After launching a line of sweet cricket flour bars last year, the company will release Barbecue, Mango Curry and Mediterranean flavors of its cricket protein bar for sale on its website, as well as select CrossFit gyms.
Greg Sewitz, co-founder of Exo, said “a truly savory bar” is the top request from Exo’s consumer base.
Filling the need for savory, good taste
Gabi Lewis, co-founder of Exo, told BakeryandSnacks that people are looking for something that doesn’t taste like a healthier version of a dessert, something he said has not existed until now.
“And of course, this is part of a larger trend within the food industry,” he said. “People are moving away from sweetness in general and embracing healthier, more savory options.”
As an online business, Lewis believes Exo has a unique ability to listen to and heed the requests of its customers. It does surveys, beta testing and more to helps it find what the next focus needs to be.
“The nutritional and environmental benefits of cricket protein are pretty much unparalleled,” Lewis said. "It just makes so much sense. On the nutritional side, you're getting a complete protein, with all the essential amino acids, as well as tons of micronutrients like calcium, B12, iron and magnesium. And on the environmental side, it's 20-times more resource-efficient to raise crickets for protein than cows - meaning less water, space and feed - not to mention the fact that crickets emit almost 100x less methane than cows.”
Lewis is aware of consumer desires for variety, on-the-go and better-for-you products. But he said taste has been the focus for Exo, and something that has set it apart. Its recipes are designed by chefs from Michelin-starred restaurants, something the company sees as a key to success.
“It's quality over variety that will ultimately win,” he said. “And these products have been formulated with that in mind: premium, real food ingredients, no gluten, soy or dairy, and recipes developed by Michelin-starred chefs … Once you add in our innovative protein source, Exo bars certainly stand out in the crowded category.”
Market growth quick as a cricket
There have certainly been other cricket-flour snack bar companies popping up since Exo launched in 2014, including Crobar in the UK. Lewis sees this as a good thing, as all companies “have the same goal of introducing consumers to a new, better protein source”.
“We're absolutely supportive of everyone else doing this,” he said. “We've been surprised by how quickly the market has grown, but ever since we started, we knew that there was a large community of people that had already eaten insects before or were well-positioned to eat insects because of their existing lifestyle.”
Insect-based flour and protein will just keep growing until more people see it is a viable source of protein, Lewis said. It’s no longer a matter of if this will happen, but when. Lewis said their own company’s team has tripled since the beginning of 2015, with sales growing “far faster than we - or anyone else observing the industry - could have possibly predicted".