Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Agriculture - Food Science and Nutrition


Food Science and Nutrition


College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Sciences


Amy Lammert

Advisor Department

Food Science and Nutrition

Advisor College

College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Sciences


Insects have been proposed as a sustainable alternative to livestock to help feed the growing population. Edible insects such as mealworms require less land and resources and can utilize food by-products to grow. While insects are consumed by over 2 billion people worldwide, they are not widely accepted in developed countries like the United States because of their unfamiliarity and the perception of disgust associated with entomophagy. The objectives of this research are to 1) grow mealworms using carrot pomace and determine an optimum diet for growth and nutritional composition, 2) identify and classify early adopters of insects, and propose a product form, and 3) assess the acceptability of frozen, ready-to-cook mealworms with early adopters.

A response surface design was used to evaluate the use of carrot pomace in various percentages in the substrate and as the moisture source in a mealworm growing system. Mealworms were grown under controlled conditions in a climate chamber until they began to pupate, and statistical models were fitted to predict mealworm mortality, weight, days to pupation, protein content, fat content, and moisture content. An algorithm in Design Expert was used to optimize mealworm growth based on maximizing mealworm weight and minimizing mortality and days to pupation, and the optimum diet was found to be 36% carrot pomace in the substrate with carrot pomace as the moisture source.

Early adopters of insects were identified through a survey using Red Jade Sensory Software. Participants were segmented using partitioning around medoids clustering algorithm based on responses to questions on willingness to consume insects in a variety of forms. Four segments were identified: No-thank-you’s, Hideaways, Daredevils, and Peekaboo’s. Daredevils, Peekaboo’s, and Hideaways are early adopters of insects in the nonvisible form, and Daredevils and Peekaboo’s are also early adopters of insects in the visible form.

Based on these insights, frozen, ready-to-cook mealworms were selected to target Daredevils and Peekaboo’s as a product to serve as a sustainable alternative to traditional livestock protein. Participants from each of the four segments were shown a video of mealworm cooking and asked their willingness to buy the product and the motivation behind their response. The majority of respondents were unwilling to buy this product, driven by unfamiliarity and the perception of disgust. However, over half of Daredevils were willing to buy the product, driven by the novelty and ease of preparation. Marketing a product towards this group may be a feasible route for entry into the market and increase the familiarity of edible insects, thereby contributing to long-term acceptability.

Available for download on Thursday, June 06, 2024