What's the latest craze in the energy bar category? No, it's not more freaky flavor combos, added vitamins, caffeine, or superfoods. It's crickets. As in, bugs.
According to Food Navigator, two entrepreneurs (and apparent bug enthusiasts) have developed a high protein energy bar in an effort to help bring the concept of eating bugs for nutritional and environmental purposes to Americans.
"I thought a protein bar could be a vehicle to introducing a new sustainable food source to the West but also a better protein," said Gabi Lewis, co-found of the brand Exo.
Read more about protein sources
Proteins-particularly those that go into processed energy bars, are not the most sustainable. Soy and whey are two of the most common energy bar proteins. Soy is monocropped, most often genetically modified, and requires large amounts of pesticides and herbicides as a result. Whey is a by-product of the dairy industry, which contributes high levels of methane gas to the environment, as well as creates animal waste runoff, which often contaminates soil and water sources. As well, most conventionally raised dairy cattle are fed genetically modified grains and hay. The process of making whey can leave traces of heavy metals and other chemicals in the protein.
Moving consumers away from processed proteins like soy and whey and towards the consumption of insects, which are high in protein and capable of being raised more sustainably, is the "entire goal" of Exo.
Read more about the dangers of GMOs
Bugs are already a mainstay in diets around much of the world, and the Food and Agriculture Organisation has declared insects to be a 'valuable' source of nutrition that Westerners should begin to embrace.
Each Exo energy bar reportedly contains 25 crickets roasted and ground into a high protein flour. The bugs are then blended with other healthy ingredients including coconut, raw chocolate, almond butter, dates, honey and sea salt.
A startup generating revenue from a Kickstarter campaign, Exo founders say the company and the market for insect energy bars could grow as big as Clif Bar or Power Bar. "I think we can do it," says Lewis. "A lot of people are persuaded to try new protein bars the by the lack of quality in many. Most don't taste very good and are loaded with sugar." Read more about Kickstarter's stance on GMOs
Images: USGS Bee Inventory & Monitoring (cricket), Exo (bars)