The ingredients list for Coast Protein’s popular cranberry energy bar starts off innocently enough. Cranberries. Pumpkin seeds. Sunflower seeds. Tapioca. But it’s item number five on the label that’s turning the most heads: crickets.
And why not? asks Dylan Jones, CEO of the Vancouver-based company. Gram for gram, the protein-packed insects contain more iron than beef, more calcium than a glass of milk and as much B12 as salmon. What’s more, they generate 100 times less greenhouse gas emissions than beef and require a fraction of the amount of water and land to produce.
Still, many consumers in North America believe cricket consumption is best left for gross-out reality shows.
In 2015, Jones founded Coast Protein to change those attitudes. It took some trial and error to get their protein bars and powders to taste right — “the first year’s recipe didn’t really go so well,” he admits — but with help from Jones’ nutritionist/personal chef fiancée, they soon had a lineup of nutritious, sustainable and, yes, delicious products.
Their peanut butter bar was nominated for the BC Food Processors Association’s product of the year, while the company a top five finalist for Small Business BC’s 2018 Best Concept of the Year Award. And recently, Jones took home top prize at an investment pitch competition, winning a free, six-month contract with agri-tech business accelerator Bioenterprise.
Since then, Bioenterprise has conducted market research for Coast Protein, connected them with food product developers and worked with Jones to polish his investor pitch. They’ve also helped the company navigate the many regulations required to export into the U.S.
“Anyone who’s ever been in the agri-food world knows that you don’t need an expert in business, you need an expert in agri-food,” says Jones, citing the complex regulations, intense competition and razor-thin margins. “What Bioenterprise has been offering us and can offer us going forward is that deep level of knowledge and experience.”
Today, Coast Protein boasts seven employees and a new office, test kitchen and warehouse in New Westminster. You’ll find their expanding lineup online and in stores and gyms throughout B.C. Meanwhile, they’ve recently partnered with a national distributor, extending their reach as far as Halifax.
For most Canadians, the sound of crickets means summer. For Jones, it’s the call of opportunity. “I really truly believe that crickets and insects are going to be a very viable food source for us in the future,” he says.
Cricket smoothie, anyone?