Protein bar maker Exo's rebrand specifically highlights the use of cricket protein in their bars, according to FoodNavigator-USA. The packaging features a sketch of a cricket alongside images of the bars’ other ingredients, including a banana, blueberries and almonds.
The company’s new packaging targets their demographic of extreme athletes and Crossfit enthusiasts by featuring sponsored athletes and images of active lifestyles such as rock climbing and running.
Mottos on the packaging express the company’s mission of being “proudly strange and embracing weirdness and not running from it," Exo co-founder Greg Sewitz told FoodNavigator-USA. "We are owning the fact that what we are doing is odd and not for everyone.”
For three out of every 10 people on earth, insects make up a main part of their diet, especially as many parts of the world cannot support the large-scale raising of cattle, hogs or poultry for food. Now, Exo Inc of Brooklyn, NY is trying to bring crickets — and the protein they provide — to the active crowd.
While Exo originally downplayed the use of cricket protein in its bars — opting for clean, simple packaging that barely mentioned crickets and did not use pictures of insects at all — the company's rebrand comes at a time when edible insects are on the rise. A growing number of manufacturers are making bugs, worms and scorpions edible, with the insects' high protein seen as a plus. Edible insects aren't yet universally consumed in the U.S, but consumers nowadays are more likely to give them the benefit of doubt.
A study done at King’s College, London, found that minerals are more readily absorbed when eating insects than beef. Crickets in particular have been found to contain healthy fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals and protein.
Despite the numerous health and sustainability benefits, American consumers have a wealth of different protein options to choose from, including the more popular red meat. It can also be difficult to get beyond the “ick” factor surrounding eating insects. Researchers from Wageningen University in the Netherlands conducted research on different forms of edible insect products and found that only half of those in the study were willing to try insect products at all. Those who did had similar reactions to insects processed into foods as they did to whole insects.
Proponents of edible insects say that western disgust is simply a cultural prejudice that can be easily swayed. They cite shrimp, lobster and sushi as examples of foods that were once widely shunned but now command a high popularity among consumers.
Although Exo hopes to have found its niche, it remains to be seen whether enough consumers can stomach eating insects for Exo’s strategy to prove effective. If consumers can get past this initial hurdle, disgust can be overcome relatively quickly, according to a study from the FAO. Public acceptance of edible insects still has a ways to go in the U.S., but their health and sustainability benefits cannot be denied.