Insects are not ‘the new sushi’: theories of practice and the acceptance of novel foods

House, Jonas


Food geographies have long grappled with the interplay between production and consumption. Theories of practice offer productive new ways of conceptualising the mutual implication of supply and demand in shaping food consumption, yet little work has approached the subject of novel foods from this perspective. This paper applies practice-theoretic analysis to two novel foods, aiming to demonstrate the utility of the approach for a number of substantive areas and to extend conceptual and theoretical debates within food geographies. The paper compares sushi (a novel food successfully established in the US in the 1960s) and insects (a novel ‘sustainable’ protein source for Western markets, which to date has been relatively unsuccessful). Many accounts portray sushi’s success as the result of marketing efforts and the role of a ‘gateway dish’, arguing that insects – as ‘the new sushi’ – can follow this model to achieve widespread acceptance. It is argued that sushi’s initial Western establishment was instead due to pre-existent practices ‘carried’ to a new location, where the practices’ relevant constituent elements were also present. Conversely, European food insects are not clearly assimilable within pre-existing practices; instead, integration into existing food practices has been attempted. Such efforts are demonstrably problematic.