The concept of eating bugs is one of the most widely debated topics in the American culinary landscape. For some, merely the thought of crunching down into a creepy-crawly is enough to make them nauseous. For others, no taco is complete without a sprinkling of roasted grasshoppers. But what if crickets were roasted and ground into flour, then combined with raw cacao, dates, almond butter, and coconut and turned into a tasty, high-protein energy bar? One company, Exo, is doing just that, and founders Greg Sewitz and Gabi Lewis are hoping to change the way we think about eating insects. They’ve launched a Kickstarter page, and are looking to raise $20,000 to bring their idea to the masses.
But why crickets? "When you start looking into insects as a protein source, it’s pretty astounding," Sewitz told us. "They really are a kind of superfood. Crickets need 12 times less feed than cattle to produce the same amount of protein and they produce 80 times less methane. They require barely any physical space or water."
Sewitz and Lewis started the company during their senior year at Brown University, after Sewitz returned from a conference in which insects were discussed as an ideal protein source. By grinding the crickets down into a powder, they’re hoping that people will be able to get over their squeamishness and see crickets as simply a high-quality protein, containing more iron than beef and almost as much calcium as milk.
"If you look at it logically, crickets are part of the same phylum as shrimp and lobster," Sewitz continued. "Shrimp even look a lot like insects if you think about it. We’re betting that if we can change people’s assumptions about what crickets taste like, then we can overcome that irrational disgust mechanism."
The first product is a chocolate-flavored protein bar, but they’re hoping that many additional products are to come. "We’re essentially creating a high-protein flour that you could put in almost anything, from cookies to shakes," he said.
They’re looking to raise $20,000 by Aug. 28, which will allow them to create and package their first commercial batch. Rewards for donating include six bars (for a $25 donation), and go all the way up to a trip to New York, dinner with the team, and a years’ supply of bars (for a $5,000 donation).