Newspaper catches bug for eating insects

People across the world increasingly see insects as an environmentally friendly, protein-filled alternative to meats such as beef and pork. But in some parts of Nagano Prefecture, central Japan, they've long been eaten as side dishes. Now, a local newspaper has caught the bug, too.

The "Shinano Mainichi Shimbun" dates back almost 150 years. The company has a 70 percent share of Nagano's newspaper market, but sales are falling. Officials have been looking for something to boost earnings, and they believe they've found one possible answer.

The first batch comprised 130 sheets of chocolate, each with eight locusts.

The paper's first batch of locust chocolates hit shelves in April, and sold out immediately. Team leader Kikuchi Tsuyoshi says it's all about changing perceptions. "I think we can drive sales by telling people insects taste good, like meat or fish."

Kikuchi says the slogan is "Insects like Sushi."

The team sought the help of renowned local chef Ota Tetsuo. He has worked at world-famous restaurants in Europe and South America, and his new store in Nagano is fully booked for years to come.

Ota says that as a child, it was not unusual for him to eat bee larvae with his grandparents.

"The prevailing image is that eating them is creepy," he says. "When it comes to insects as food, I think it's more important to let the idea take root than to simply create novelty products."

Locusts boiled in soy sauce and sugar are widely eaten in Nagano Prefecture.

In July, the newspaper's business development team set up a space in Ota's restaurant. So far, they've created five products, and more are in the pipeline.

Kikuchi knows these are early days, but he is hopeful of establishing a profitable insect brand within three to five years.

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