Review: Exo, A Cricket-Based Protein Bar That Won’t Destroy Your Productivity

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My sweet tooth is the enemy of productivity: sugary snacks are a one way ticket to midday brain fog and squishy love handles. As TechCrunch’s resident healthnut, I regularly get pitched by food startups claiming to solve the workplace snacking problem, but their “healthy” alternatives invariably raise my blood sugar like a Snickers bar fried in Pepsi.

Last night, I’m happy to say, I tried a new protein bar that was sufficiently tasty, didn’t raise my blood sugar, and was packed with raw healthy ingredients. There’s just one catch: it’s made from pulverized crickets (video below).

The admirably bold Exo team wants to bring crickets to the American diet, and has successfully raised $20,000 on Kickstarter in just 3 days to build a factory that churns out bug-based snacks. “Exo will introduce to the West one of the most nutritious and sustainable protein sources in the world: insects,” declares their Kickstarter page.

According to Exo, their cricket flour has more protein than beef, and perhaps more importantly, doesn’t contribute to a food system that destroys the environment. Livestock produce as much carbon as a car, eat food that could otherwise go to starving children, and are pumped full of drugs that threaten humans with deadly antibiotic-resistant bacteria. So–just putting this out there–we probably want to find an alternative and bugs could be it.

protein-graph

The bar itself is a mix of cricket protein, dates, cocoa, coconut and almond butter. The Exo has the taste and texture of a mildly sweet protein bar. No, you can’t taste the crickets. The early version the team sent me was very crumbly and a bit crunchy (coconut chips).

Not going to lie, I’ve had better tasting snacks, but they all raised my blood sugar. Many popular energy/protein bars have the food profile of a Twix, and the high-fructose corn syrup makes them about as healthy as Halloween leftovers.

The truth is, the only way to get nutrition in a way that doesn’t destroy your body is minimally processed all-natural ingredients that resemble the original food as closely as possible.

This is why the market has seen a rise in so-called “raw” foods: no grains, dairy, sugars, or heated ingredients My go-to energy bar, the date-based LaraBar, was acquired by General Mills in 2009. Exo uses one of the few acceptable sweeteners: raw honey (the other trendy honey-like sweetener, Agave, is probably killing you slowly).

And, unlike LaraBar, it’s got 10g of protein, which will satisfy the fitness folks in your life.

I don’t know if Exo will satisfy the sweet tooth of a mass market addicted to super-sugary snacks, but I do love the idea that they could have found a sustainable protein. At the very least, it is tasty enough for a workplace looking to be healthier.

My recommendation: buy a bunch for the office and see what your co-workers think (and then let us know!)