Here's What Happened When We Fed Our Coworkers Crickets Without Telling Them

Mar 10 2016 - 8:30am

As the newest addition to the POPSUGAR Fitness team, I've been seeing a lot of surprising new products for the first time, from foods to supplements to fitness gear, but the single most jarring thing I've encountered so far has been — wait for it — a protein bar.

A package showed up on my desk with tape reading, "Crickets are delicious," and inside, to my horror, I found five flavors of protein bars, each of them with CRICKETS as the core ingredient.

I'm by no means a picky eater, but the concept of consuming an insect absolutely disgusted me. To be honest, it still might. But when your senior editing team forces strongly encourages you to try something, you try it. Or . . . you host a blind taste test in your office and invite all of your colleagues to try "special new protein bars" (colleagues, now you know the truth, and I understand if you never forgive me).

The result? They really just taste like protein bars. Some people liked them, and some people didn't. Read on to see what the deal is with these bug-fueled bars.

What Is Cricket Flour?

I know, you might be thinking, "But why bugs?" Crickets have been claimed as one of our planet's most sustainable sources of protein [1]. They require less water (one gallon to beef's 2,000) and produce 100 times less greenhouse gasses than cows.

According to our source, Exo Protein [2], crickets are a complete protein source, made of 65 percent protein (compare that to an egg's 12 percent). They also note that crickets also contain 2.2 times more iron than spinach — which is already a lot to begin with. These little chirping insects are packed with nutrients.

Cricket flour is exactly what you're thinking: baked, blended bugs made into a grainy powder, similar to a traditional flour. It can be used in numerous foods for consumption, but a popular choice has been protein bars.

What Does It Taste Like?

Exo [3] sent us each flavor of their protein bars for sampling: Apple Cinnamon, Banana Bread, Cacao Nut, Blueberry Vanilla, and PB&J. As mentioned, we hosted a version of a blind taste test in our office — as in, we didn't disclose that there were crickets in the ingredient list. We figured that'd be a surefire way to make sure we got the most honest, candid response to the flavors (sorry again, co-workers).

The results were mixed, just as they would be for any taste test, for any type protein bar. The biggest takeaway was that no one guessed the "secret ingredient," or remarked on any discernible weird taste. Those who liked the bars said they loved the flavors, while some complained about the bars tasting "too healthy," which is another issue for another day.

As for the flavor breakdown, PB&J was the big winner, and Apple Cinnamon had some really positive reviews ("kind of like a Fig Newton"). Reactions to Banana Bread ranged from “tastes like a nice gluten-free banana bread” to “honestly, the most revolting thing I’ve ever tasted,” so as mentioned, it totally just depends on your taste preferences.

And yes, if you were wondering, I did try it myself (I took a tiny nibble of a few bars) and I didn't spit it out.

Cricket Protein Is on the Rise

This protein source is gaining momentum, and for good reason. Not only is cricket flour loaded with nutrients, but it doesn't seem to have a discernible taste. I can totally see this becoming a smoothie ingredient, especially since it has a higher iron content than spinach, which has been a go-to "tasteless" smoothie addition for years. Because crickets are so sustainable, it's an inexpensive, ecologically sound, and efficient way to add protein to your diet.

Although I was initially incredibly averse to consuming anything that had to do with bugs, I can totally see why it makes sense. Insects are on the menu, so to speak, in so many cultures around the world — 80 percent of the world, Exo reported. So now the question is, will you try it?

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