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Fueled by Crickets

“We’re the Baugh brothers, identical twins born and raised in Colorado with a passion for an active lifestyle and adventure. Our free time is spent skiing, rock climbing, mountain biking, powerlifting, auto racing, cycling, and backpacking.”

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Let’s be real, if you stopped reading there, you might think you were looking at the next big angle for ABC’s The Bachelor, twin edition. While they might not be giving out roses anytime soon, they’re spending there time on something just as passion-driven: revolutionizing the supplement industry with products that are wholly GOOD.

Lars and Dave Baugh are the founders of Lithic Nutrition, the company in the business of using crickets as a sustainable, healthy protein source.

Insects as Ingredients

Recently I spoke with Lars and Dave about their business to learn how they got into the business of eating bugs. I’m always curious about what inspires people to dive into the world of edible insects so I asked Lars. He explained:

“Long story short, I read about the concept of entomophagy and was curious about the nutritional benefits that paired with the advantage of sustainability. After some research on the subject, I pitched the business concept to Dave, who was gung-ho about it. At the time, in early 2012, Dave was already eating insects during his time spent with the Marine Corps overseas. With some enthusiasm and dedication, the business concept gained momentum and commanded our curiosity and interest. In August of 2015, Lithic Nutrition was born [and we] left our careers to pursue this adventure!”

Hearing stories like this make me overjoyed – people are reading about edible insects and are inspired enough to build companies!  Since, Lars and Dave have handmade all of their products. They love being a part of the process from start to finish and cut no corners. They follow Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs), follow Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) planning, and operate their own FDA registered clean room.

“We feel that it is in our interest to know our products, our process, and have our arms around it for sake of control and consistency. This also allows us to be a part of innovating new products, flavors, and potentially change things based on incoming feedback, as well,” said Dave. It’s critical that companies in the business of selling bugs hold to such standards. There’s enough of a challenge getting consumers to try bugs – we don’t need health concerns.

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Starting A Bug Business

Even though they’re newer to the scene, the brothers seem to have an incredibly smooth operation. I asked them about the challenges they’ve faced when starting their company. They explained, “Developing our products, packaging, and formulas was daunting. We wanted to make sure our products were clean, simple, nutritious, and sustainable. With no culinary background, we were glad to have the help of our acclaimed food scientist, Erin Price. Aside from that, designing our brand, website, and custom packaging were all lengthy, detailed projects to take on alone. Another challenge has been getting our products into the world, as we are a small, self financed company with unique products. We hope that in time, our efforts will allow us to educate and convince Americans that crickets can provide a wonderful alternative to other proteins, all while saving the planet!”

They chose the name Lithic Nutrition as a reference to the “Lithic Ages” (Paleo, Meso, Neo) during which our ancestors were regularly consuming insects as a primary dietary staple. Insects were super nutritious and easy to gather. Now Lithic Nutrition is trying to resurrect the topic of entomophagy in the American diet and make it a primary protein once more.

In their mission to convince the public of the value of eating insects, I wanted to know how the twin’s own family reacted. They told me:

“Fortunately, I had talked about the idea of an entomophagy based business around my parents for some time before we jumped 100% in to Lithic. I think it lessened the shock factor, but in reality, they seemed anxious. Here were there two sons, both with growing careers; Dave as a Marine Corps Officer and Lars in a growing leadership role within his former corporation, leaving that all behind to grind up some crickets and sell them to people!

So it definitely came with some raised eyebrows, but we knew in our hearts that this was it. Lithic became a dream and a reality that pulled on our heartstrings harder than our former careers. This was our adventure, our chance to make a revolutionary impact on the environment and American diet.”

When asked what they would be doing if they had not chosen to build Lithic Nutrition they answered:

Lars: “I’d probably have my nose down, working with my team of sales professionals to drive for results. I am passionate about sales, and love sales leadership. It was such a pleasure to be a part of someone’s professional development. You could see a remarkable change in confidence, improvement of life, performance, income, and personal momentum. It would be difficult to transition out of Lithic now, though, as I’m having more fun and am being challenged more than ever in my career.”

Dave: “I’d probably still be in the Marines, which don’t get me wrong, isn’t a bad thing.  There are many aspects I miss about the military, but it was the right time to transition to the next adventure.  I’d probably be pursuing a full-time MBA using the GI-Bill, which is something I definitely plan to implement in the near future.  But see the thing is, that alternate future seems too cookie-cutter and comfortable.  My challenges, excitement, and purpose has never been more rooted as we grow Lithic.”

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The Road Ahead

It takes a lot of guts to start a business, especially one in such a nascent industry. That’s why it’s so important that Lars, Dave, and other founders have the passion they do! The brothers told me they’d love for more nutritional testing to be done to determine which insects bring diversified levels of macro and micronutrients to the table. They imagine a time when people can select insects that satisfy their palate and nutritional goals in a more custom manner, driving further innovation in this food space. And, like most in the field, they’re excited for the growing regulatory acceptance of more species as an acceptable food source. It’s important the public accepts insects as a food source safe to eat.

Speaking of eating, what are the Lithic brothers’ favorite recipes cook? “We love our cricket pancakes,” they said. “Nothing like a protein boost to start the day, paired with some cricket over yogurt and fruit. We try a lot of different recipes with crickets, many of which come from Gastrobug.com, who posts a lot of great insect-based recipes.”

What’s next for Lithic?

Lars and Dave ‘soft launched’ their bars and Cricket Complex protein powder online at lithicnutrition.com. They have received positive responses so far from customers interested in their all-natural, non-gmo, paelo friendly, gluten free, lactose free, soy free, and domestic products. I’ve tried their bars, and the flavor is actually quite incredible.

They have a few new products in the pipeline, including Paleo Plex protein powder, a supplement with no-milk based proteins.  They remain passionate about advocating crickets as a wholesome protein alternative for athletes who demand high-protein foods and supplements. They are the most excited about Cricket Complex. Lars told me, “It is America’s first multi-source protein complex, designed as a post-workout recovery drink. We will be introducing more products as time goes on, and are looking forward to continued innovation with insect based foods and supplements!”

But wait, there’s more! The brothers are also supplying wholesale cricket powder. They’ll be wholesaling (5kg-500kg) cricket powder in both standard and superfine blends for those with a more ravenous appetite for our protein-packed cricket friends (You can check that out here).

Lithic Nutrition will launch the initial entire product line in tandem with a Kickstarter campaign live 9/27 (That’s today for some of you readers!). Support them by checking out their website here: https://lithicnutrition.com/

 

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