Have you ever looked at an insect and felt your stomach growl? Probably not, but that may change at some point in the not-too-distant future, as companies such as Chapul are on the front lines of increasing awareness about the benefits of such a diet by utilizing insect flour in a new range of protein bars.
Incorporating insects into your diet is not only nutritious—they contain tremendous amounts of protein in addition to healthy fibers, minerals, and iron—but also environmentally conscious.
Still having trouble getting over the “ick!” factor? Consider the flavors offered by Chapul: the “Thai Bar” infuses coconut, ginger, and lime, while their “Aztec Bar” features a tantalizing blend of dark chocolate, coffee, and cayenne pepper. It certainly sounds delicious, and combined with the growing body of knowledge surrounding the health benefits, you may find your palate becoming a bit more adventurous.
We recently spoke with Pat Crowley, founder of Chapul, about this fascinating project.
What was your inspiration for creating this product?
The inspiration for wanting to introduce insects into Western cuisine came from a background working in water sustainability, and trying to set our children up for a more livable planet. Our all-natural energy bars are inspired by the California Roll, which was the gentle introduction of sushi to American culture. We thought that creating a protein flour from crickets, then adding it to gourmet flavors like coconut-ginger-lime, and chocolate-coffee-cayenne, the concept would be best received by our current culture.
What are the benefits of an insect diet? Do the benefits extend into the environment?
Humans evolved eating insects as hunter-gatherers for thousands of years. Chapul bars are just a reintroduction of this very healthy protein.
Our cricket flour is a complete protein, containing all the essential amino acids, and is high in iron, calcium, and vitamins such as B12. The environmental benefits are huge. It is one of the most efficient forms of protein, which means a much smaller impact on our land, air, and water resources.
Let’s get to the question on everyone’s mind—how does it taste?
Delicious! The flour itself is fairly mild tasting, best described as earthy, or most similar to a sunflower seed. Knowing taste was essential for a good first impression of insects, we made our energy bars with gourmet flavors consisting of organic dates, nuts and spices that compliment the natural flavor of our cricket flour well.
Any tips for getting over the psychological “ick!” factor?
It’s all in the first bite. Sometimes it helps knowing that we regularly eat insects everyday, no matter what our food preferences are. They are so prolific in the natural environment that we simply cannot remove them from our food system. So eating them is nothing new, it’s just a matter of embracing them for the superfoods that they truly are.
Is this the future of food?
Absolutely. We started Chapul 2 and a half years ago, as the beginning of a growing trend in the US. The thought was to spur the national conversation about what an amazing food resource insects are, and to ignite the revolution to cultural acceptance. Chapul Cricket Bars are really just the beginning to a burgeoning new path toward a sustainable food system.
Is this a potential solution to feeding the planet?
It is one of many. We need some radical changes to our monoculture, over-consumptive food system. One of the best strategies for a reliable food source for the planet is to increase the diversity of our food, and insects are a phenomenal example of how to do this. As more pressure is being placed upon our natural resources, insects will rise to the top of the list of healthy ways to feed the planet.
Where can we go to learn more about the benefits of insect consumption and water conservation?
A big part of our mission at Chapul is education, so we regularly post news on our Facebook page and on the “insider news” section of our website. Also, a great academic resource on insects as a global food source is the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization’s 2013 report, Edible Insects – Future Prospects for Food and Feed Security.