Pat Crowley wants to introduce the world to Chapul, his Cricket Energy Bars, in Shark Tank episode 523 on March 21. Made from “cricket flour,” the cricket energy bars are a protein bar powered by crickets.
Crowley, an avid water conservationist, thinks traditional sources of protein energy like pigs and cows are unsustainable. Traditional farming uses too much water (over 90% of our water consumption feeds the creatures we eat) and the protein energy derived from pigs and cows is only about 10% of what they actually consume. Bugs, like crickets, have over 85% of what they take in converted to protein, making them a more sustainable source of protein energy for all.
Eating insects is common in many parts of the world; some cultures consider them a delicacy. One of Crowley's employees refers to crickets as “land shrimp;” when you put it that way, it doesn't sound so disgusting! Crowley's challenge is to get people to buy into the idea of cricket energy bars on a mass scale. To do so, he needs to overcome common misperceptions Americans have about eating insects.
He refers to sushi and how it became popular in the USA. In the 1970's, many Americans thought sushi was revolting. With lots of education and by getting people to try it, you can't go into any city and NOT find a sushi restaurant. A sushi restaurant even got funded on Shark Tank. He hopes by introducing Americans to eating insects through his tasty cricket energy bars, Chapul can be the company that helps break down the barriers people have about it.
My Take on Cricket Energy Bars
My first reaction was; “YUCK!” Eating insects is something reserved for cartoon characters and people on Reality TV in “bad food challenges.” I know other cultures eat insects and I know they can be a good source of protein, but I am a meat and potatoes guy at heart.
That said, I am willing to try anything once. If the Chapul cricket energy bars tasted good, I might even re-buy. I like Crowley's views on sustainability and I believe insect protein may be a big part of everyone's diet someday. I just don't know if I'm ready to “throw some crickets on the barbee” just yet. I, like many others, need to get over the “yuck factor.”
As a guy who likes his lobster, I can get around the imagry of eating bugs – lobsters look like big bugs and they're DELICIOUS. I also eat what some would consider pretty disgusting stuff, like raw oysters and clams. The bottom line is, if a cricket tastes good, I'll eat it. Trying a peanut butter and chocolate flavored cricket energy bar might get me to make that leap, and that's a big part of Crowley's mission.
Do Sharks Eat Bugs?
This pitch has all the elements of being either extremely comical or a tragic train wreck. I don't think the Sharks are going to delve into the sustainability discussion with Crowley, they'll focus on people eating crickets, and that won't bode well for Chapul. Even though Chapul has a growing tribe of cricket energy bar eating supporters, the Shark Tank is mainstream and they just won't bite.
The only hope is if Daymond likes them. He's famous for chowing down everything put in front of him (and the other Sharks). If Daymond chows down, there may be hope. I believe the best Chapul can count on is educating the public and gaining some new customers. When it comes to eating insects in the Shark Tank, that might not be a bad thing.