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Quite a sizeable cottage industry has sprung up around insect protein bars. As of September 2021, we counted 26 manufacturers in 13 countries with a combined 75 varieties of insect bars. Germany leads the pack with 6 manufacturers, followed by the U.S. and Canada with 4 each. Not all of them are available, though. We found quite a few “sold out” signs in the manufacturers’ webshops.
The vast majority are cricket based protein bars. They are made exclusively with flour from the common house cricket (Acheta domesticus). This cricket has a milder taste compared to others. It is also the most-farmed cricket worldwide.
But you can also buy protein bars with protein flours from beetle larvae (Alphitobius Diaperinus) from Dineinsects, with buffalo beetle powder from Hey Planet, buffalo worms (Alphitobius diaperinus) from Isaac and Bug Break, and mealworm powder (Tenebrio molitor) from both Zirp and Portugal Bugs (see our table below for details).
Cricket flour has a texture that’s a little grainy like sand, yet still soft like other flours. It can be subtly mixed into recipes and makes for denser baked goods.
Depending on the cricket processing and milling equipment, it takes approximately 5 000 crickets to make one pound of cricket flour. This flour can then be mixed alongside a blend of other ingredients and even other protein powder sources (pea powder is a favorite) to create cricket bars.
Most companies use the cricket Acheta domesticus due to its high protein content and taste. Additionally, some breeders report that the taste of the crickets can be determined on the choice of food fed to the crickets such as apples, mint, etc.
The crickets are usually humanely killed by cold temperatures. Because they are coldblooded, crickets enter stasis when the temperature drops, and then they are quickly frozen while they are in this inactive state.
Whereas cricket flour producers each use their own proprietary processes ranging from the cricket feed, the freezing processes, drying processes, and final grinding procedures, in general, the cricket flour production process follows the same steps: the dried crickets are then ground using two different grinding or milling machines. The first machine is set to a coarse grind. Once the crickets have been placed in the first machine, the coarse cricket flour is then sifted to remove the lighter content which consists of legs, wings, etc. and is removed from the final cricket flour product. Next, the remaining coarse cricket flour is placed in the second milling machine which is set to a fine grain size to produce a smooth and fine cricket flour.
Like any other food, edible insects can also be associated with a number of food safety hazards if they are not properly handled or stored, or if they are contaminated.
One important consideration is if the producer makes their product under strict HACCP as laid out in the recommended hygiene practices of the International Platform of Insects for Food and Feed (IPIFF) for producers of insect as feed and food (you can download the entire 100-page PDF here)
As a matter of fact, many of the so-called cricket bars on the market actually contain a really small amount of cricket powder. The reason is still cost. Insect powder is more expensive than the other ingredients in the list.
So it’s not surprising that not all manufacturers – as a matter of fact only a minority –clearly state the amount of insect protein contained in their bars. For those who do, we found 5% at the lower end (Kriket) and 20% at the upper end (Serious Bars from SENS). Some manufacturers only specify the number of crickets that go into their bars as powder (Landish and Gym-N-Eat, each 40 crickets per bar and eat;em with 32).
The other ingredients are pretty much what you would expect from any other protein bar as well.
As far as the crickets and other insects are concerned, they definitely are healthy.
Insects in general, and crickets in particular, are healthy, nutritious alternatives to mainstream staples such as chicken, pork, beef and even fish. Many insects are rich in protein and good fats and high in calcium, iron and zinc. Insects already form a traditional part of many regional and national diets.
100 grams of cricket contains more calcium than the same amount of milk, more fiber than 100 grams of green beans, and more than three times the iron present in a comparable amount of spinach.
Crickets are more nutritious than any number of popular foods. Comparable serving sizes of crickets have fewer calories and less fat than all of those dishes. And while steak may best them when it comes to total grams of protein, crickets have the superior iron count, all while managing to top pizza and tacos when it comes to protein content.
However, if you consider that only about 5-20% of insect protein is contained in the protein bars, that leaves a lot of other ingredients that ultimately determine if the energy bar is healthy. You should look at the nutrition table: How much sugar does it contain? How much saturated fat?
Below we have compiled a list of protein bars made with insect flour that are currently on the market (please let us know if we missed one). The size of the bars varies widely between 20g and 85g. The vast majority of bars contains cricket powder but you’ll also see some with buffalo worms and mealworm protein. Please note that the nutrition values are per bar, not per 100 grams.
Pure cricket powder is still very expensive. Expect to pay between $13-$16 per 100 grams. In contrast, regular protein powders made from whey cost around $2-$3 per 100grams.
In the list below we compiled the prices for insect protein bars that are currently on the market. Prices are taken from the manufacturers’ webshops and you can order the bars there. Only a few are sold through Amazon and you can find them in our store area on cricket protein bars and other insect snacks. You will also notice that we standardized prices across all bug bars in US$ per 100 grams to make price comparisons easier. However, since ingredients vary a lot from bar to bar, purely comparing them on price alone could be misleading.
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