Insects have been a staple diet food for many cultures for many hundreds if not thousands of years. Only recently have we in Western society been introduced to products containing insects. Specifically cricket flour as a primary ingredient in cricket flour protein bars.
Two companies leading the insect protein bar charge are Exo (exoprotein.com) and Chapul (chapul.com). Each company providing their own take on cricket bars and equally different is their startup stories.
Pat Crowley, a hydrologist, raft guide, and explorer founded Chapul in 2012 with college roommate Dan O’Neil. Crowley started exploring insect protein after hearing a TED talk by Dr. Marcel Dicke on entomophagy. Crowley’s concern, the overconsumption of freshwater in the agriculture industry. By introducing insects as a source of protein humans can reduce the massive amounts of water used in irrigating farms that feed the hundreds of millions of livestock each year.
The Chapul energy bar Kickstarter project was successfully funded back in July 2012, making Chapul the first kid on the cricket flour protein bar block.
Crowley points out the phenomena of sushi bars in the U.S. These restaurants were not well received by most Americans in the 1960’s and 1970’s, many saw raw fish as bait. Sushi Bars have since exploded in popularity and can be found in most every city. He see’s Chapul and insect consumption in a similar position.
Chapul offers their cricket bars in three distinct flavors:
- Aztec Bar (Dark Chocolate, Coffee, & Cayenne)
- Chaco Bar (Peanut Butter & Chocolate)
- Thai Bar (Coconut, Ginger, & Lime)
Exo co-CEO’s Greg Sewitz and Gabi Lewis both met at Brown University where they came up with the idea for their brand of cricket protein bars.
Lewis, frustrated by the disparity in taste and nutritional value of existing bars, had been working on a paleo-friendly protein bar when Sewitz suggested using crickets as the source of protein. Sewitz got the idea from conversations on the environmental benefits of insects that followed a MIT conference he attended.
It was when they received positive taste results from protein bars formulated with Lewis’ recipe and crickets they received alive, froze, slow roasted and ground into powder that they decided to curtail post-college job plans.
July of 2013 is when they launched a Kickstarter campaign hitting their $20,000.00 goal within the first 3 days. By the end of the campaign they had raised $55,000.00.
Clearly the success of the Kickstarter campaign and subsequent positive press coverage were clear indicators to Greg and Gabi that the Western world was ready or at least willing to try edible insects.
Exo offers their cricket bars in four distinct flavors:
- Cacao Nut
- Blueberry Vanilla
- Peanut Butter & Jelly
- Apple Cinnamon
Is the Cricket Protein Bar Market Getting Crowded?
Progressive health conscious consumers will soon have two more cricket flour protein bar companies from which to choose.
Founders Búi Aðalsteinsson and Stefán Thoroddsen started Crowbar Protein (crowbarprotein.com), an Icelandic based company in June of 2014. Búi, a product designer inspired by a UN report on edible insects, built an at-home ‘Fly Factory’. The factory provided a ripe environment for growing and harvesting of Black Soldier fly larvae and the resulting waste.
The media attention gathered by this prototype machine further convinced Búi of the need for commercially available insect food products. At which time he recruited Stefán and formed Crowbar Protein with initial seed funding of $16,000.00 from Startup Reykjavik (startupreykjavik.com).
In April of 2015, Crowbar Protein launched their Kickstarter campaign to gather further funding for their Jungle Bar cricket protein bar. Their funding goal is set at $15,000.00 (within the projects first 24 hours they have 43 backers and are funding at 20% ($3,080.00)).
Crowbar has three flavors they are currently developing:
- Peanut Butter & White Chocolate
- White Chocolate
- Cinnamon & Chocolate
Finally we have Crobar. Yes, look closely at the spelling. It is very close to the Icelandic startup name, Crowbar Protein. As of March 2015, Crobar, a London U.K. based company, has launched their Kickstarter campaign.
Crobar is attempting to reach a goal of $14,760.00. As of the writing of this article they were roughly $3,000.00 away from their goal with eight days remaining. Christine Spliid, a native of Denmark, competitive runner, and having studied Psychology and Business at Warwick University is jumping into the fray.
Spliid’s idea for developing a cricket protein bar stems from difficulty in finding a healthy alternative to those energy bars that are high in sugar or use whey as their protein source.
I was unable to find a website for Crobar, only a Facebook page.
Crobar mentions two flavors on their Kickstarter page. I can find only one at this time:
- Cocoa Crunch
- Flavor to be named later
Are We Witnessing an Edible Insect Revolution?
I don’t know if we are full steam ahead yet, but we are getting close to ‘general public awareness’. At which point edible insects will no longer be a weird blip we read or see occasionally on news sites, but be mainstream.
I think we are now in the early adoption phase by those ‘quirky’ health nuts (I am pointing the finger clearly at myself with this remark). Which will then be followed next by the gentle easing and acceptance into your average everyday health conscious individuals. Lastly, edible insects will be slip streamed into acceptance by the general population.
My prediction, based purely on what I’ve been reading and studying about the Western adoption of entomophagy, for the last phase is still another 4-6 years away. Although if sites like this and others along with their social media counterparts continue to push and educate on the massive environmental benefits edible insects have on society, the process could optimistically be expedited by a year or two.
Additionally, as companies like Chapul and Exo continue to develop edible insect based products and funded Kickstarter entomophagy campaigns bring new ideas to market, we could all be asking for cricket flour bread rather than white or wheat bread for our sandwiches sooner than we think.
Let us know what you think the future holds for edible insects by heading over to our Twitter or Facebook page!