Around 40 years ago the U.S. did not relish the idea of consuming raw fish. Many, in fact, even considered eating raw fish barbaric… something for the uncultured or poor. Now sushi is a thriving industry. All it took was some clever branding, the California Roll, and time.
I refer to this method as “Trojan-horsing” – cleverly disguising an ingredient (in this case) to get past some walls. With sushi, a chef created the California roll to hide the raw fish by putting rice on the outside of a tasty mix of avocado and raw tuna. People were more willing to try California rolls and discover that they were pretty delicious. The public spotted celebrities eating sushi in Hollywood and soon sushi became SEXY.
Could insects enjoy a similar fate? Chris Baird thinks so. I had the chance to speak with Baird, the co-founder and director of marketing for Coast Protein, about his visions for the future of edible insects. “It’s my dream to see western society adopt edible insects in the same way they have sushi,” Baird shared. Companies like Coast Protein are bringing us a step closer to making this a reality.
The Canadian-based Coast Protein team is dedicated to sustainability, healthy living, and a sense of adventure. They’re working hard to create delicious protein bars from – you guessed it – crickets. Baird took the time to answer a few questions I had a bout Coast Protein – read on to learn more:
What’s your origin story? How did you first get interested in the world of edible insects?
Baird: “I’ve started becoming increasingly aware of the impact that the food we eat can have on the environment and its resources. When Dylan [co-founder of Coast Protein] told me about his idea, it just made sense and I pretty much agreed to help on the spot. We brought our idea to a startup accelerator and emerged with a business plan and a solid product. It’s been growing quickly since then.”
I did a little more digging and found the origin story of Coast Protein to be beautifully similar to many others in the “bug community.” According to their site, the founders of Coast Protein asked themselves the question: “Why are people happy to eat processed meat pumped full of hormones but are grossed out by real food?” Coast Protein’s co-founder Dylan Jones spent his teenage summers on organic cattle ranches and exploring the backcountry of British Columbia and the Yukon. In his early 20s he had his first taste of insects in Cambodia. Pretty soon he was choosing the crickets over chips and encouraging friends to try the insects.
Back in his hometown of Vancouver, Dylan continued to think about the lack of connection to food that was prevalent in North America and eventually came across the 2013 UN Food and Agriculture report. It gave a bleak outlook for global food security but contained a ray of sunshine in the form of a focus on insect consumption as a solution to a booming population, damaging agricultural methods and limited resources.
The narrative continues, “Dylan read that 80% of countries already eat insects and he felt that it was time to introduce his fellow Canadians to it – knowing that many might not be quite ready for whole crickets, Dylan looked into cricket protein flour and discovered Entomo Farms, an Ontario based organic cricket farm.” (source: Coast Protein)
Tell me a little more about your company – why did you decide to start it?
Baird: “We saw an opportunity to build a company that would have a beneficial impact on the planet and provide us with a great learning experience.”
- On sustainability: “We are committed to leaving the world a better place than when we found it. By getting people to lower their dependence on soy, whey and other animal proteins, we’re lowering the global impact on the environment. But for us, that’s not enough. We also chose our ingredients carefully and avoid exotic nuts such as almonds, cashews, and anything that comes from too far from home.”
- On healthy living: “We don’t only believe in protecting nature, we believe in getting out into it. We believe the best life is an active healthy one so we encourage outdoor sports and fitness as a way of life and encourage getting outside as much as possible. Our products use real food, not food-like ingredients so our customers not only get a boost in energy, but also a boost in nutrition.”
- On being adventurous: “We believe in breaking conventions, being adventurous, and doing things differently. We’re innovative and always curious. We question everything from food and nutrition to design and packaging. If there’s a better solution out there, we’ll find it.”
- On happiness: “We didn’t get into this business just to crunch numbers and give presentations; we’re also in it to have fun. We love what we do and in our company and the way we position our brand, we never want to take ourselves too seriously. Life is short so we believe it’s important to have fun and enjoy it as much as possible.”
Who’s on the team?
Baird: “Dylan Jones is our CEO, John Larigakis handles all creative and design, Stefanie Di Giovanni is in charge of all product and I manage marketing. However like any startup, we all wear several hats when called upon.”
More on the team can be read here.
What has been your biggest challenge in starting this company?
Baird: “I think our biggest challenge has been trying to find the right partner to scale our manufacturing to the next level. Many of the candidate companies we spoke with had minimum order quantities that weren’t feasible to a small company starting out. Now we have found the right partner who is willing to start small and are using the Kickstarter to finance production of our first large order!”
Protein bars seem to be a great way to introduce people to a new food source. How do you convince people who are uncomfortable with the idea of edible insects to try your product?
Baird: “A lot of people do have a real psychological aversion to insects and it’s important to acknowledge that when trying to convince somebody to eat one. However we find when somebody jumps the hurdle of trying their first bite, they realize that insects can taste good and they’re not as big of a deal as they may have initially thought. So our goal is about making the hurdle of them trying that first bite as low as possible by hiding the wings and antennae in a powder and mixing that powder with delicious, whole ingredients before moving them on to more diverse insects. “
What’s your view on edible insects for vegans?
Baird: “We have a few customers who have chosen a vegan diet for sustainable purposes and they love our product as a complete protein. However crickets are an animal protein so the majority of vegans respectfully decline.”
What is your favorite insect recipe?
Baird: “I have one of our Peanut Butter Cricket Protein Bar and a black coffee almost every morning Monday to Friday. It’s hard to beat for a quick and nutritious breakfast.”
What’s next for Coast Protein? What are you most looking forward to?
Baird: “We have been developing our Cricket Protein Powders for a very long time and I’m extremely pleased with where our recipes are at from a taste and nutritional point of view. We will be launching them to all of our Kickstarter backers as well as the general public, and I’m very excited to see what our customers think. “
Can you share one of your favorite quotes about life or business with me?
Baird: “A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business – Henry Ford”