“We represent a growing food revolution intent on increasing the health of our food resources for our children and for the planet.”
In 2012, the American entrepreneur Patrick Crowley took a leap to change the attitude towards edible insects in Western cuisine. He introduced the first insect-protein product in the US; the Chapul Cricket Bar, a healthy and sustainable protein bar that is fortified with its own signature cricket flour.
Chapul Cricket Flour Protein Bars are the original cricket bars that incorporate gourmet flavours inspired by international cuisine. “Blending our signature cricket flour protein, they offer a high-protein, low-sugar, nutrient-packed bar to sustain the adventure that is your life.”
According to Crowley, Chapul cricket powder is a minimally-processed, clean protein that contains all the essential amino acids for healthy muscle growth and development. Despite its high nutritional value, it contributes hugely to environmental sustainability as insects use just a fraction of the water and land resources to produce than traditional livestock. When combined with innovative farming practices, it can also be much more efficient to raise than meat substitutes like corn, soy, and rice.
We asked Patrick some more questions.
Did you decide to go for an energy bar because you think it is the best way to educate people about eating insects before making a mainstream CPG food?
Yes, in part the energy bar was intended to be a vehicle for education. I worked as an experiential leadership instructor for NOLS prior to Chapul, and devoutly believe that education is most effective when it is incorporated into an experience. While we were the first company to launch cricket flour, we were certainly not the first to try and educate Western culture about the benefits as academics and authors have written on the topic for decades previous. I thought the idea would never spread into mainstream until large numbers of people could experience eating insects for themselves. The energy bar was meant to be a gentle, culturally acceptable introduction of the concept of adding insect protein in our food supply.
Is your cricket energy bar different from the others?
The easiest distinction is that it was the first, as we say, the Original Cricket Bar, having launched it in July 2012. Since then, we’ve constantly improved it based on our customers’ feedback, and we are receiving feedback that our bars are the most delicious on the market – not just of other cricket bars, but other protein bars as well. The gourmet flavours are unique in that they are inspired by regions of the world that have a history of eating insects including a Thai-inspired Coconut-Ginger-Lime, Aztec inspired Chocolate-Coffee-Cayenne, and a Japanese themed Matcha Green Tea flavour.
How do you bring on the R&D? Does it involve tests with consumers? If yes, what are the takeaways?
Yes, R&D is just as much about communication with the consumers as it is recipe development. Too many people believe that you can simply hire a fancy chef to develop a recipe and then you’re done. Insects offer a unique flavour, texture, etc. to many people and it often takes many, many iterations before getting just the right combination of flavours and textures that enhance and compliment the natural blend of ingredients. When it comes down to it, what really matters is what tastes good to people, so we have always made a high priority to constantly seek feedback from our core consumers. These have ranged from brief online surveys, to in-depth conversations with some of our most loyal customers.
If you imagine new products made with cricket flour, what could they be?
This week we are launching a new line of flavoured protein mixes that we are very excited about. We have been working on creating the perfect recipe for this blend for over a year now, further developing the process of the cricket flour, as well as identifying the right mix of flavours and nutrients to make a delicious, complete nutritional blend. We have several recipes on our website for the blends to be used in smoothies, baked goods, juices, and perhaps my favourite, a chocolate mousse.
Do you think there are other farmed insects that may be used to make packaged food? And why the vast majority of the bug start-ups think the crickets have a higher consumer acceptance?
I definitely believe the sky is the limit for insects. When more than 1,000 insect varieties are currently being consumed around the world, there’s no reason to think the growing trend in Western markets should be limited to crickets. From an environmental and food security perspective, one of the best things about insect protein is how much diversity it adds to our food supply, including a wider diversity of growing conditions than many plant proteins, so we should certainly be expecting the insect category to begin exploring a wider diversity of insect varieties in the near future. When we launched Chapul in 2012, there was no market for any insect protein product, and we took a leap of faith that consumers would accept crickets in a flour form. Since then, it has been used as a proof point for consumer acceptance, which in part is amusing to us, since it was essentially a guess when we started. I’m looking forward to pushing the envelope of innovation as we continue to roll out new products.