What are the latest food trends? We hear about farmers, chefs, and foodpreneurs working to find alternative food sources that are nutritious, sustainable, and environmentally friendly. There are pop-ups, food trucks, food halls, alternative butchery, adaptogens, cauliflower, ethnic foods, and coffee in everything but a cup heading our way in 2017. Whether it is partnering with the cocoa farmers to harvest beans, creating a cooperative with the fisherman to ensure a traceable and sustainable catch or experimenting with cricket flour to create protein bars, more is happening on the food front now than ever before. Sweet Travels reached out to Greg Sewitz and Gabi Lewis, co-founders of exo, to learn more about cricket flour and why “crickets are the new kale”! Jen Tran, Head of PR & Communications at exo, provided us with the inside scoops.
exo started while Greg and Gabi were both seniors at Brown University trying to find an environmentally friendly and alternative source of protein. Where do you source your crickets from? Are the cricket farmers certified (organic, non-GMO, etc)? Since the cricket industry has grown in the past 4 years, has it been more difficult to source them?
Our cricket flour suppliers source their crickets from various cricket farms in Canada and US, e.g. Entomo Farms. Our crickets are organic and non-GMO. It’s been easier – the industry is slowly growing, but we’ve stuck with similar suppliers from the beginning.
What does cricket flour taste like?
In regards to its flavor, it tastes vaguely nutty, but nothing overwhelming comes to mind.
exo offers 6 flavors of protein bars. What is your best selling flavor?
Cocoa Nut is our best selling flavor.
Selling cricket flour protein bars requires educating the consumers on the value of cricket flour. How have you spread the word about the positive impact of cricket flour in your protein bars? I read you first started introducing the bars to cross fit athletes. Do you showcase your protein bars at athletic events, conferences, farmers markets, etc?
We’ve used every marketing channel under the sun, with a particular focus on influencer marketing/affiliate programs. We do show our bars at conferences like Expo West and Outdoor Retailer, and various industry events.
You partnered early on with a chef from The Fat Duck in England, Kyle Connaughton. The Fat Duck is renowned for their innovative and creative approach to food. Does Chef Kyle still work with exo? Are there any plans to offer additional products other than protein bars?
Yes! Kyle has his own R+D firm called Pilot R+D. exo works with Kyle and Pilot R+D to this day. We don’t have any current plans to offer other products.
exo Protein established a marketing program in which you sponsor an athlete. What athletes have been most responsive to this sponsorship program (cross fit competitors, runners, swimmers, triathletes)?
We’ve found that CrossFit athletes, our original audience – are the most successful sponsored athletes.
exo was listed as one of the Top 10 Fast growing Food Companies. Your 1st fundraising effort was a Kickstarter campaign. Has exo partnered with an investment firm?
We’ve raised $5.2M from investors such as Tim Ferriss and Collaborative Fund etc. More information on our investments can be found at: https://angel.co/exo.
Where is your main facility and headquarters in Brooklyn? How large is the company now?
We are based at Bond Collective in Gowanus. We have six full-time staff members.
exo protein bars can be purchased online through your website and on Amazon. I also read you can buy an exo bar at the Cibo Markets in the airports. I assume it is very hard to get a contract with the airports. Has this market been successful for exo?
Yes! We’ve heard from Cibo that our bars are quite popular at the airport, and it’s a great healthy and sustainable snack for travelers.
On a personal note…I decided to bake an oat blueberry muffin with cricket flour to see what it tasted like and to get that extra protein boost. I agree with Jess with respect to the flavor of cricket flour as nothing really came to mind when I tasted it. The muffins were a hit and I quickly moved on to chocolate chip cookies to continue my search to create a healthy snack for my kids. I worked with Laura Rosenberg, who is a Chef and Instructor at the Natural Gourmet Institute in NYC. Together we came up with a pretty good recipe for the muffins and cookies. We are posting our recipes in the May Sweet Travels newsletter so sign up now at “Join My Email List”.