Eating insects is no longer just the preserve of celebrities battling it out for public votes in the jungle - the British public is increasingly developing an appetite for them too.

In a study of nearly 1,500 UK consumers by Leatherhead Food Research, more than one in 10 (13%) claimed they had knowingly tasted or eaten an insect.

And a third said they believed insects were a viable source of food for humans in light of global population growth and pressures on food production.

Nearly a quarter of respondents said insects were becoming more acceptable as a food source for humans, and 41% said insects were a nutritious source of protein. A similar number (40%) believed insects should be used as feed for animals.

Men in particular were ready to embrace insects in feed and food, but the study suggests women will be harder to convince. Just 11% of females thought having a diet that included insects was acceptable compared with 23% of males.

Meanwhile, 20% of men said they had eaten insects compared with just 11.5% of women.

“The survey showed women were generally seeming to be more squeamish to a diet involving insects,” said principal analyst Nicole Patterson-Lett. “I think the industry has more work to do if it wants to get people to buy into this, but I think people no longer regard it just as a joke.”

Leatherhead recently developed a “high in protein” and “high iron” smoothie, made from crickets.

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