As the world’s population grows and our food systems become strained, a question remains about how people will feed themselves in the future. On the other hand, if you’ve just finished a workout, you might be thinking about how you’re going to feed yourself right now.
Both of these questions were on the mind of two Brown University graduates who developed a product that’s both good for the environment and good for people, and their not-so-secret ingredient may shock some: it’s crickets.
In 2013, Greg Sewitz and Gabi Lewis founded Exo, a company now offering a line of protein bars that are munched on by exercise enthusiasts and desk jockeys alike. Five varieties of Exo protein bars are currently available on their website:
- Cocoa Nut
- Peanut Butter & Jelly
- Banana Bread
- Apple Cinnamon
- Blueberry Vanilla
The flagship Cocoa Nut variety of Exo protein bars has 10g of protein, 23g of carbs, and 20g of fat, and chocolatey flavor that comes from cocoa nibs and powder. The taste and texture are comparable to many other protein or energy bars, although some tasters report a hint of a toasty, peanut butter-like aftertaste that will probably take some getting used to.
The process started after a lecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology sparked Sewitz’s imagination, who then went to Lewis to explore the use of crickets as an answer to global food problems.
They predicted that Americans would need to have their crickets hidden in something else if the product would ever catch on. The duo ordered 2,000 live crickets, which arrived at their house in a pair of shoe boxes, and set about creating their own cricket flour and a protein bar that they hoped would actually taste good.
Some tinkering led to a tasty prototype, so the duo launched a Kickstarter in 2013. Sewitz and Lewis brought Kyle Connaughton on board to help refine the recipes. Connaughton had previously served as culinary director for Chipotle and head chef of research and development for Heston Blumenthal’s famous London restaurant The Fat Duck.
The consumption of insects isn’t just a novelty or shock-value phenomenon. According to the guys at Exo, eighty percent of the world regularly consumes insects, and the Western world is one of the few remaining holdouts–undoubtedly due to the “ick factor.”
Food production experts like author Michael Pollan have long predicted that Americans’ current levels of meat consumption will not be able to scale up as the population increases. Meanwhile, crickets are vastly better for the environment than our traditional animal proteins. Crickets produce 100 times less greenhouse gases than cows and also require .0005 percent less water per pound of food produced than cows. Crickets are also a complete source of amino acids and even contain more iron than spinach.
Exo sells their protein bars directly from their website, and if you enjoy the bars, you can order them on a subscription basis so you will never be short on snacks. Even the crickety ones.