We Got Fitness Freaks to Try Food Made From Bugs

Some of them were actually pretty good.


November 23, 2015

When I found out about bug-based foods and the companies that make them, I asked the question most people ask. “Why the heck would anyone eat that?”

People have been focused on bugs as a better source of protein than animals since the United Nations did a report on it in 2013. The report said eating bugs could be a solution to world hunger and ease some causes of global warming. That’s because insects use less resources than other proteins (a.k.a. cows) and are globally available.

But Americans are more likely to spray bugs with Raid than throw them on the grill. I wondered if anyone here would actually enjoy eating them.

Before I could find out, I had to find people who were willing (and hardcore enough) to try weird, bug-filled, high protein products.

I figured the martial art trainers at my local gym, Pacific Ring Sports in Oakland, CA, would be a good place to start. The dudes here are always trying to get more protein in their diet. I also roped in some of the people in The Hustle’s office as tasters.

Now, some of the products look like the kind of things you would scream at while standing on a chair in your kitchen. Luckily for me, the guys at Pacific Ring Sports said they’d try almost anything.

Products are rated 1-5, with 5 being the highest.

DON BUGITO CHILE-LIME CRICKETS

Where to get ’em

Cost: $6 for a .55 oz bag

These cricket are really fun — a total conversation piece. They’re hand toasted and seasoned with lime juice and chile powder to taste.

My one criticism is that you have to chew the cricket bits a lot, or they get stuck in your throat. Other than that, completely delicious. They still look like crickets, though, minus legs and wings. Those were thankfully removed in what must have been a long and arduous process.

“The crickets need more vinegar on them, like we do in the Philippines. We use ginger, onion, garlic, vinegar, and spices.”Roberto Garcia, head boxing trainer at Pacific Ring

“You could totally put the spicy crickets on a salad.”Jason Joseph, operations manager and assistant instructor at Pacific Ring

“Eeeeeeeewwww!!!!!”Emily from our office

“The chile lime crickets are a delicious punch in my mouth.”Jason from our office

All Don Bugito products are made in San Francisco by Monica Martinez.

4.25

OVERALL RATING

5

YUM FACTOR

3.5

YUK FACTOR


DON BUGITO SPICY WORMS

Where to get ’em

Cost: $6 for a .55 oz bag

I found myself snacking on these when I was hungry, then being completely grossed out afterwards. The spicy “superworms” have been oven-toasted and coated with chile and lime flavoring. They’re designed to be crunchy, which is fine if you don’t think about that too much.

“The spicy mealworms don’t have enough spices. They’re good, though.”Garcia

“The spicy mealworms are a little disgusting to look at. But they taste good. There’s aftertaste I’ve never experienced.”Justin from our office

“I don’t know how to feel right now.”Andrea from our office

5

OVERALL RATING

5

YUM FACTOR

5

YUK FACTOR


DON BUGITO CHOCOLATE-COVERED CRICKETS

Where to get ’em

Cost: $6.50 for a .55 oz bag

These crickets are coated in bittersweet dark chocolate and topped with sea salt. You can hardly tell they’re crickets at all because they’re so well-disguised by the chocolate. They look like chocolate-covered pretzel bits.

The chocolate crickets are definitely doable. With the chocolate, you don’t think about the crickets.”Joseph

5

OVERALL RATING

5

YUM FACTOR

1

YUK FACTOR


BITTY CHOCOLATE CARDAMOM COOKIES

Where to get ’em

Cost: $10 for a bag of 12 cookies.

San Francisco-based Bitty Foods was named one of Entrepreneur Magazine’s 100 Brilliant Companies in 2014. The founders include Megan Miller, who cofounded the fitness adventure app Teemo; chef and Food Network TV show host Tyler Florence; and Leslie Ziegler, formerly of digital health venture fund Rock Health. They offer gluten-free cookies made from cricket flour. They use TCHO cocoa powder for a rich, creamy taste and cinnamon and cardamom to spice.

I have a gluten-free diet, and – like a lot of gluten-free cookies out there – I find these a little dry. But paired with a big glass of milk, you’ve got yourself a tasty snack. And no one is going to know they’re are made of crickets unless you tell them!

“It’s pretty good, but the first three ingredients on the package are junk. Besides that, it’s pretty good for a cookie.”Mike Regnier, Muay Thai Owner and head trainer

“These are made of crickets?!Green

“We eat crickets in the Philippines. But I just don’t want to eat crickets like I don’t want to eat pig’s feet.”Garcia

“The orange ginger flavor is yummy!”Kate from The Hustle

“They’re reaallllyyy dry.”MP

3.5

OVERALL RATING

3.5

YUM FACTOR

0

YUK FACTOR


CHIRPS CRICKET CHIPS

Where to get ’em

Cost: $15.99 for 5 oz.

I liked the Chirps cricket chips a lot. In fact, I found myself casually snacking on them while writing this. They are super crunchy and weirdly thick. But if you don’t mind that, pile the salsa on and give ’em a go. They have three times more protein and 40% less fat than potato chips.

It’s worth noting that the price point for these is a little steep. So they might be a no-go for non-fitness freaks who could just grab a $3 bag of tortilla chips at the grocery store.

Chirps was created by three women. Entrepreneurs Rose Wang, Meryl Natow, and Laura D’Asaro (a self-proclaimed on-and-off vegetarian who said eating a caterpillar for the first time in Tanzania was “love at first taste.”)

“These I would buy. I’m surprised these are not in stores. I like this because you could just eat a whole bag of chips and be fine.”Joseph

“Meh. They’re ok. They still have more sugar in them than I like. But I’m kind of a snob about that stuff.”Regnier

3.75

OVERALL RATING

4

YUM FACTOR

2

YUK FACTOR


EXO PROTEIN BARS

Where to get ’em

Cost: $13 for a 4-bar sampler pack

I thought these lacked the WOW factor compared to the other bug products I taste-tested. I don’t get that excited about fruit-flavored bricks of food. But I might consider these if I was going backpacking or needed a snack on the go. The flavor was great. Each bar has 10 grams of protein and is soy-free, gluten-free, and paleo-friendly.

Exo was founded by Greg Sewitz and Gabi Lewis, who started making cricket flour in their Brown University dorm room. Tim Ferriss is an investor.

“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,” the founders wrote on their website.

“I like the fact that they’re made from sustainable protein, but there’s still a lot of sugar in them. I don’t like all of the flavors but I’d still eat it.”Regnier

“This is made from crickets, too? Are you kidding me?!”Gree

“Reminds me of a Slimfast bar.”AL

“The flavor is unforgettable. Sooo good.”anonymous taster

“Just tastes like a PowerBar.”MP

4

OVERALL RATING

4

YUM FACTOR

1

YUK FACTOR


 Regnier, Joseph and Green
Thanks to these guys who braved our weird product taste test. Mike Regnier, Muay Thai owner and head trainer; Jason Joseph, operations manager and assistant instructor; Byron Green, head youth instructor and assistant; Roberto Garcia, head boxing trainer (not shown)

But wait, there’s more

We tasted as many bug-based foods as we could get our hands on (and stomach), but there are a number of companies creating more.

Chapul makes energy bars from crickets.

Gran Mitla makes a special kind of salt that’s flavored with chile and toasted agave worms.

Green Kow is making food spreads from bugs. They have two savory spreads with carrot, tomato, and mealworms. And they have dark chocolate and milk chocolate and mealworm spreads.

Critter Bitters turns crickets into cocktail bitters.

The bottom line

Food made from bugs is more expensive and it’s bound to scare a lot of people. I’m not convinced it’s worth it to buy these instead of the conventional products.

They’re expensive, not in regular grocery stores, and I still feel weird about eating bugs. But if my first two points change, I could be persuaded to rethink my position.

But if you’re a health freak (and I mean that in the best way) or an athlete, they might be worth it for the protein punch they’re packing… And they could be a really fun conversation starter at a party.

Eating bugs is an environmentally sustainable way to get your protein.

For example, unlike cattle, crickets use hardly any land or water to live on. They also don’t put out greenhouse gasses (like methane) that contribute to global warming.

But don’t just take my word for it. Take this graphic’s word for it:

Courtesy of Chirps cricket chips.

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