After a successful Kickstarter campaign, a protein energy bar made from crickets is set for an August launch. Chapul claims its bar is the first in the world to use the ubiquitous summer chirpers as a source of protein. And they're not necessarily as gross as they sound.
The natural assumption when confronted with the idea of a snack bar made from crickets is something along the lines of a bunch of crunchy insects lodged between oats and nuts and drizzled in chocolate. The Chapul Bar isn't nearly as offensive (or awesome, if you dig eating straight insects). In a process that it says was inspired by the Aztecs, Chapul bakes the crickets before grinding them into a flour that's used in the preparation of the energy bars. You won't have to worry about stringy cricket legs stuck in your teeth, and you probably won't even detect much of a savory, crickety flavor.
So outside of making for some "what the...?!" head turns, why use crickets in an energy bar? Founder Pat Crowley is dialed in to the arid ecosystem of the American Southwest thanks to a graduate degree in hydrology and a lifetime of exploring the Colorado River. Disturbed by the inefficient use of the Colorado's waters, Crowley is fostering the idea of eating insects as an alternative to resource-intensive agriculture. According to numbers he cites on Chapul's website, insects convert grass and grain into protein as much as 10 times more efficiently than cattle. He believes that by converting some of our protein intake to insects, we can better manage valuable land and water resources.
Okay, saving the water and nature of the world may be a heavy task for something as insignificant as an energy bar, but Chapul Bars do have some more immediate benefits. The crickets provide protein, iron and calcium with very little fat or cholesterol. The company claims that the cricket flour packs about a third more protein per ounce than leading protein powders.
For what it's worth, a quick nutrition comparison with my personal favorite energy bar - a 3-oz ProBar cherry pretzel - shows that the 1.8-oz Chapul Chaco Bar has less protein (6 g to 10 g), fewer calories (220 to 370), less carbohydrate (29 g to 48 g), less fat (9 g to 17 g) and much less sodium (30 mg to 270 mg). I'm a little surprised at the protein number (isn't that why I'm eating crickets?), but what the ProBar lacks in cricket powder, it makes up for with a list of protein-rich ingredients like peanut butter, nuts and sunflower seeds.
In terms of taste, the Chapul Bars don't sound all that bad (though we are yet to sample one) - once you get past the idea of cricket powder. The Chaco Bar includes chocolate, dates, agave nectar and peanuts, and the Thai Bar includes ginger, coconut and lime. At the very least, those recipes sound like solid alternatives to some of the dry, chalky plywood-in-a-wrapper that other companies label "energy bars."
Chapul just wrapped up a successful Kickstarter campaign, in which it raised about 60 percent more than the $10,000 it was seeking to finance its first production run. Crowley told us that its first priority is to get its Kickstarter rewards out to supporters. From there, it plans to begin selling energy bars on its website by mid August. They'll retail for US$2.89 per bar or $30.99 for a dozen. It will donate 10 percent of its profits to water conservation projects in the Southwest.