Salted caramel crickets? This entrepreneur is spicing up the insect protein biz

Shelby Smith is experimenting with cricket-infused cookies, onion rings, and zucchini bread.

July 23, 2020

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When a UPS package carrying 10k crickets landed on Shelby Smith’s doorstep, she was terrified. 

Smith, a former derivatives trader living on her family’s farm in Iowa, had ordered the crickets on a whim. 

2018 was the perfect time to jump into the cricket biz — the market is projected to grow to $8B by 2030.

You can already find some high-profile cricket products, like the Exo Protein energy bar, in most stores.

But almost everything Smith knew about raising crickets came from YouTube videos.

“I killed a lot of crickets,” she says. “Like, a lot.”

Step 1 to building a biz? 

Get a punny name. 

Smith’s choice: Gym-N-Eat Crickets. (Say it out loud.) 

Step 2: Experiment. Smith has mixed cricket powder into energy bars, but also into chocolate ”chirp” cookies, onion rings, and zucchini bread

Now Smith is in about 11 grocers across the country, including the Midwestern chain Hy-Vee.  

She’s one of the few companies raising her crickets stateside. And her flavors — lemon, banana bread, salted caramel — are more experimental than other brands’. 

“You are at the mercy of what I like, because if you don’t buy it, I’m going to have to eat it,” she says. “There will be no black licorice crickets.”

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