Laura D’Asaro and Rose Wang feed bugs to the Sharks while they pitch Chirps, their cricket chips, in episode 815 this Friday. This is the second time crickets are in the Shark Tank. The show first saw crickets as food when Chapul, a cricket flour maker, got a deal with Mark Cuban in season five. Mark saw the proprietary commodity as a potential money-maker, so he ponied up $50K for 15% of the company. D'Asaro and Wang hope for a similar fate.
Their cricket chips aren't the only product they plan to sell. Chirps‘ parent company, Six Foods, raised $70,559 on Kickstarter back in 2014 to sell both cookies and chips made with cricket flour. The company wants to market a variety of cricket based items as the business and the market matures.
For now, cricket chips are the main focus. They look like nacho chips and come in three flavors: BBQ, Cheddar and Sea Salt. At 14 bucks for three five ounce bags, they are a tad pricey, but not when compared to “gourmet” chips. The challenge for Six Foods, at least in the USA, is getting past the “ick factor.” Americans, unlike billions of others all over the globe, are not accustomed to eating bugs.
Wang actually got the idea for insect-based foods after eating a fried scorpion on a trip to China. While bug barbecue stands probably won't litter the American landscape anytime soon, Wang and D'Asaro hope the more innocuous nacho is the vessel to carry cricket protein to the masses. Crickets have more protein than red meat and use far fewer resources; they're billed as a “food of the future.”
My Take on Cricket Chips
Like most Americans, I like a good nacho – especially when dunked in salsa, guacamole, or cheese that isn't yours (nacho cheese). Most chips are salty, crisp vessels for the condiment of choice. The chip itself really isn't important. Cricket chips will take some getting used to, but if the salt and the crunch is there, it doesn't matter what they're made of.
I would try this product and, if it wasn't gross, would use it regularly. One serving has 20 grams of protein: ten times what is in ‘regular” nacho chips. Three servings of Chirps cricket chips have more protein than a rib eye, though I won't be eliminating steak from my diet until after the apocalypse! They true test is taste and I have to believe they taste good. For that reason, I'm IN.
Will Sharks bite on these chips?
Cricket protein isn't a new concept in the Tank as the aforementioned investment in Chapul demonstrates. The Sharks bit into Chapul's energy bars in that episode, but it was the cricket flour that closed the deal. Chirps cricket chips use cricket flour, but it isn't clear where they get it. When they first started, they processed their own crickets, but the flour source is unclear now.
Logically, Mark is a good target for Chirps. Chapul could provide the flour and the Six Foods/Chirps gals could provide the various end-use foods. If Mark sees some synergy, he might bid. Chris Sacca, the other billionaire on tonight's panel, might want to hop into the cricket business since he knows about Chapul's success.
Barbara and Mr. Wonderful expressed disdain for Chapul and couldn't bring themselves to eat bugs in that episode, so they are a tough sell. Lori wasn't on the Chapul episode, so she's a wild card, but my gut says she passes. That leaves Mark and Chris. I think one of them does a deal or they might even team up.