This isn't a brownie. It's not a fruit/nut bar like so many others out there. It's not even a chocolate-y protein bar. It's a revolution in portable healthy food, one bite in your mouth at a time. Chewy cocoa, crunchy nuts, and a flour to bind everything that comes from the most voluminous protein source on this planet: insects. That's right, this Cocoa Nut bar from Exo is not only delectable, it's responsible. Tear it open, smell the toasted aromas, and dig in.
What is any insect's favorite sport? Cricket! And there you have it: the grand sum total of cricket jokes on the interwebs that are not about the racquetball game of cricket.
Why start with a joke? Because, inevitably, when one talks about a delicious protein bar full of fruit and nuts that also happens to have a very special kind of flour (the kind of flour made from crickets), the har-har funny and awkward comments start spilling out. Frankly, they're not necessary, whether or not you know what is in the bar before you taste it because these bars are amazing.
Moist, chewy, and packed with dense flavors, Exo bars have absolutely nothing weird about them. Nothing. Only after you realize the magical ingredient would you think to analyze what just happened and say, "Hmm, did I taste something strange? No... I don't think so... Hmm. Nope, all good."
Start with one tweaked and tested protein bar recipe. Add two college dudes interested in global food sustainability. Add a box of 2000 live mail-order crickets, all squawking and generally doing their cricket thing to the chagrin of nearby residents. Subtract any doubt about failure. Add a gourmet chef from one of the best restaurants in the world. Result? One heckuva company and tasty protein bars to boot.
Two college students, Greg and Gabi, were hungry for a way to make the world better, at least a little bit. Gabi liked fitness and fueling for performance, amassing his own recipes and (of course) a Vitamix. Greg, one of Gabi's roommates, attended an MIT conference on global foodways and their future prospects (both good and bad). This sparked a conversation about alternative crops, and eventually they landed on the subject at hand: crickets. Thus it began. The rest is history, and the result is what I hold in my hand before the first taste test: a sample bar, moist and aromatic and chewy.
Thus sayeth the founders of EXO, Gabi and Greg: "Crickets are the new kale." They just might be right.
There are two ways to eat an EXO cricket bar. One is to leap in with full knowledge of what you're eating, fully excited and thrilled to be at the forefront of nutrition, curious to see if you might taste something newly delicious inside. The second is to go in with ignorance, purposeful or not. Someone gave you a taste, or you bought the bar because it looked good without reading the entire label. No matter which group you're in, the result is the same: the bars stand on their own flavor merits. With dried fruit, nuts, seeds, and natural sweeteners they are easy to love. But with the newfangled addition of cricket flour, they are rich with protein and the promise of healthier foods to come.
Among the current flavor lineup, this Cocoa Nut might be my favorite, with a subtle sweetness and just a little bit of texture from bits of nuts scattered in the bar. With a black coffee in the other hand, it soothes the entry into my office morning with aplomb.
Insects have marginal environmental impact. They produce virtually no methane, reproduce extremely quickly, and require minimal feed, water and space.It is estimated that crickets are 20x more efficient to raise for protein than cattle.
We need a new source of protein, one that can sustain the world into the future. Earth’s population is growing by 75 million people each year. To meet the demands of this immense growth, we’ll have to triple our food production. Conventional livestock is simply not a sustainable food source, on the whole producing more greenhouse gases than the entire transport sector. The amount of water required to produce just one pound of steak equals that consumed by a family of four for a full year.
At Exo, we believe that insects are one of the solutions to humanity’s protein dilemma. They are as natural to eat as fruits and vegetables and are a more complete form of protein than many livestock alternatives. Insects can provide us, ethically and sustainably, with the nutrients that our bodies require.
Insects are exceptionally nutritious. They are high in protein and low in saturated fats and sugars. They are a complete protein, containing all the essential amino acids, and are also high in micronutrients such as iron, calcium and B-vitamins. Crickets, for example, contain substantially more iron than beef.
Dates are the main source of sweetness in these bars, and a natural preservative and source of awesome chewiness. Dates are vitamin and mineral-rich — they’re particularly high in iron and vitamin K.
Coconut has been used by many cultures worldwide for thousands of years, and is well known for its many amazing properties. Coconut is so nutritious, its list of benefits reads like a patent medicine bottle. Many people eat several tablespoons of coconut oil daily, for the incredible host of benefits it confers. It’s full of health-boosting lauric acid and medium-chain triglycerides.
I hope I don't have to tell you the shelf life of these delectable bars - it seems mine were consumed before I could even put them away on a shelf or into the former-cookie-jar-now-paleo-treats-jar.
All you do is toss them in a bag, purse, backpack, car bin (not for too long in the summer, we hope), or basket for easy nosh. Tear open the wrapper and dig in. They're filling so don't feel too badly if your nearby friend(s) ask for a little taste.
Remember the story about the 2000 crickets? Here's how they describe that delivery, and the events that followed:
"They arrived in two shoebox-sized containers. And they were very, very loud. We wanted to find out if we could make a food product using insects that actually tasted good. Armed with Google research, a vague recipe for cricket flour, an oven, and a blender, it was time to walk the walk...
Gabi had created a basic protein bar recipe while on his own quest to make a snack both healthy and delicious, prompted by his frustration at the nutrition-taste tradeoff marring everything commercially available. The idea to add insects came when Greg, one of Gabi’s five college roommates, attended a conference at MIT on the breakdown of global systems that sparked a conversation about insects’ tremendous environmental benefits relative to other food sources. He intuitively understood that only by combining insects with something more familiar—protein bars, for example—could people here be convinced to eat them."
From there it sped up. The Vitamix was deployed to create homemade bars to take to the local power squatting gym to rave reviews. A consultant chef was brought on board from a very VERY famous British restaurant. There was a Kickstarter that funded the venture several times over the intial goal. Both founders turned down jobs after college and just over a year later they are EXO, one of the many companies at the forefront of sustainable nutrition.
We work with a couple of domestic cricket farms that specifically raise crickets for human consumption. Our crickets are currently fed a Certified-Organic grain-based diet and filtered water. We are constantly focused on optimizing the feed and are experimenting with various options including organic matter like orange peels and cornhusks.
After cleaning the crickets, we dry them to remove the moisture and mill them into fine flour. The result is slightly nutty-tasting flour that is high in protein and micronutrients.
According to some interpretations of Leviticus, crickets (along with grasshoppers, locusts and katydids) are indeed kosher as they have jointed legs and hop on the ground. It’s contentious exactly which type of cricket was being referred to, however, and we have therefore been unable to receive official kosher certification (yet). If you are a rabbi and interested in discussing this further, please call Gabi at (401) 527-7202.
Technically, no. But depending on your motivations for being vegan or vegetarian, you might be willing to eat insects. If you’re concerned about environmental impact, raising crickets is dramatically less harmful than raising traditional livestock. As invertebrates, crickets also have a much less developed nervous system than other animals. Renowned ethicist Peter Singer has expressed that he has no problem with killing insects.
There are approximately 40 crickets in each bar.