One cold January day in 2013, two shoe-box sized containers arrived on the doorstep of a Brown University campus house. Sounding like a midsummer night, the containers quivered with energy.
Gabi Lewis and Greg Sewitz were in the midst of their final semester at Brown. They had an idea for a protein bar like no other. With a basic recipe in mind, hours of research under their belts, a Vitamix, and the arrival of cricket-packed containers, they had everything they needed to begin developing their protein-packed bars.
Yep. Crickets. Hold on. Before you skitter away in disgust, consider this:
Crickets are actually one of the most sustainable sources of protein on the planet. They, along with other insects, have exponentially higher protein content per gram than other protein sources. High in iron, low in saturated fat and sugar content, crickets provide complete protein as well as calcium and B-vitamins.
Believe us, we get it. When the first eXo cricket bars arrived at the Relay Foods headquarters, we accepted our samples with visible skepticism. We knew the story of eXo, had heard of the amazing health benefits and sustainability of cricket flour, and believed in Gabi and Greg’s mission. Still, we had to fight flip-flopping stomachs as we prepared to take our first bite.
One bite, and we were sold. Even the resident vegetarian caved and nibbled on a Cacao Nut bar. Despite our best attempts, none of us could honestly pick out a strange flavor. If we hadn’t seen the label, we would have been completely unaware of the bars’ main ingredient — cricket flour.
An astounding 80% of the world’s population consumes insects of various kinds on a regular basis. Many people rely on insects as a primary source of protein. For a myriad of reasons of which anthropologists and psychologists could probably provide explanation, Westerners have developed a serious aversion to the thought of consuming insects. As more information on the sustainability and health benefits of insects is disseminated, though, more and more Americans and Europeans are pushing past their gut reaction and giving insects a try. We’re realizing that the other 80% of the world just might be onto something, a game-changing, protein-loaded, earth-saving something.
After Gabi and Greg made their first batch of bars, they took samples to a local CrossFit gym for feedback. Given thumbs-ups all around, the friends-turned-co-CEOs set out to create a business plan. In May 2013, Gabi and Greg graduated from Brown and moved to New York City. In a brilliant move, they teamed up with Chef Kyle Connaughton, former head chef of The Fat Duck in England. Kyle took the basic protein bar recipe eXo began with and developed it into three distinct and delicious recipes: Cacao Nut, Cashew Ginger, and PB&J.
In July 2013, Gabi and Greg launched a Kickstarter campaign. Within 72 hours, they met their goal of $20,000 and raised $55,000 by the end of the month. Thus, eXo was born. Since then, the company has received attention from the New York Times, TechCrunch, Forbes, and National Geographic. All laud eXo for its ingenuity and beneficial environmental impact.
So who are these two young entrepreneurs? Greg Sewitz is a Los Angeles native with degrees in Neuroscience and English. Gabi Lewis was born in Israel and raised in Scotland. He graduated from Brown with a duel degree in Philosophy and Economics. Adventurers at heart, both have traveled the world. Greg has spent time hiking in the mountains of Sweden and Gabi has cycled down the world’s most dangerous road in Bolivia. Both took a huge risk when they began eXo; Gabi turned down a job with a hedge fund and Greg deferred graduate school.
While cricket consumption may seem like a stretch for some of us, it is perfectly natural for two guys who have eaten things like exploded shrimp brains and “Jungle Bacon.” They firmly believe that insect protein is the way of the future. As more of us consume protein in the form of insects, we will have a smaller footprint on our world and may even find that our bodies are healthier. Gabi and Greg are paving the way for a revolution in Western food.
Feeling adventurous? What are you waiting for? Try eXo bars, made with cricket flour! We dare you.