Up until now Swiss law specified that unusual foodstuffs such as insect-based products could not be sold without special authorization, but in December the federal food safety office (BLV) said it was simplifying the system.
From May 1st any food product containing three types of insects – mealworms, locusts and crickets – can be sold commercially as long as it respects the BLV's food safety regulations.
In December Swiss supermarket giant Coop was quick to respond to the change, saying it was working with Swiss startup Essento, which specializes in developing insect-based dishes, to create a range of “surprising” products containing insect proteins, including meatballs and burgers.
Speaking to Le Matin last week, Coop spokeswoman Angela Wimmer said they planned to launch three products in around 100 branches during May: a burger, meatballs and a third unspecified product.
“The first two will contain mealworms, the third flour made from crickets,” she said.
Wimmer wouldn't rule out the idea of selling insects whole – for example frozen or dried – but said the supermarket intended to wait to see customer reaction to the initial product range.
“We are convinced that there is a real demand for this culinary specialty”.
Competitor Migros told the paper it was interested in “innovations in nutrition and diet”, of which insects were a part, but would not say more for the time being.
Insects are as rich in protein as meat and fish and contain essential vitamins, minerals and amino acids.
A sustainable and ecological food source, insects emit less greenhouse gas and ammonia than conventional livestock, according to the Food and Agriculture Office of the United Nations.
However it remains to be seen if insect-based products will go down well with Swiss consumers.
According to a recent study quoted by news agencies, only nine percent of Swiss consumers said they would try insects, while 32 percent preferred to wait and see but were not fundamentally opposed to the idea.
Around 60 percent said 'no thank you' to bug-based meals, some more strongly than others.
Our survey has shown that the commercialization in Switzerland of insect-based products is not a total utopia. But it will take time," said Thomas Bruner, a professor of consumer behaviour at the Bern higher education institute that conducted the study.
Earlier this month a Bern restaurant started offering classes to teach people how to cook with its homegrown insects.
Participants learn how to make muffins and falafel using fried grasshoppers and flour worms, the latter bred on the premises.
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