Chirps Chips Is Bringing a Surprisingly Sustainable Protein to the Masses

We recently caught up with the founding team of Chirps Chips who are the creators of the cricket chip, which is made from insects. The team is currently trying to spread the word on how healthy (and tasty!) these snacks can be.

Essentials

Company Name

Chirps Chips

Founding team

Laura D’Asaro, Rose Wang, Meryl Natow

Location

San Francisco

Employee count

3 full-time and 2 part-time

Investors and total raised

Mark Cuban, 100K

The Exception Interview

How would you describe your company and its product to someone who has never heard of it?

Chirps are the first ever cricket chip. Insects are one of the most sustainable protein sources out there, so we are on a mission to show people how delicious they can be and get America eating bugs! We do this by adding a protein powder from crickets to tortilla chips. They look and taste like a normal chip, but they have as much protein as an egg per serving. They are also non-GMO, gluten free, and all natural. Chirps also have 1 cricket per chip so that you can count your crickets as you go!

How did you come up with the idea for your company? How did you validate the concept early on?

In college, I was studying abroad in Tanzania and met a street vendor selling fried caterpillars. I hesitated because I have been off and on vegetarian my whole life. I kept asking myself, “How do insects fit into this idea of vegetarianism?” But I was curious (when in Tanzania, right?). So I bought one and put it in my mouth before I could think too much about how it looked. My first thought was “Wow! This tastes like lobster!” (which actually makes sense because insects and crustaceans are closely related). So I started researching insects, and I found out that insects are one of the most sustainable protein sources available. They also have more protein, less fat than beef and are more sustainable than soy protein! So I set off to get Americans excited about bugs with my college roommates, and a few escaped crickets in our dorm room later, Chirps was born! Kickstarter was our way of testing our idea of whether people would actually eat insects. Until this point, it was a fun idea, but we needed proof that people would actually bite, so in April 2014, we launched a Kickstarter campaign. We ended up raising over $70K in funding, making us one of the most funded food Kickstarters ever. The Kickstarter provided money to start Chirps, and it showed us that people were interested in the idea. We further validated it through winning nearly $250K in business plan competitions and later through our Shark Tank deal.

What does your ideal customer look like?

We work a lot with kids. People aren’t born with a fear or disgust for insects. In fact, more people eat insects than speak English. This is something we learn from our communities. This is why you will see Chirps in a lot of places like summer camps, schools, zoos and aquariums.

Where would you like to see your company in 5 years?

We see crickets and cricket flour as what we call our “gateway bug.” because ultimately we think of insects as a whole new food group. We see insect protein as an ingredient, and similar to dairy or soy. There is this feeling of real change, that if we can get people to eat bugs, anything is possible.

Do you believe your city/state supports its food tech startups?

Yes, San Francisco has commercial kitchens, meet-ups etc. for good entrepreneurs. We are actually in an incubator called Plug And Play specifically for food.

 

What words of wisdom would you like to share with the next generation of food tech CEOs?

Ask your networks! I know in our generation, we tend to try and Google everything, but we have realized that even now, so many amazing manufacturers, suppliers, etc barely have a website and still use fax, so find a group of companies that are a bit bigger and further ahead than you and make friends with them. Their advice and connections will be invaluable in finding resources and people you would never otherwise have found!

 

Photo courtesy of Chirps Chips

Email editor [at] exceptionmag.com if you operate a food tech startup and would like to be profiled.