slower its adoption and
diffusion will be as a result (Moreau et al., 2001b).
This is why it is so important to understand the cog-
nitive mechanisms underpinning their categorisa-
tion by consumers (Looy et al., 2014; Moreau et al.,
2001a; Séré de Lanauze, 2015). Although there is
an abundant literature on the factors that favour the
acceptance of new foods, very few studies have
looked at DIs. Most of the research on the adoption
of food innovations relates either to modifications
to existing products (continuous innovations) (e.g.
Foxall and Haskings, 1986) or to new products that
fall under an existing category (semi-continuous
innovations) (e.g. Pereira et al., 2016; Siro et al.,
2008). But, as far as we are aware, no researchers
have examined the cognitive categorisation mecha-
nisms underpinning the acceptance of a DI by con-
sumers. This is the objective of our research, using
the example of entomophagy. A review of the litera-
ture will focus on classification and the coding
mechanisms of mental categorisation used by con-
sumers to evaluate products. The results of a quali-
tative study conducted on 37 consumers will then
be used to identify these mechanisms according to
the extent to which the products were processed and
explore how they affect acceptance. Finally, we will
discuss the theoretical and managerial implications,
as well as the limitations of our study and future
We will begin by defining DIs with a focus on
insects, before studying the cognitive processes
used by consumers based on classification and the
coding mechanisms of categorisation.
What is a discontinuous food
innovation? The case of insects
Defining a DI. A product’s degree of novelty ranges
from a previously unknown technology to a new
brand in an existing product category. A distinction
therefore emerges between, on one hand, radical,
discontinuous, pioneering, technological or break-
through innovations (depending on the terminology
used) and, on the other, incremental, continuous or
symbolic innovations (Cestre, 1996). In marketing,
Le Nagard-Assayag and Manceau (2011) distin-
guish between four types of innovations depending
on the level of technological innovation and the
extent to which consumption uses and habits are
modified: breakthrough, behavioural, technological
and incremental innovations. Fagerberg et al.
(2005) defined the contours of innovations: radical
or breakthrough innovations relate to products that
cause upheaval on the market; behavioural and
technological innovations (also known as really
Gallen et al. 3
new innovations) are either new advances that bring
consumer benefits or technological advances; and
incremental innovations are closer to optimisation,
improvements or minor changes.
Another typology proposed by Robertson (1971)
is of particular interest as it does not include the
technological criterion. It distinguishes between
continuous innovations, which relate to the modifi-
cation of a product (e.g. natural yoghurt containing
active bifidus); semi-continuous innovations, which
involve the creation of a new product that conforms
to the standards in a given sector (e.g. drinkable
natural yoghurt); and DIs, which challenge tradi-
tional reference points and lead to new behavioural
schemas (e.g. cucumber yoghurt served as a starter
or with a main course). DIs are marked by the dif-
ficulty of associating the product with an existing
mental category, thereby challenging consumers’
references and modifying user behaviours (Veryzer,
1998). They can lead to radical change in consump-
tion methods both in terms of the product–consumer
relationship and the product–other products rela-
tionship. This means they are liable to redefine or
even alter the structure of the existing market
(Garcia and Calantone, 2002; Miller and Morris,
1999). Companies who undertake this process must
therefore reach for a high level of competitive dif-
ferentiation (Gatignon and Xuereb, 1997). This type
of innovation comes with significant commercial
risk: the greater the degree of product innovation,
the more difficult consumers find it to associate it
with an existing mental category and the slower its
adoption and diffusion on the market will be. Most
research on DIs has looked at technological prod-
ucts (Anderson and Ortinau, 1988; Linton, 2002).
In this article, we will be looking at DIs in the food
sector and specifically at the case of introducing
insects for human consumption.
The case of insects. Entomophagy (human consump-
tion of insects) is a practice that is already widespread
in southeast Asia, central and southern Africa and
some regions of South America (Van Huis et al.,
2013). It is currently in decline due to the Westernisa-
tion of the diets in these regions but continues to be
seen as a normal source of food for some 2 billion
people across the world (Ramos-Elorduy, 2009). In
Westernised nations, it has gradually been abandoned
in favour of cattle breeding, mainly for reasons of
profitability (Much, 2012). The FAO now considers
it a sustainable alternative to animal-based protein in
response to the depletion of natural resources, envi-
ronmental pressures, global population increase and
demand for protein (Van Huis, 2013).
In France, a few practices have emerged, but the
consumption of insects remains marginal and exper-
imental. Given that they defy the categorisation of
what is edible and challenge consumers’ existing
reference points and behaviours, insects as a food
source constitute a DI. Although they may corre-
spond to the search for healthier and more sustaina-
ble products by consumers (Falguera et al., 2012;
Lowe et al., 2008), their status as a food source
makes their acceptance particularly complex
(Rumpold and Schlüter, 2013). While recognised as
rich in nutrients and edible in other cultures or in
case of necessity, they are considered inedible in
Western culture4 (Corbeau and Poulain, 2002).
Insects are a source of fear, aversion and disgust
(Fischler, 1990) and are associated with primitive,
barbarian and repugnant behaviour (Fischler, 1990;
Mignon, 2002; Ramos-Elorduy, 2009). Yet an
increasing number of European firms are developing
insect-based products (e.g. Micronutris, M&B Taste,
Edible Insects, Jemini’s, Europe Entomophagie). In
the food sector, innovations of this type are rare
(Steenkamp and Gielens, 2003) as they are met with
reticence on the part of consumers when it comes to
adopting new behaviours (Ram and Sheth, 1989).
We will endeavour to understand this reticence by
studying the mechanisms of mental categorisation.
Categorising DIs in the food sector
Existing research on categorisation describes it as a
fundamental cognitive activity that involves both
ordering the system of mental representations
around cognitive categories as we gain experience
of a product so as to structure our memory (classifi-
cation) and assigning an object to an existing cate-
gory (coding) in order to identify, process and
interpret the information; reach a judgement; and
select a behaviour accordingly (Alba and Hutchinson,
1987; Cohen and Basu, 1987; Ladwein, 1995). With
regard to classification, we will present the structure
and types of categories as well as the contextual
4 Recherche et Applications en Marketing (English Edition) 00(0)
factors on which it depends. We will then study the
difficulty of categorising DIs at the time of coding
and the effects this has on structuration.
Classification of categorisation: Structure, category types
and contextual factors. Categorisation systems
include two structural dimensions: vertical and hor-
izontal. The vertical dimension structures catego-
ries hierarchically, from the broadest to the most
specific5 (Hoyer and MacInnis, 1997; Ladwein,
1995; Pinto, 1999). The horizontal dimension struc-
tures the items in each category in relation to one
another depending on their degree of typicality, that
is, their capacity to represent the category (e.g. cof-
fee is typical of the ‘hot drinks’ category) (Pinto,
1999; Rosch and Mervis, 1975). Two types of cate-
gory can also be identified: natural and ad hoc cat-
egories (Rosch, 1973). Natural (or taxonomic)
categories are based on the physical resemblance
between their members (‘dairy products’, ‘vegeta-
bles’); they cannot be affected by context and are
therefore stable. Ad hoc categories are created
spontaneously to achieve a particular goal in a pur-
chasing situation or for a specific usage (e.g. ‘food
products that are good for dieting’); they are modi-
fied by context (Hoyer and MacInnis, 1997; Lad-
wein, 1993). In food consumption, categorisation
plays a major role (Bratanova et al., 2011), particu-
larly when it comes to distinguishing ‘edible’ from
‘non-edible’ categories and identifying related sub-
categories (Corbeau and Poulain, 2002). Corbeau
and Poulain (2002) break down the non-edible cate-
gory into five subcategories: ‘toxic’ (dangerous for
humans); ‘taboo, culturally prescribed’; ‘non-edible
in my culture’; ‘edible but not favoured’; and ‘edible
but triggers individual disgust’. The edible category
is divided into four subcategories: ‘problematic con-
sumable’ (may cause health problems in the short or
long term), ‘consumable’ (ordinary products),
‘enjoyable everyday’ products and ‘festive and deli-
cious’ products. Food sociology research tells us
that in the West, insects fall under the category
‘non-edible in my culture’, even though they are
considered edible in other regions in the world
(Corbeau and Poulain, 2002; Fischler, 1990).6 Other
examples like jellyfish and starfish, which are con-
sumed in Asia for their nutritional and curative
properties, also fall under this category.
Edible and non-edible categories therefore vary
from one individual to the next according to many
different contextual factors, primarily the individu-
al’s cultural system and personal experience (Hoyer
and MacInnis, 1997).
One’s cultural system will define the representa-
tive members of the different categories and their
links with those categories (Hoyer and MacInnis,
1997) based on tangible and perceptual attributes
(Alba and Hutchinson, 1987). Avoidance of many
substances is based on knowledge of or attitudes
towards their nature or origin transmitted through
one’s culture (Rozin and Fallon, 1980). Culture
therefore determines edible and non-edible catego-
ries and explains why it is so difficult to introduce
new food products into many of the world’s regions.
Rozin and Fallon (1980, 1986) identified three rea-
sons for the rejection of substances considered ined-
ible in Western culture: sensorial properties (linked
to aversion), anticipated consequences of ingestion
(linked to danger) and the ideational dimension
(linked to disgust). Sensorial properties relate to
taste, odour or texture. Any new food is considered
potentially disagreeable to taste (Chapman and
Anderson, 2012; Pliner et al., 1993). Known as
‘aversion’, this is an innate response to novelty. It is
underpinned by a survival mechanism designed to
prevent the consequences of ingesting harmful sub-
stances. The anticipated consequences of ingestion
therefore determine whether a food source presents
a potential danger to one’s health (nausea, vomiting,
allergies, disease, etc.) (Pliner and Hobden, 1992;
Pliner et al., 1993). The ideational dimension cor-
responds to the representations transmitted by one’s
culture and relates to substances that generate dis-
gust. Disgust, which can be linked to our morality,
corresponds to the repulsion we experience at the
idea of incorporating a substance and can be
explained by the fear of being contaminated
(Angyal, 1941; Rozin, 1995). It relates to our
knowledge of the origin or nature of the substance
and the principle of incorporation that tells us, ‘you
are what you eat’ (Fischler, 1990). Almost always
associated with an animal substance7 (e.g. insects,
faeces, worms, reptilian or dog meat), disgust pro-
duces a strong negative emotional response linked
to a presumption of bad taste (Rozin and Fallon,
1980, 1986, 1987). As a new food source, insects
Gallen et al. 5
can be expected to generate aversion, fear of danger
and disgust among Western consumers.
The second contextual factor on which categori-
sation depends is personal experience; based on
familiarity, this is used to refine content and cogni-
tive structure. The accumulation of experience with
a product develops familiarity (Alba and
Hutchinson, 1987; Zajonc, 1968). With a rise in
familiarity, one’s knowledge of the product
increases and the level of sophistication of the cat-
egories is refined by more enriched mental repre-
sentations (Alba and Hutchinson, 1987; Hoyer and
MacInnis, 1997). Familiarity allows us to form rep-
resentations of both typical and less typical prod-
ucts and to build up a greater number of categorical
levels (Alba and Hutchinson, 1987). A familiar
product is then evaluated based on past experience,
while a new product will be judged by inference
based on its visual characteristics and representa-
tions (Tan et al., 2015). As familiarity increases,
categories therefore develop a structure which tends
to bring taxonomic categories closer together,
thereby reducing the consumer’s dependence on
information based on perceived stimuli. These
changes in cognitive structure are likely to affect
the consumer’s behaviour by changing the way
alternatives are evaluated (Alba and Hutchinson,
1987). Zajonc (1968) further demonstrated that
while experience develops familiarity through
repeated exposure to a stimulus, it also results in
greater appreciation and acceptance of new prod-
ucts (Methven et al., 2012; Pliner, 1982; Zajonc,
1968). This has widely been validated in the food
sector, where familiarity is recognised as the main
criterion for choice and preferences (Fischler, 1990;
The effects of cognitive structuration when trying to code
a DI: Accommodation and heuristics. We will now look
at the cognitive processing that takes place during the
coding phase of categorisation, that is, when assign-
ing the product to an existing category. This process-
ing can be done analytically or holistically depending
whether the product is being compared to the cate-
gory attribute by attribute or as a whole (Cohen and
Basu, 1987). Fiske and Pavelchak (1986) argue that
analytical processing is only triggered if a holistic
process proves to be insufficient, in other words
when the product does not fall under the reference
category (incongruent attributes), has unique attrib-
utes found in no other products or does not fall under
any existing category (e.g. new product or new util-
ity). DIs that match the latter description can enter
into conflict with the initial representations and
require further cognitive effort. The categorisation
can then be done using one of two structuration pro-
cesses: assimilation or accommodation.
Assimilation takes place when a new product can
be integrated into existing cognitive structures with-
out modifying them (Piaget, 1962, 1970). This is the
case of incremental innovations (Noseworthy et al.,
2011). However, if the categorisation is difficult and
does not allow assimilation, the subject uses accom-
modation (Piaget, 1962, 1970). This process arises
when individuals face a very high level of incongru-
ence between the new product and mental represen-
tations, which is frequently the case with DIs
(Meyers-Levy and Tybout, 1989; Noseworthy et al.,
2011). Accommodation then involves reconfiguring
representations and may be done in two ways (Bagga
et al., 2016; Taylor and Crocker, 1981): either (1) by
modifying mental representations (e.g. green was-
abi-flavoured Gouda requires an adjustment of men-
tal representations of the category ‘cheeses’) or (2)
by developing an entirely new schema which may
take the form of a subcategory, an exception or a
particular case (e.g. ‘Japanese condiments’ is a sub-
category of ‘condiments’).
One way to favour accommodation is to increase
the level of familiarisation with the new product, in
particular by associating it with known products.
Recent research on categorisation suggests that one
possible strategy to create representations of new
products is to use the information already contained
in familiar categories (Moreau et al., 2001b). In the
food industry, this process is achieved using prepa-
ration, cooking, seasoning or association methods
involving other familiar foods. This is what Fischler
(1990) calls ‘gustatory markers’, which lend a prod-
uct a familiar appearance and taste. References to
familiar categories have a significant influence on
mental categorisation, expectations and preferences
(Moreau et al., 2001b) as this allows consumers to
address any uncertainty about how a really new
product is used by drawing on processes of infer-
ence (Hoeffler, 2003). The dissimulation or
6 Recherche et Applications en Marketing (English Edition) 00(0)
modification of a product by relying on products
that are already known and valued can also increase
familiarisation. In relation to animal-based prod-
ucts, anthropologist Noélie Vialles (1987) distin-
guished between ‘zoophagous’ consumers, who
form representations of the animal consumed (e.g. a
rare ribeye steak), and ‘sarcophagous’ consumers,
who mask the link between the meat and the animal
using various processes of distantiation and by dis-
playing preferences for meat that is well cooked,
white or processed (e.g. minced, breaded).
Other structuration effects have been studied
through Behavioral Decision Theory (BDT), which
postulates that decision making is preceded by a
structuration phase during which the individual
forms a mental representation of the decisional
problem (Kahneman and Tversky, 1984). When
faced with a product, people reduce the complexity
of the cognitive task by relying on intuitive judge-
ment bias or cognitive shortcuts known as ‘heuris-
tics’ (Kahneman et al., 1982; Moscovici, 1994;
Tversky and Kahneman, 1974). Such biases tend to
be more pronounced when the product category is
unfamiliar (Bettman and Sujan, 1987). According
to BDT, there are several types of heuristics
(Tversky and Kahneman, 1974).
The representative heuristic involves assigning a
product to a mental category based on its resem-
blance to another object deemed typical of that cat-
egory (Tversky and Kahneman, 1974). A product
will therefore be considered edible based on its
resemblance to an item that falls under an edible
The availability heuristic involves judging
things that spring to mind more easily as more prob-
able. A memory of a bad experience with a product
will result in it being evaluated negatively over a
long period, even if such an outcome is unlikely.
This heuristic, which is used in risk perception
(Kahneman et al., 1982) and to judge a brand’s rep-
utation (Pham, 1996), depends on familiarity
(Tversky and Kahneman, 1974).
The attribution heuristic results in people infer-
ring causes based on the effects they observe. The
causes they attribute will then determine their vision
of the world and influence their behaviour (Kahneman
et al., 1982) (e.g. no longer going to a restaurant
because a customer who had eaten there fell ill).
The adjustment and anchoring heuristic involves
evaluating a product in reference to an accessible
category (anchor point) and then adjusting that eval-
uation based on the level of consistency between the
object to be evaluated and the category (Tversky and
Kahneman, 1974). Odou (2005) showed that the
affect associated with the activated category can
serve as an anchor point and, via a contagion effect,
can influence how the product is evaluated.
Since the emergence of BDT, other heuristics
have been shown to come into play in decision
making. Pham (1996) defined the affective recruit-
ment heuristic, which helps understand how affect
orients decisions. This involves forming a mental
representation of a consumption experience which
then triggers an affective response that takes on the
value of information and influences the decision
made (an agreeable sensation at the idea of going to
a restaurant) (Schwarz and Clore, 1983, 1988).
Finally, in the food sector, reasoning by heuris-
tics has also been studied in reference to ‘magical
thinking’, recognised as a mode of thought that gov-
erns food choices (Gilovich et al., 2002; Moscovici,
1994). Two heuristics or laws characterise magical
thinking (Rozin and Nemeroff, 2002): the law of
contagion and the law of similarity. The law of con-
tagion involves the eater being physically, morally
and symbolically contaminated by the ingested sub-
stance. It determines whether a substance can be
categorised as edible or not, in particular based on
the aversion, fear of danger or disgust it triggers.
The law of similarity can be explained by the brain’s
tendency to treat objects as what they appear to be;
it is comparable to the representativeness heuristic
(Kahneman et al., 1982).
We have seen how, when assigning a DI to a cat-
egory (coding), individuals use accommodation and
heuristics to reduce the complexity of the cognitive
task at hand. However, these structuration effects are
subject to a principle of plasticity, meaning that they
have a greater or lesser influence on decision mak-
ing depending on the situation. In some situations,
representations exert less influence on evaluations.
According to Pham (1996), this is the case when the
product in question has been tasted, for example: the
act of tasting makes the representation of the product
less ‘plastic’, that is, less sensitive to structuration
effects (Pham, 1996). This is an example of the
Gallen et al. 7
plasticity of structuration effects, which we will be
studying in the case of entomophagy.
Research objective and
Based on this theoretical framework, our research
objective is to present the classification and coding
mechanisms underpinning the categorisation of a
discontinuous food innovation such as insects in
order to identify obstacles to consumption, the deci-
sion-making rules adopted and factors that facilitate
acceptance. Studying these phenomena is of crucial
importance for companies wishing to launch DIs, for
which consumers struggle to formulate their expecta-
tions, evaluate their utility or identify the tangible
circumstances of their consumption (Alexander
et al., 2008; Hoeffler, 2003). This is also an opportu-
nity for marketers who can influence the structure of
representations formed by consumers (Moreau et al.,
2001b). Using the theoretical framework presented,
we make the following research propositions: (P1)
insects are placed in the category ‘non-edible in my
culture’ (classification) and trigger aversion, fear of
danger and disgust; (P2) when assigning a DI to a
category (coding), individuals use accommodation
and heuristics to reduce the complexity of the cogni-
tive task – structuration effects that may be subject to
plasticity (e.g. if the product is tasted); and (P3) mak-
ing products familiar (using gustatory markers or dis-
simulation among more familiar products) can
improve categorisation in terms of classification and
coding and facilitate acceptance.
Data collection method
In order to achieve our research objective, a qualita-
tive study was conducted in two French cities (Nantes
and Angers), involving two focus groups each with 8
participants and 21 individual interviews. Davila and
Dominguez (2010) point to the complementarity of
these two techniques, with the advantage of focus
groups being that more diverse and even more inno-
vative responses can be collected than in individual
interviews. The focus groups and individual inter-
views were conducted with the help of an interview
guide (Appendix 18) divided into five phases (Table
1). The purpose of phase 1, which examined how the
world of insects and entomophagy is evoked, is to
explore mental representations and the classification
of insects. Phases 2, 3 and 4 were then used to study
how categorisation (classification and coding) takes
place when respondents are exposed to varying
degrees of product processing. Phase 5 addresses the
factors that favour the classification of insects as a
food source in order to reveal the accommodation
process underpinning the categorisation of this DI.
Sample and stimuli
The selected participants were young urban-dwell-
ing adults, as this category tends to be less neopho-
bic (Tuorila et al., 2001; Verbeke, 2015). They
were recruited on a voluntary basis from the stu-
dent population in two universities (Nantes and
Angers); 37 ‘naive’ subjects (20 men and 17
women aged 18–30) were selected, having made
sure that none of them presented food allergies or
were on a specific diet for health reasons or reli-
gious beliefs. Under controlled laboratory condi-
tions, they were exposed visually to the products
and invited to taste them. Their profiles are detailed
in Appendix 2. The insects tested were selected
from the five edible species registered in France9
(Van Huis, 2013) and which are also the most
widely available for sale to the general public on
the main commercial websites.10 They were cho-
sen so the insect’s developmental stage, shape and
Table 1. Experiment procedures.
Phase 1 Exploration of how insects and entomophagy are evoked (representations and attitudes)
Phase 2 Visual exposure and tasting of whole plain insects
Phase 3 Visual exposure and tasting of flavoured insects
Phase 4 Visual exposure and tasting of processed insects: cheese shortbread followed by chocolate cake
Phase 5 Targets, motivations and obstacles, circumstances and marketing levers
8 Recherche et Applications en Marketing (English Edition) 00(0)
size could be diversified. Furthermore, in order to
test whether making products familiar (using gus-
tatory markers or dissimulation) can advance cat-
egorisation (P3), several types of products were
selected with varying levels of processing. Three
product categories were tested (photos provided in
Whole plain insects: mealworms (beetle larvae),
silkworms, bamboo worms (lepidoptera), crick-
ets, mole crickets and grasshoppers (orthoptera);
Whole flavoured insects: curry- and barbecue-
flavoured mealworms and crickets;
Processed insects: cheese and mealworm short-
bread in granular format and chocolate cake
made from ground mealworms.
To test the acceptability of the processed prod-
ucts independently of any reference to the world of
insects, participants in the first focus group blind
tested the shortbread and chocolate cake at the
beginning of the session,11 while the second focus
group began with the segment on evocations of
insects and entomophagy. In order to respect ethical
considerations, the research protocol was made as
transparent as possible for participants. They were
informed that the study related to highly innovative
food products and would involve tasting. Prior to
the study, following the advice of a legal expert, an
informative document was signed by all individuals
taking part, providing their consent to consume a
food product without first being made aware of its
The data collected were subjected to thematic con-
tent analysis. This involved breaking down the text
into base analytical units and regrouping them in
homogeneous categories. Manual coding, conducted
on all recorded comments, was based on the inter-
view guide used and was done by two researchers
independently prior to collaboration, with respect
for the rules of homogeneity, mutual exclusion, rel-
evance and objectivity (Bardin, 2001). The percent-
age of intercoder agreement obtained exceeds 90%
(Kolbe and Burnett, 1991). To test the stability of the
results, the methods were triangulated: the manual
thematic content analysis was compared to a lexico-
metric analysis conducted using IRaMuTeQ
(Interface de R pour les analyses Multidimensionnelles
de Textes et de Questionnaires), two methods con-
sidered complementary (Martin et al., 2016).
Lexicometry makes it possible to ‘reorganise the
form of the textual sequence and to conduct statisti-
cal analyses based on the vocabulary in a corpus of
texts’ (Lebart and Salem, 1994: 314). It involves
automated analysis of textual data and produces the
utterances and their enunciation without a priori cat-
egorisation.12 All of the data collected were once
again coded. This produced three corpora: one cover-
ing the individual interviews and one for each of the
two focus groups. Two types of analyses were con-
ducted using this software: (1) a descending hierar-
chical classification (DHC) (Reinert, 2007)13
followed by a correspondence factorial analysis
(CFA) based on the classes of the DHC for the cor-
pus of the individual interviews, and (2) an analysis
of the similarities within each of the two focus group
The results are summarised in Figure 1. In terms of
classification, they confirm the difficulty of catego-
rising insects as edible and the rejection with which
they are met (P1). They reveal the nature of the cog-
nitive processing and structuration processes at
work (accommodation and heuristics) during cod-
ing (P2). They also show that the extent to which
the product has been processed has an influence on
classification and coding processes and facilitates
The degree of DI processing and its
impact on classification
The difficulty of categorising DIs as edible. The phase 1
(exploring how insects are evoked) and phase 2
(exposure to a variety of plain whole insects) dis-
course analyses clearly show that insects are classi-
fied by respondents in the category ‘non-edible in
my culture’: ‘it’s not part of our culture’; ‘they’re
animals but don’t fall under food sources’. When
asked about people who eat insects, respondents
Gallen et al. 9
referred to other cultures (Asian, African and South
American), primitive populations (‘small tribes’,
‘indigenous cultures’, ‘natives’), inhabitants of
underdeveloped countries (‘… due to a lack of food’,
‘people suffering from famine’, ‘… who don’t have
access to mammals’) and animals. Entomophagy is
therefore seen as a survival practice. This clearly
emerges from class 3 in the DHC, which relates to
culture with characteristic terms such as country,
culture, Asian and die (Appendix 5).
This difficulty of categorising insects as food
leads to a rejection of their consumption. In our
respondents’ discourse, three reasons for rejecting
substances considered inedible in Western culture
(Rozin and Fallon, 1980, 1986) can be found: aver-
sion, danger and disgust. Respondents expressed
their aversion to insects even before tasting the
product: ‘gross’, ‘unpleasant’, ‘it doesn’t look
good’, ‘if it really was good, we’d have started eat-
ing it long ago’. With regard to danger, insects were
evoked in reference to dirtiness (‘they’ve been
crawling all over the place’, ‘they eat excrement’),
their size (‘they’re small, you can’t control them’),
number (‘there is something sneaky about them
because they hide everywhere’), movements
(‘insects are often writhing creatures’), harmful-
ness (‘swarms of crickets that destroy crops’), sting
(‘you always hear stories about wasp or bee stings
that can be dangerous’), noise (‘they make a buzz-
ing noise’) and the consequences of ingesting them
(‘you might want to have a bucket nearby so I can
vomit’). These representations generate perceptions
of risk (Ostlund, 1974; Volle, 1995). This relates to
a range of uncertainties (about edibility: ‘no, but are
you sure this is edible?’; preparation and consump-
tion methods: ‘how do you eat it?’; texture while
eating: ‘I don’t know what to expect to find inside’;
and consideration for possible negative conse-
quences after ingestion: ‘it doesn’t look very digest-
ible’). The same finding emerges from the
lexicometric analysis. Class 3 (culture) is very close
to class 2 (cuisine) (p < 0.0001), marked by the
word maybe (p value of 0.00609), an indication that
respondents find it difficult, prior to exposure to the
insects (p < 0.0001), to imagine how to ‘eat’ them
(class 2, Appendix 5): ‘as a main dish’, ‘as a substi-
tute for meat’, ‘as an accompaniment’, ‘as an ape-
ritif with friends’? Disgust is also vividly expressed
with terms such as ‘repulsive’, ‘repugnant’, ‘off-
putting’, ‘horrible’, ‘hideous’ and ‘vile’. It is rein-
forced with inferences about the textural properties
of insects (‘viscous’, ‘slobbery’, ‘sticky’, ‘liquid’,
‘crunchy’, ‘floury’ and ‘juicy’). References to dan-
ger and disgust were even more specific and vivid
Figure 1. Summary of results.
10 Recherche et Applications en Marketing (English Edition) 00(0)
when respondents were confronted with the insects
(phase 2): ‘aaaarrgghh! No!!’, ‘yuck’, ‘it’s horri-
ble’, ‘I don’t want to go near it’.
Classification of processed products. The lexicometric
analysis reveals very clear differences between the
discourses depending on the extent to which the
products had been altered (plain/flavoured/pro-
cessed14) and therefore their degree of similarity to
existing products. The gaps between the different
discourses can be seen on the CFA graph (Appendix
4): plain products at the centre, flavoured products
at the top and processed products at the bottom.
Furthermore, the double DHC, which identifies
seven classes or ‘lexical worlds’15 (Appendix 5),
also shows that the discourses in relation to the
plain, flavoured and processed insects (cake and
shortbread) are related to different classes (1, 4 and
6, respectively) (significant difference: p < 0.0001).
The manual content analysis conducted in phases 3
(exposure to flavoured insects) and 4 (exposure to
cake and shortbread) further enriches these results
and shows that the more the product is processed
and presents a similarity with a known product, the
greater the familiarisation in terms of placing the
product in an edible category. The presence of
known gustatory markers (curry and barbecue fla-
vours) appears to attenuate rejection: ‘you sort of
forget that they’re worms’, ‘the worms are made
less repulsive’, ‘it’s better because you think of the
flavour instead of imagining the taste of the insect’.
This facilitates acceptance and intentions to con-
sume insects:16‘they’re more appetising’, ‘I love
curry, they still look gross but I’ll eat them’. Pro-
cessing the insect and combining it with an estab-
lished preparation method make it possible for
tasters to deny its presence, thereby lending it an
edible status and facilitating its acceptance. For the
chocolate cake and shortbread, intentions to con-
sume were relatively high (mean scores = 7.35/10
and 8.38/10) and much higher than in the case of
whole insects, whether plain or flavoured. In terms
of behaviour, 36/37 respondents tasted the short-
bread and chocolate cake: ‘there’s no doubt it makes
you more likely to taste it, yeah … if you don’t
remind yourself there are worms in it’, ‘it looks
nice, there is no smell, no sign of any insects’. The
recorded comments point to the relevance of Vialles’
(1987) reference to sarcophagy and demonstrate the
importance of dissimulating the insects, both visu-
ally and gustatorially, in order to facilitate accept-
ance: ‘I prefer the chocolate cake because you can’t
taste the insects […] If I had to choose, I would con-
sume insects in such a way that I couldn’t see or
taste them’, ‘visually, the cake doesn’t turn me off,
there’s no head or eyes’. The resemblance to a
known product category (biscuit, cake) was reassur-
ing (‘it looks like a normal shortbread’, ‘it’s close to
what I’m used to seeing and it doesn’t look as much
like insects’) and generated positive attitudes among
our respondents (‘it makes you want to taste it’, ‘the
cake looks really good, couldn’t care less about the
flour’). Processing the product in this way favours
familiarisation by making it similar to an edible
The degree of DI processing and its
impact on coding in categorisation
The results reveal that the extent to which the prod-
uct is processed also influences the mechanisms
used to code the DI, that is, the nature of the cogni-
tive processes, accommodation and heuristics at
The nature of the cognitive processes at work. We will
see that cognitive processing takes place analyti-
cally and by activating representations in the case of
non-processed products, whereas it takes place
holistically based on sensorial characteristics in the
case of processed products.
Our respondents’ evocation of aversion, danger
and disgust reveals that the difficulty of categoris-
ing non-processed insects as edible appears to be
linked to the activation of negative mental represen-
tations of insects: they ‘crawl’, ‘writhe’, ‘sting’,
‘buzz’ and so on. Here, the cognitive process is ana-
lytical – the insect’s visual characteristics are
detailed: size (‘they’re disgusting, especially the
biggest one’), body parts (‘I find the idea of eating
an insect repugnant, with its eyes, head, legs and
wings’; ‘I don’t like its appearance. You can see
everything: the tail, the eyes’; ‘I find it disgusting …
the wings, the hooks’) and appearance (‘you can see
bits of their heads ripped off’, ‘the insects look
squished’, ‘it looks like food decomposing’). The
Gallen et al. 11
lexicometric analysis confirms the analytical pro-
cessing at work: class 1 (whole plain insects) is
described using words like ‘head’, ‘leg’, ‘wings’,
‘big’, ‘size’ (Appendix 5). The least accepted insects
were the crickets, grasshoppers and mole crickets
due to their size (‘they’re enormous’) and the pres-
ence of their head (‘I ate everything except the
head’, ‘I don’t want to see its head’), eyes (‘eating
little eyes is not very enjoyable’) and legs (‘you’re
afraid the insect will cling onto the inside of your
When the product is altered, whether associated
with known gustatory markers (flavoured products
– phase 3) or incorporated into known products
(chocolate cake or shortbread – phase 4), cognitive
processing appears to be holistic, based on sensorial
descriptors (rather than representations). Class 4,
which relates to the discourse on flavoured insects,
is characterised by words like ‘tastier’, ‘crunchy’,
‘hard’ (Appendix 5). The vocabulary used to refer
to the processed products (cake and shortbread) also
reveals that the processing is holistic, with a focus
on sensorial descriptors: ‘when you taste it, you
wouldn’t guess there are insects in the cake’; ‘I
don’t get the impression I’m eating insects, but just
cake’. Class 6 in the DHC confirms this, with words
like ‘appetising’, ‘taste’, ‘texture’ and ‘prefer’
Structuring categories through accommodation. Phase
5 (after exposure to insects) looked at the factors
that favour the categorisation of insects as food by
respondents and highlights the process of accom-
modation used to categorise this DI.
It would appear that in the short term, respond-
ents favour the (sarcophagous) consumption of pro-
cessed insects associated with known gustatory
markers in order to generate familiarisation: ‘in a
hidden form’, ‘anything but whole’, ‘or mashed’,
‘there mustn’t be any visual aspect’, ‘it’d have to
have a nice taste’. In reference to the processed
form, respondents spoke of ‘insect flour’ for pas-
tries or known food formats such as ‘steaks’, ‘choc-
olate bars’ or ‘cereal bars’. Similarity to known
products therefore appears to enable taxonomic cat-
egorisation and an adjustment of the natural catego-
ries cited (‘flour’, ‘meat’, ‘snack bars’). In the
longer term, categorisation takes place differently
as the consumption of insects is envisaged in its
own right and in a visible format (zoophagous) as a
subcategory of ‘culinary aids’ (e.g. for consumption
in a salad, omelette, pasta or quiche): ‘if you’re used
to it, you could eat it at any time in place of some
other things like lardons’. Categorisation therefore
appears to take place through a process of accom-
modation but in two different ways depending on
the extent to which the product has been processed:
by adjusting natural categories for processed
insects, and then by developing subcategories for
less processed or even whole insects.
Heuristics employed. The level of similarity to a
known product also seems to influence the type of
heuristic employed to reach a judgement. When
expressing themselves freely (phase 1) and exposed
to whole plain insects (phase 2), respondents mainly
relied on the contagion heuristic, but the representa-
tiveness heuristic can also be used depending on the
aspect of the insect. For products whose appearance
precludes their classification as edible, that is,
insects complete with limbs and head, respondents
reason based on the contagion heuristic: ‘I can’t
bear to eat them because they carry diseases’;
‘you’d almost be afraid they’d wake up when they’re
inside you. You’d end up carrying cricket eggs’; ‘it’s
really like something squirming around in your
stomach’. However, their reasoning seems to be
based on the representativeness heuristic in the case
of worms (smaller and without limbs or a head) as
their appearance makes it possible to compare them
with familiar edible food products such as ‘gnoc-
chi’, ‘spaghetti’, ‘savoury snacks’, ‘Cheetos’, ‘pret-
zels’, ‘almonds’, ‘cashew nuts’, ‘a kind of seed’.
Indeed, worms were the most widely accepted
insects in terms of intentions to taste and were tasted
more17 than any other whole plain insect: ‘they’re
less off-putting’, ‘they don’t look so much like
insects’, ‘they’re uniform’. The discourses on the
processed products (shortbread and cake – phase 4)
also reveal that judgements were reached using the
representativeness heuristic, which facilitates cate-
gorisation: ‘it looks like something I know’. Class
6,18 which is characterised by the terms ‘resemble’
and ‘normal’, confirms this (Appendix 5). When
the product was associated with a known gustatory
marker (phase 3), the anchoring heuristic appears to
12 Recherche et Applications en Marketing (English Edition) 00(0)
orient reasoning: ‘I like curry’, ‘barbecue-flavoured
crisps are usually good’, ‘I love curry, the colour is
much more appealing. It makes them appetising,
they still look gross but I’ll eat some’.
Evoking the factors that favour the categorisa-
tion of insects as edible by respondents (phase 5)
also made it possible to identify the types of heuris-
tics employed. First, reasoning based on the availa-
bility heuristic could facilitate acceptance: product
(presence of ‘known brands’, quality indicators
such as ‘labels’ or certification to guarantee sanitary
breeding conditions), price (‘if it’s not expensive’,
‘economical, less expensive than meat’) and distri-
bution (availability in large supermarkets and stores
specialising in organic products). Finally, the affec-
tive recruitment heuristic appears to be associated
in our respondent discourses with communication
actions that generate positive affective responses:
expected to be reassuring and humorous (‘some-
thing funny but reassuring’); word-of-mouth (‘it’ll
work much better by word-of-mouth’); prescription
by professionals (‘someone to inform people and
offer in-store tasting’), by institutions (‘ministries
raising awareness’), loved ones (‘William started
eating them so I did too’, ‘if you know someone who
eats them and enjoyed them, you might try them
too’) or leaders of public opinion (‘it’d have to be
someone you could identify with’, ‘someone well
known quite close to me’). The lexicometric analy-
sis confirms this in class 7 of the DHC (Appendix
5), which characterises the appropriate marketing
levers in terms that relate to the product (‘brand’,
‘organic’), distribution (‘aisle’, ‘supermarket’) and
Plasticity of structuration effects. The results presented
above reveal the influence of the level of product
processing on the structuration effects, that is, the
accommodation process and type of heuristic used
to evaluate the products. We have seen that accom-
modation and the heuristics employed vary depend-
ing on the extent to which the DI has been processed.
This points to the plasticity of the structuration
effects. However, contrary to the hypotheses put for-
ward by Pham (1996), it would appear that this plas-
ticity is not linked to the fact that the product has
been tasted. The CFA reveals that the discourses
recorded during visual exposure to the products
(prior to tasting) and during the product-tasting
phase are very close on the graph, regardless of the
product being tested (plain/flavoured/processed)
(Appendix 4). Nor does the DHC reveal any distinc-
tion between the discourses during tasting and those
during visual exposure since it regroups them for all
products tested (classes 1, 4 and 6 – Appendix 5).
Furthermore, the lexicometric analysis of the two
focus groups (Graphs 1 and 2 – Appendix 6) reveals
similar characteristics,19 which means that blind
tasting the products, before any reference to insects,
does not significantly modify the respondent dis-
courses. The plasticity of the structuration effects
does not therefore appear to depend on the act of
tasting the product but rather on the extent to which
it has been processed.
Discussion and conclusion
First, this article enriches the existing research on
the acceptance of new food products, which mainly
focuses on substances already recognised as edible
(Looy et al., 2014). It also provides a better under-
standing of the psychological mechanisms under-
pinning entomophagy by recording discourses based
on real exposure to insects, whereas most research-
ers interview respondents using photographs (Deroy
et al., 2015). Above all, however, it reveals the par-
ticular features of the process of acceptance of a dis-
continuous food innovation in light of the literature
on the cognitive mechanisms of categorisation and
heuristics. In this respect, it builds on BDT, accord-
ing to which decision making involves a mental
structuration phase that employs heuristics (or cog-
nitive shortcuts) to reduce the complexity of the cog-
nitive task via representations (Gallen, 2005;
Gilovich et al., 2002; Kahneman et al., 1982;
Ladwein, 1995). This study specifies the cognitive
mechanisms at work in the structuration of represen-
tations by categories (classification) and the pro-
cessing of judgement bias in order to reach a decision
when faced with a DI (coding) (Figure 1). Our
results show that the processing used to categorise
the product changes depending on the extent to
which the DI has been processed. The more the
product has been processed to make it similar to an
Gallen et al. 13
existing product, the more the cognitive process is
holistic (rather than analytical) and the more the
evaluation is based on sensorial descriptors (rather
than representations). The type of heuristic employed
to reach a decision also appears to change in accord-
ance with the degree of product processing. While
the contagion heuristic, which is guided by represen-
tations, initially results in the DI being categorised
as culturally non-edible, associating the product
with known gustatory markers facilitates greater
acceptance by the anchoring heuristic (where the
marker serves as an anchor point). Finally, where
similarity to an item from an edible category makes
it possible to categorise the product as edible, the
representativeness heuristic leads to positive atti-
tudes and intentions to taste. Reliance on the availa-
bility and affective recruitment heuristics appears to
favour acceptance of the DI using marketing varia-
bles (in the event that the product is commercial-
ised). As BDT postulates, these structuration effects
are therefore subject to the principle of plasticity, but
this does not appear to depend on tasting the prod-
uct, contrary to the findings of Pham (1996).
These results also contribute to the research being
done on ‘really new products’, defined as innova-
tions that defy the classification of existing products
(Moreau et al., 2001b). According to this research
stream, when a new product refers to an existing cat-
egory, the information in that category is transferred
to the new product to maximise perceived similarity
and structure the representation of the new product.
Consumers are thereby likely to assign the new prod-
uct to that category. Once this categorisation takes
place, consumers make inferences about the product
which in turn influence consumer preferences for the
new product (Moreau et al., 2001b). We have identi-
fied the accommodation mechanisms defined by
Taylor and Crocker (1981) that lead to categorisation
based on the extent to which the DI has been pro-
cessed. The accommodation process appears to take
place by creating subcategories for non-processed
products (culinary aids, for example) and by adjust-
ing existing representations in the case of processed
products (insect-based flour, for example).
From a managerial perspective, identifying the cate-
gorisation mechanisms that underpin the acceptance
of a discontinuous food innovation could inform the
strategic and operational choices made by brands
wishing to establish themselves on the market. First,
our research shows that it is essential to take mental
representations into account before determining the
format of products, in particular to anticipate possi-
ble cognitive dissonance as a result of the difficulty
in categorising them (Festinger, 1957). The category
currently proposed by the industry and scientists for
insects, that is, animal protein, does not appear to be
suitable (Deroy et al., 2015). First, manufacturers
should develop categories of known and appreciated
products based on the new product in order to facili-
tate taxonomic categorisation (flour, biscuits, snack
bars) before proposing products in their crude form
as a subcategory of existing products (e.g. culinary
aid to be incorporated into recipes). Dissimulating
the product and associating it with familiar food
products may facilitate acceptance. One relative
advantage that should be privileged is making prod-
ucts desirable based on their gustatory properties,
texture and appearance (Deroy et al., 2015; Hartmann
et al., 2015). An effective lever is the experiential
scenario (Séré de Lanauze, 2015), as in the case of
the brand Jimini’s, which organised large-scale apé-
ritifs via Facebook and culinary events held in
Europe.20 Such initiatives can be used to emphasise
hedonic characteristics and raise awareness of a
product’s taste, and to increase the likelihood that
people will try it by encouraging imitational behav-
iours (Tan et al., 2015). However, Tan et al. (2015)
pointed to the difference between ‘tasting’ and ‘con-
suming’. While such events gradually contribute to
indirect familiarisation, consumers appear to be more
influenced by what their friends and family eat and
what they see in a grocery store or in a friend’s cup-
boards (Frattini et al., 2013). The presence of new
food products alongside familiar products and in a
familiar environment suggests edibility and familiari-
sation (Shelomi, 2015). This means that familiarisa-
tion depends on the availability of a product alongside
established brands and in well-known stores in order
to facilitate social acceptance (Hartmann et al., 2015).
Dissimulation can also be achieved by featuring the
name of the product on its packaging (more poetic,
visually evocative or exotic) since the title used, by
activating mental representations, is a determinant of
expectations and preferences (Deroy et al., 2015;
Hamerman, 2016; Shelomi, 2015). Finally, media
14 Recherche et Applications en Marketing (English Edition) 00(0)
communication also has a role to play by generating
positive emotional expectations (Gmuer et al., 2016).
This may be done by using a reassuring and humor-
ous tone in order to make light of the proposed con-
sumption, or a recommendation by an institution or
leader of public opinion who can play the role of pro-
vider of information and influencer in the acceptance
process (Vernette and Florès, 2004).
Limitations and future research
This study presents certain limitations that point to
future research avenues.
One limitation is linked to our sample composi-
tion. Kellert (1993) and Verbeke (2015) identified
young adults as early adopters of entomophagy.
According to the theory of innovation diffusion
(Rogers, 2003), early adopters have an influence on
late adopters (Cestre, 1996). It is therefore important
to study the mechanisms of cognitive processing and
acceptance by consumers in the case of DIs, for it is
they who determine whether a new food product
will be a success or failure (House, 2016). However,
it would be interesting to extend this study to other
age groups which may also include early adopters,
as shown by McFarlane and Pliner (1997), Pliner
and Salvy (2006) and Caparros Megido et al. (2014).
It would also be useful to specify the consumer
profiles most likely to consume these new products,
taking into account sociodemographic criteria, per-
sonality traits (search for variety, Aurier, 1991;
innovativeness, Roehrich et al., 2002), environmen-
tal concerns and dietary specificities.
Future researchers could confirm the impact of
culinary preparation and presentation methods on
acceptance, building on Caparros Megido et al.
(2016) in the case of burgers, but also test marketed
versus non-marketed products to identify the influ-
ence of operational variables such as packaging
design, on-pack information and brand.
We need to evaluate the effectiveness of prescrib-
ers and the content of advertising depending whether
they are informative, nutritional or sensorial. One
way to overcome aversion towards a new food prod-
uct is to have it prescribed by a well-known or loved
individual (one’s mother or friends; Pliner et al.,
1993), but it would also be interesting to measure the
impact that celebrities (chefs, doctors, actors, TV
presenters) can have on attitudes to new products.
Finally, while insects are representative of DIs,
they represent a unique case of incongruence between
a new product and the edible category. It would be
useful to compare our results to other DIs in the food
sector such as those designed as replacements for
milk, sugar or meat currently being developed in the
United States. Jellyfish also provide an interesting
opportunity that is closer to insects. These invasive
species, already consumed in Asia, are recommended
by the FAO for their nutritional properties21 but also
have a non-edible status in Western culture. This
research could also be extended to other sectors such
as the textile industry, in which DIs are emerging and
causing problems of acceptance. This is true of bio-
materials that use bacteria as textile synthesisers (e.g.
BioCouture project by Suzanne Lee, BioLogic pro-
ject at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)).
The authors would like to thank those who participated in
our study, as well as Micronutris for supplying the prod-
1. See https://www.sialparis.fr/Media/SIAL-Medias/
2. Investments in Food Tech increased 17-fold in the
United States between 2013 and 2015 (see ‘Has
Food Tech Lost Its Flavor? Investors Dial Back
on Funding Food-Focused Startups’, https://www.
ing-2016/; and ‘Food Tech Startups Raise a Record
$5.7B in 2015’, https://www.cbinsights.com/blog/
3. According to a 2014 study by Nielsen (Breakthrough
Innovation Report) (Hall et al., 2014), of 12,000
product launches analysed in Western Europe (17
product categories studied, 10 of which were food
products), 76% failed during their first year and only
7 products were identified as innovative, 6 of which
were food products. An analysis of the 2015 report
on 8,650 products found that 18 products were inno-
vative, just 9 of which were food products.
4. Yet insects are already present in consumer prod-
ucts, even though we are not all aware of this: not
only in colouring agents (scale insects are used as
Gallen et al. 15
a natural red colouring agent in Smarties, yoghurts
and Campari) but also in fruits and cereals (500 g
per inhabitant are thought to be consumed annually)
(Verkerk et al., 2007).
5. For example, the supra-ordered level ‘drinks’
includes a lower level, ‘alcohol-free drinks’, which
in turn is divided into subordinate categories, ‘light/
non-light alcohol-free drinks’, which contain repre-
sentative products (e.g. Diet Coca-Cola, Pepsi Max).
The base level is the most frequently used as it pro-
vides enough information to identify the items with-
out requiring much information processing (Hoyer
and MacInnis, 1997).
6. Fischler listed other similar food sources such as
dogs and rats, which are consumed in 42 cultures;
similarly, snails, frogs and rabbits are not considered
edible in North America or Great Britain (Fischler,
7. According to Fischler (1990), edible species must be
located at an intermediate distance from the eater in
order to preserve their identity. Too much affective (as
in the case of dogs), physical or taxonomic proximity
(monkeys) is evocative of cannibalism, whereas the
unknown elicits fear (e.g. insects or snakes).
8. Each collective discussion phase (focus groups) was
preceded by an individual questionnaire to neutral-
ise the influence of respondents on one another and
measure their intentions to taste the insects.
9. The most widely consumed insects in France are
from the coleopteran (beetle larvae), lepidopteran
(caterpillars) and orthopteran (grasshoppers and
10. See Mangeonsdesinsectes.com, insectescomesti-
bles.fr and jiminis.com.
11. This blind test phase is designed to verify the impact
of representations of insects on the perceived quality
of the product. We assume they could have a nega-
tive impact on perceived quality when respondents
are aware of the product’s composition. We con-
trolled for this effect by not revealing the product
composition to respondents.
12. We chose IRaMuTeQ (Interface de R pour les analyses
Multidimensionnelles de Textes et de Questionnaires),
which was developed at the LERASS laboratory
(Laboratoire d’Etudes et de Recherches Appliquées
en Sciences Sociales) in Toulouse and is widely used
by the community of researchers who specialise in
the statistical analysis of textual data (see Journées
Internationales d’Analyse Statistique des Données
13. IRaMuTeQ is freeware that uses the descending
hierarchical classification (DHC) method devel-
oped by Max Reinert (2007), designer of ALCESTE
(Analyse du Lexique Cooccurrent Etabli par
Segmentation du Texte Etudié), which is also very
widely used by researchers from various disciplines.
14. The results reveal three types of discourse (instead
of four) insofar as the two processed products (short-
bread and chocolate cake) generated the same type
15. The double DHC presents good breakdown quali-
ties: 612 segments of text assigned to classes out of
a total of 845 (72.43%), which is particularly high
for a double DHC.
16. Average scores out of 10 awarded by respondents
(N = 37) for their desire to taste the flavoured insects:
5.86 (curry-flavoured mealworms), 5.92 (barbecue-
flavoured mealworms), 3.51 (curry-flavoured crick-
ets) and 3.46 (barbecue-flavoured crickets).
17. Average scores out of 10 awarded by respondents
(N = 37) for their desire to taste the plain insects:
4.43 (mealworms), 3.65 (bamboo worms), 3.47
(silkworms), 2.73 (grasshoppers), 2.65 (crickets)
and 2.24 (mole crickets).
18. The four modalities used for the shortbread and
cake (visual exposure and tasting for each of the two
products) are characteristic of class 6 (p < 0.0001).
19. It should be noted that in one of the focus groups,
participants tested the shortbread and chocolate cake
at the beginning of the blind test session; they were
encouraged to explore their sensations (without
knowing the particular features of these products,
what does their taste make them ‘think’ of?). This
explains the importance of the core word ‘think’ in
the corpus of this focus group.
20. See http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/
21. See 2013 report: http://www.fao.org/news/story/fr/
22. Correspondence factor analysis (CFA) of DHC
classes. Each colour corresponds to a distinct class
in the DHC. The colour indicates the influence of
the modality on the discourse in the corresponding
class. The size of the characters is proportional to the
23. The corpus of the 21 interviews includes 28,153
occurrences (words), of which 2,585 are distinct.
The various analyses carried out on this corpus
relate to the lemmatised words (returned to their
root: verbal forms in the infinitive, substantives in
the singular, adjectives in the masculine singular,
forms without elision), which number 1,862. This
16 Recherche et Applications en Marketing (English Edition) 00(0)
corpus was broken down into 21 ‘texts’. We then
broke it down further for each individual interview
in order to distinguish between the different phases.
24. In order to test the stability of our results, a double
classification was conducted on the same corpus (21
individual interviews broken down into 845 text seg-
ments) by varying the length of the segments.
25. A word can be placed in several different classes (it
is more or less specific to each one). For the pur-
poses of readability, the significance thresholds
have not been indicated, but all of the words pre-
sented in Appendix 5 are significant to a threshold
of p < 0.0001.
26. To analyse the similarities, the data matrix crosses
the lemmatised words (reduced to their root) in the
rows and columns. Each box in the matrix contains
a number of co-occurrences (the number of times a
word is associated with another word in the same
segment of text).
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Appendix 1. Guide used for focus groups and individual interviews.
PHASE 1 – Exploration of how insects and entomophagy are evoked (representations and attitudes)
Distribute individual questionnaires.a Ask participants to answer questions 1.1. and 1.2. followed by collective
1.1. If I say ‘insect’, what words or adjectives come to mind? What images or sensations do that trigger for you?
1.2. What do you like? What do you dislike? Write down everything it evokes for you, both positive and negative.
Ask participants to answer questions 1.3. to 1.7. followed by collective discussion:
1.3. If I say ‘eating insects’, what words or adjectives come to mind? What images or sensations do that trigger for you?
1.4. Who do you think eats insects and why?
1.5. What do you like and dislike about the idea of eating insects? Write down everything it evokes for you, both
positive and negative.
1.6. Have you ever eaten any? Under what circumstances? In what form? What did you like or dislike?
1.7. Would you be willing to eat some? Why?
PHASE 2 – Visual exposure and tasting of whole plain insects
Show participants a plate with an assortment of plain whole insects.
Ask participants to answer questions 2.1. and 2.2. followed by collective discussion:
2.1. What comes to mind and what do you feel when you see these edible insects?
2.2. What do you like? What do you dislike?
Show participants each species of plain insect in a small bowl indicating the name of the species (mealworm, silkworm,
bamboo worm, grasshopper, mole cricket, cricket):
Ask participants to answer questions 2.3. to 2.6. followed by collective discussion:
2.3. Rate your desire to taste the following species from 1 to 10 (Osgood scale)
2.4. Which one(s) did you taste?
2.5. Explain your choice.
2.6. What are your impressions?
PHASE 3 – Visual exposure and tasting of flavoured insects
Show participants flavoured worms and crickets (curry and BBQ):
Ask participants to answer questions 3.1. to 3.4. followed by collective discussion:
3.1. Rate your desire to taste the following species from 1 to 10 (Osgood scale)
3.2. Which one(s) did you taste?
3.3. Explain your choice.
3.4. What are your impressions?
PHASE 4 – Visual exposure and tasting of processed insects (cheese shortbread followed by chocolate cake)
Show participants mealworm and cheese shortbreads:
Ask participants to answer questions 4.1. to 4.3.
4.1. Rate your desire to taste the mealworm and cheese shortbreads from 1 to 10 (Osgood scale)
4.2. Did you taste any? YES/NO
4.3. What are your impressions?
Show participants chocolate cake made with mealworm-based flour:
Ask participants to answer questions 4.4. to 4.6.
4.4. Rate your desire to taste the chocolate cake made with mealworm-based flour from 1 to 10 (Osgood scale)
4.5. Did you taste any? YES/NO
4.6. What are your impressions?
PHASE 5 – Targets and marketing levers
Ask participants to answer questions 5.1. to 5.6. followed by collective discussion:
5.1. Whom would you say these products target? What would be the typical consumer profile?
5.2. What do you think makes them eat insects?
5.3. And what do you think are the right reasons to eat them?
5.4. In what form could these insects be consumed? Using which methods (alone, as an accompaniment, with which
types of food, with which types of dish, etc.)? Whole, in pieces, ground, etc.?
5.5. Under what specific circumstances do you imagine consuming insects? At what specific moments?
5.6. What could facilitate the consumption of insects?
aThe individual questionnaires used for the focus groups and individual interviews contained the same questions.
Gallen et al. 21
Activity Sex Age
Benjamin Student (Y2 M – Auditing) Male 25
Mylène Student (Y1 B – Economics and management) Female 18
Sophie Student (Y1 B – Economics and management) Female 20
Julien Student (Y2 M – Auditing) Male 25
Thomas Student (Y3 B – Law) Male 23
Pauline Student (Y2 M – Territorial development) Female 22
Romain Student (Y2 B – Economics and management) Male 22
Johan Student (Y2 M – Auditing) Male 23
Léa Student (Y3 B – Law) Female 20
Donna Student (Y2 B – Economics and management) Female 22
Maeva Student (Y3 B – Applied foreign languages) Female 22
William Student (Y2 M – Information systems) Male 24
Benoît Student (Y1 M – Sports science) Male 21
Cassandre Student (Y1 M – Management) Female 21
Thibault Job seeker Male 24
Sidy Student (Y1 B – Law) Male 19
Fabien Employee (Project manager) Male 30
Axelle Student (Y3 B – Medicine) Male 21
Christophe Student (Y2 M – Services marketing) Female 23
Leïla Student (M – Fine arts) Female 22
Jean-Baptiste Student (Y2 B – Communications) Male 20
Maxime Student (M – International marketing) Male 25
Clémence Student (M – International marketing) Female 23
Marjorie Student (Y2 M – HR) Female 23
Pierre Student (M – International marketing) Male 23
Martial Student (Y2 M – Private law) Male 22
Justine Student (Y3 B – Biology) Female 20
Pierre-Louis Employee (Statutory auditor) Male 25
Manon Student (Y2 M – Communications) Female 22
Mathieu Employee (Head of studies) Male 23
Charlène Student (Y2 B – Applied foreign languages) Female 20
Emilie Employee (Head of recruitment) Female 26
Jean-Charles Employee (Aisle manager) Male 25
Vincent Head of public works firm Male 26
Marie Primary school teacher Female 23
Alison Employee (Paediatric nurse) Female 24
Julien Student (Y2 M – Criminal law) Male 23
Y: year; M: master’s degree; B: bachelor’s degree; HR: human resources.
Appendix 2. Participant profiles (20 men, 17 women; mean age: 22.7).
22 Recherche et Applications en Marketing (English Edition) 00(0)
Photographs of products tested (© Pixmachine).
Gallen et al. 23
Correspondence factor analysis (CFA)22 modalities based on classes (corpus of individual interviews23).
The coding schema uses the five interview phases:
Phase 1, D_avant = discourse recorded prior to exposure to insects (words used to evoke insects and entomophagy).
Phase 2, D_expvisuelleNA = discourse relating to visual exposure to whole plain insects; D_expgustativeNA = discourse re-
corded during tasting of whole plain insects.
Phase 3, D_expvisuelleA = discourse recorded during visual exposure to flavoured insects; D_expgustativeA = discourse re-
corded during tasting of flavoured insects.
Phase 4, D_expvisuellesables = discourse relating to visual exposure to cheese shortbreads; D_expgustativesables = discourse
recorded during tasting of cheese shortbreads; D_expvisuellegateau = discourse recorded during visual exposure to chocolate
cake; D_expgustativegateau = discourse recorded during tasting of chocolate cake.
Phase 5, D_apres = discourse recorded after visual and gustatory exposure to the various products (targets, motivations and
24 Recherche et Applications en Marketing (English Edition) 00(0)
Dendrogram of stable classes (double DHC24 – corpus of individual interviews).
The characteristic vocabulary of each class is presented in descending order of specificity.25
Gallen et al. 25
Analysis of similarities26
Graph 1. Corpus for focus group 1 (blind test) – 74 words with frequency greater than or equal to 14 (20,458
occurrences and 2,102 distinct words).
26 Recherche et Applications en Marketing (English Edition) 00(0)
Graph 2. Corpus for focus group 2 (respondents informed about the products) – 58 words with frequency greater
than or equal to 14 (15,795 occurrences and 1,683 distinct words).