Apr 22, 2024 - Food and Drink

Why these Minnesotans want you to eat more bugs

Two images of cricket-based candy products: Cricket caramel crunch on the left, set over a background of caramel popcorn; and on the right, three chocolate bars with a giant cricket-head logo.

Cricketeers sells cricket-based snacks and novelties like chocolate bars and "Cricket Caramel Crunch," but also sells powdered ground crickets for use in a wide range of recipes. Photos courtesy Chad Simons/3 Cricketeers

If you're worried about the impact the food you eat has on the planet, two Minnesota entrepreneurs have some advice: eat more bugs.

Why it matters: The world will somehow need to double food supplies by 2050 to feed a booming population. The United Nations says insects have "huge potential" to solve this problem.

  • They're nutritious, a regular part of the diet in many cultures, and likely more climate-friendly to produce than chicken or cattle.

Yes, but: Solving this problem will require changing minds in Westernized cultures.

Enter Chad and Claire Simons, whose business, 3 Cricketeers, represents a bet they can win converts to the nutritional benefits — and even culinary joys — of eating insects grown in their St. Louis Park warehouse.

What they're saying: "I compare it to sushi," Chad Simons told Axios.

  • In the U.S., "In the '80s, sushi was 'gross.' Now you can get it in your gas station. I don't think it'll take that long with crickets."

Zoom in: While 3 Cricketeers sells roasted cricket snack mixes and candied novelties, Simons is most enthusiastic about ground cricket powder as a versatile and game-changing source of supplemental protein.

  • Gym rats, take note: Simons claims it's more nutrient-dense than typical whey proteins, with "more iron than spinach, more calcium than milk," probiotic benefits, and important vitamins.
  • Cricket powder can also be used as a flour substitute, letting bakers add protein to goods like cookies, brownies, or muffins.

Between the lines: Sujaya Rao, who heads the University of Minnesota's entomology department, is optimistic that it's possible to change attitudes toward insects from "being yucky, taboo food to being a healthy, eco-friendly food of the future."

  • When Rao holds taste tests at the State Fair with cricket chips or cricket-powder brownies, most subjects say they'd be willing to try another bug-based food.

By the numbers: 3 Cricketeers' powder currently sells for $49.99 per pound, which puts it at the high end of the supplemental protein market.

  • Simons is hopeful that as the brand grows crickets at a greater scale, prices will come down. He says sales are up roughly 30% over the same period last year.

Friction point: The high cost of production is a global problem.

  • The UN has said companies will need to add automation to the process of growing bugs to make them an economically competitive alternative to traditional livestock.

What's next: While supplemental protein will be 3 Cricketeers' niche for now, Simons says he's also selling more frozen raw crickets for use in dishes like stir fry.

  • "I've even eaten them live," Simons adds, "and they taste good."
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