If you want to save the environment, there are many ways you can do it. There’s reducing electricity consumption, avoiding plastic use, and of course, eating crickets. Wait, say what?
Montreal-based startup Crickstart has developed a nutritious and eco-friendly line of snacks made from crickets. These include olive and chilli crackers and snack bars flavoured with lemon-lime, cinnamon-cardamom, and chilli-chocolate.
According to the company, they want to introduce crickets into the Western diet because the insects are a better food source.
Nutrition-wise, they have seven times more B12 than salmon and 50 times more than chicken. They also contain the dietary fiber chitin, as well as all of the nine essential amino acids.
Crickets are more sustainable too. Compared to beef, the insects require 2,000 less water, 12 times less feed, and emit 80 times less methane. Heck, even their feces can be used as fertiliser.
Also unlike cows, crickets don’t mind living in dark and cramped conditions – which makes them the more ethical (and guilt-free) option.
“Not only can they be farmed vertically, but crickets are also naturally a swarming species and like living in large numbers together in tight quarters,” explained Crickstart.
“Traditional livestock animals get sick in these conditions but crickets don’t – they thrive. This means that the use of land is minimal in cricket farming and that the protein output per land unit is very high.”
And as for the taste? Treehugger said it’s actually good.
“The cricket flavour is subtle yet unmistakable; it adds an earthy tone and a slightly grainy consistency that’s not unpleasant.
“The Crickstart snack bars (40 crickets per bar!) were my favourite, especially the chilli-chocolate flavour, which has some nice heat. Compared to Exo protein bars, these are chewier and moister, which I liked, not to mention organic and cheaper.”
We recently spoke to the Crickstart team to learn more about their fascinating products. Take a look:
Where’d you get the idea to make snacks from crickets?
“Well, the idea of snacking on insects is as old as humanity – or older, since we were eating them before we were technically humans! And two billion people in over 80 countries eat insects as part of their diet – so that’s not new.
“But in the case of Crickstart, the idea was to combine the benefits of the best organic plant-based foods with the kind of nutrition you would normally find in meat, like complete protein and vitamin B12 (which you get from crickets), in the form of really convenient, really delicious foods – like gourmet crackers and real food protein bars.
“The bonus is that cricket protein production is extremely sustainable, requiring 2,000 times less water and 12 times less feed than beef protein, gram for gram, and emitting 80 times less methane.
“In a way we kind of feel like ‘it’s about time there are snacks made with crickets!’”
What was your journey like to get where you are? We imagine it must have been hard pitching the idea at the very beginning.
“Yeah, it’s been quite a ride. From the beginning, this has been about several passions of ours: real food, great nutrition, and sustainability, but honestly, I don’t know that even this would have been enough to get us all to quit our jobs for Crickstart.
“It’s the combination of all those things with that fact that eating insects is culturally disruptive that gave us the kind of ‘hell yeah!!’ feeling you need to rally around a mission.
“We love that last part because we find that progress often comes as a result of challenging people’s ways of thinking.
“We tell ourselves that if we can get people to question their preconceptions about food, something so fundamental, we might just nudge them a little toward opening their minds about other things – because we’re going to need some creative solutions to create a better world for ourselves.
“That’s the sappy, kumbaya part of it and the other part of it is like ‘we’re just putting freakin crickets into food!! No big deal!’
“But to get back to the question, yes we have run into a lot of resistance since starting two years ago but it’s been amazing to see how much people’s mindsets have evolved, at an increasingly fast pace. What we’re doing isn’t so so ‘weird’ anymore, and that really is cool.”
Insects aren’t usually part of any person’s diet. How do you plan on shifting people’s dietary mindset centered on beef and pork to one focused on crickets?
“We would think about this challenge in a bit of a different way. We’re not so much trying to shift people’s mindset to one that is focused on crickets. We’re just here to offer really nutritious alternative protein foods that can help people either reduce their traditional meat consumption, if that’s something they want to do, or supplement it.
“We’re very much against the idea, or strategy, of preaching to people … that just causes backlash anyway. Our hope is that by making Crickstart an inclusive brand, we give as many people as possible the opportunity to integrate crickets into their diet, in some form or fashion, if they’re interested.
“That said, to make that easier for most people, we’ve integrated cricket powder, which is made from roasted, milled crickets, into foods that people in ‘western’ cultures are used to eating, like bars, crackers and protein powders. And then of course the products have to taste really good – otherwise forget it!
“We also decided to source certified organic crickets, farmed in Canada under the highest standards, to preempt any questions that might have otherwise popped up in people’s minds.”
What kind of impact would you like your products to have in the world?
“To make people healthier, snacking more enjoyable, food more sustainable, and our minds more open!”
Where do you see yourselves a few years from now?
“First of all, because I personally am particularly excited about new product development, I’ll say that we’ll have a few new lines of products that will integrate crickets into different culinary contexts. That’s all I will say about that for now!
“Otherwise, we hope to have encouraged millions of people around the world, not just in North America (we’re based in Canada), to give some thought to integrating crickets into their diets.
“Oh and we’d like to all still feel like we don’t have real jobs…”