EXO — An Energy Bar With A Little Something Different
Unwrap an EXO protein bar and you’ll find something unusual lurking inside.
Yes, these bars have an unlikely ingredient — flour made from ground crickets.
Gabi Lewis and Greg Sewitz got the idea for these unusual bars when they were in their final year at Brown University after discovering the health and environmental benefits insects have. Indeed, according to them, insects are a source of protein in 80 percent of the world. Moreover, crickets are low in saturated fat and contain more iron than beef.
They figured the easiest way to entice people to eat insects would be to put them in a form they readily understood — a bar. So, they enlisted the help of Chef Kyle Connaughton, former head chef of R&D at The Fat Duck in England and former culinary director of Chipotle, to develop the bars.
They come in four flavors, which have changed over the months since the company began in 2013. The current flavors are: Cacao Nut, Peanut Butter & Jelly, Apple Cinnamon, and Blueberry Vanilla. They are gluten-free, dairy-free, and soy-free.
I had a chance to try samples of two of those flavors.
The bars have a soft texture, sort of a cross between cakey and fudgy.There’s no insect taste or evidence per se of the tiny creatures. So, if you’re squeamish about bugs, there’s nothing that’s necessarily going to alarm you by sight or smell.
The Peanut Butter & Jelly is nutty tasting with a slight crunch from the peanuts. It’s not very sweet, allowing the nutty flavor to come through more, along with a fruitiness from strawberries, apple juice and apricots. As I like my energy bars with a good amount of crunch, my favorite of the two bars was the Cacao Nut because the cacao nibs give it a nice chew. Also, the cocoa flavor can almost make you think you’re eating a more virtuous brownie, albeit one sweetened with dates and honey.
The 2.1-ounce bars are about $3 each or $36 for a box of 12 on the EXO web site. The bars are 270 to 300 calories, depending upon the variety. They have 10g of protein, 14-20g of fat, 13-18g sugar, and 5-7g of fiber.
There are about 40 crickets in each bar. If you thought you’d never eat an insect, these bars just might change your mind.