By Kathy Mak
Before you say yuck to cricket protein, you may be surprised to learn that a large portion of the world and most cultures are consuming edible insects by choice, a practice known as entomophagy. For centuries, feasting on insects as a source of nutrition has been common in Asia, Africa and South America.
The concept of eating bugs as an alternative protein has more recently started to make sense in North America. And one of the companies banking on bugs is Coast Protein. This New Westminster start-up is on a mission to normalize eating crickets as a viable, sustainable and healthy food source in various types of cuisine. Currently, they make edible cricket-based protein bars and powders that are available in 225 stores in Canada, of which there are 175 locations in British Columbia and 120 in the Lower Mainland.
Crickets constitute the largest portion of the world’s edible insect market. “The combination of sustainability and nutrition makes a switch to using crickets as a natural protein source a great fit for people,” says Dylan Jones, entrepreneur and CEO of Coast Protein, “I wanted to create bars and powders because of the need for more all-natural products in the convenient protein/snack market. I think most people are looking for more real food that fits a fast-paced lifestyle. Our products fit that lifestyle.”
The case for farming and consuming crickets is rather compelling. Here’s the thing – crickets are not only one of the highest sources of protein and nutrients, they are more environmentally sustainable than conventional livestock. As an example, when comparing protein per pound with cattle, crickets have a much lower impact on the environment. They take up a much smaller footprint of land to breed, consume about 2000x less water, generates 100x less greenhouse emissions, and use 12x less feed. Interestingly, cricket farms produce almost no waste.
The benefits of consuming crickets are extensive. They are a whole food and a complete protein with 9 essential amino acids and chock full of iron (more than spinach), calcium (more than milk), vitamin B12 (more than beef), and Omegas. Crickets are low in calories and an excellent source of lean protein containing about 65% protein by volume; almost 3x more protein than beef.
Coast Protein uses Canadian human-grade crickets sourced from Entomo Farms in Norwood, Ontario, considered the largest edible insect farm in North America. The crickets – Achetus Grillis varietal – are raised humanely with a free-range approach and cricket condos. The critters hop from feed station to station, freely, then are harvested at the end of their natural life cycle – about 6 – 8 weeks.
Aside from being healthy for you and healthy for the planet, crickets taste good and makes for a flavourful base ingredient. According to Jones, some people describe the taste of milled crickets as nutty – like roasted almonds or fried mushrooms. Coast Protein adds milled crickets to 3 flavours of protein powder (vanilla, peanut butter,chocolate) and 3 flavours of energy bars (chocolate chip, cranberry and peanut butter).
The energy bars are ideal for anyone craving a high protein snack. Each bar contains about 30-40 crickets, approximately 12 grams of protein. The powders (20 g protein per serving) can be added to a variety of recipes, including smoothies, cookies, shakes, sauces and soups. Coast Protein products are gluten-free, dairy-free, non-GMO and contains no refined sugar or artificial preservatives.
Asked why the company is called “Coast Protein”, Jones explains, “the idea of building a values-based business was to characterize my beliefs about sustainability and the future of food. I am from Vancouver, and have grown up on the coast, the famous ‘west coast lifestyle’ has definitely shaped the way I think about business, food, and everything in between. By naming the business Coast Protein, we’ve made a stand on our values and what type of business we want to build. It is easy to make a protein/energy bar, it is very difficult to make products that follow strict values and rules, but if more companies took stands on their product offerings, we’d have better products and better food systems in the world.”
Coast Protein takes their commitment of making a positive impact on the environment one step further by being a member of 1% for the Planet. They have pledged 1% of their annual sales to support non-profit environmental organizations in the global network.
“We’re growing very fast, so keeping that growth sustainable is the number one goal,” says Jones about Coast Protein’s future, “we’re also opening up new retail markets in Ontario and LA which requires a lot of time and detail to ensure it goes well. As we grow the business, we want to ensure that we’re still developing new products that follow our values and provide quality food for our customers.”
While crickets may never be the new lobsters of the culinary world or solve all the food problems, the adoption of insects in more cuisine is growing in Canada. The nutritional and sustainability benefits of this non-conventional protein are too good to ignore. So, don’t be bugged by eating crickets as it is one of the healthiest foods on earth.
Coast Protein Inc.
All images are courtesy of Coast Protein, unless noted.