Crobar - the protein bar made with crickets
11 September 2017
The other day, sparked by my generally unstoppable curiosity, I bought cricket bars. To be specific, the Crobar chocolate and peanut bars containing crickets. They were perfectly pleasant - the peanut one probably the more accessible of the two.
The thing with these bars is that they contain protein (which is derived from roasted cricket flour) but - fear not - they don’t taste of crickets, and there are no bits of legs or other cricket parts in evidence. The argument is that protein from crickets will become more important in the future as we have billions more human beings all hungry for food because it’s a much more efficient way of generating high quality protein.
It’s a perfectly sound utilitarian argument - and that’s why the bars in their current form are unlikely to succeed. The argument for the greater uptake of cricket protein is basically a business-to-business pitch. Why would I, as a consumer, care at all where the protein for my bar comes from if it doesn’t contribute to the flavour or the overall experience? If I was in the business of producing and selling protein bars, I might well be open to a pitch that says this should be my main source of protein. If it’s cheaper as well as more sustainable, then it’s a win win.
And so it may well be that protein bars and other such products will begin to routinely include cricket flour - a fact which you’ll see if you care enough to look at the ingredients. It won’t be the first such insect-derived ingredient, since many people happily munch through red foods that have been coloured with cochineal. But unless you sell me on the delicious taste of roasted crickets - and you feature this in your product - then it’s conceptually not a consumer issue.
I’m rather assuming that the taste of roasted cricket isn’t an entirely glorious experience - since no-one so far has made a feature of it. If it is, then that might provide a way forward. You just need to be able to popularise the product in the face of the potential ‘ick' factor.
The way to sell crickets to the consumer would be (a) make it the latest trendy thing that the cool celebs are doing - at least those that aren’t getting into veganism anyway and (b) create a story around the product that is compelling and based on the experience, not just some learned treatise of protein inputs and outputs. It could be done. The question is really does it need to be? The early entrepreneurs in this space have immediately envisaged a product that becomes popularised with the general public, but in so doing I think they may be distracted by the attractions of having a publicly recognised brand rather than an influential behind-the-scenes role talking truth to the corporations that can shift into real volume in the short to medium term.
The reference to veganism is relevant, by the way. One of the big arguments for the bars is that they don’t involve produce from the dairy industry (protein products often use whey) for those that have an ethical issue with dairy. It just seems likely to me that mostly those are the exact people that have pitched their tent in the vegan camp, and I would be surprised if many vegans suddenly decided that they eschew all animal products except crickets.
In the mean time, these bars are perfectly pleasant to eat. There’s no reason not to eat them. Just no reason to seek them out unless you fit into a very narrow niche defined by the things you’re avoiding.
Crobar is produced by Gathr Foods.