Dried crickets are considered a superfood, packed with protein, iron and calcium. Getting people in the United States to eat them, however, requires getting over the ick factor.
Boise native Kate Stoddard, 32, thinks she’s found a way. It’s by using what she calls gateway bugs: spice blends incorporating crushed dry crickets.
Her company, Orchestra Provisions, produces eight mixtures, from curry powder to a Mexican-inspired mix to a chai spice and cricket-infused Szechuan peppercorns. They aren’t cheap: 1.5-ounce cans — about six tablespoons — sell for $11.99 apiece at the Boise Co-op.
Her Cajun Wings mixture combines crickets, cayenne, garlic, onion, lemon pepper, thyme and oregano.
“Some people, if they know it’s in there don’t want to try it at all,” Stoddard said in a phone interview. “But most people are like, OK, fine. If I don’t have to actually look at the eyeballs and the legs, that aversion kind of dissipates a bit.”
Wins Boise Startup Week food competition
On Wednesday, Orchestra Provisions — so named because a group of crickets is known as an orchestra — won the Trailmix competition at the fourth annual Boise Startup Week. It beat 49 other entrants to claim $20,000 and a spot on the shelf at Albertsons’ gourmet-oriented Broadway Avenue store.
“The competition was absolutely fierce,” Nick Crabbs, co-chairman of Boise Startup Week, said by phone. “These were some of the most innovative food companies in our area.”
The weeklong startup week provides young company executives mentorship opportunities, educational seminars and a place to look for talent.
Stoddard, who works out of her home and a commercial kitchen in the small hamlet of Carmen, outside Salmon, looked into iron deficiency anemia while studying for a master’s degree in nutrition at the National University of Natural Medicine in Portland. She learned that a tribe in Africa that does not eat meat has no history of anemia, a condition caused when a person lacks enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to body tissues.
“I found that they eat these caterpillars that are really, really rich in iron,” she said. “I just thought, ‘Wow, that is such a simple and cool solution.’”
Stoddard, the daughter of Russ Stoddard, who founded the Boise marketing firm Oliver Russell, is an outdoor enthusiast who has worked as a guide on the Middle Fork of the Salmon River and skis in the back country.
Bugs used as food in many cultures
She said she is concerned about man’s effect on the earth. She felt using dried crickets as a food source could confront a lot of food-security issues and global health problems.
“Most of the undeveloped countries in the world never stopped eating insects,” she said. “What we really need to do is get the leading economies and the Western world on board with it, because somewhere in our evolution, we developed this deeply rooted aversion.”
When she’s out offering samples of her spice mixtures, if she can get one person in a group to try them, others will follow. Sometimes, the challenge is to get that first person to bite.
“It’s very interesting, because when you get a group of people around my product, there’s just so much human psychology going on,” she said. “You can’t see or taste or smell the crickets in them.”
Orchestra Provisions has been operating since January, and its spices are available at 15 shops throughout Idaho. Locally, they are available locally at the Boise Co-op’s Boise store and at Roots Zero Waste Market in Garden City.
Stoddard hopes the exposure from winning the Trailmix compeition and having her spices available at the Broadway Albertsons will lead to new opportunities.
“The sky’s the limit,” she said. “You could make a tortilla that’s rich in cricket powder and give that to folks who can’t afford much of anything other than tortillas. I think kids would love it in their yogurt.”
Could spawn a line of insect additives
Stoddard has plans to add it to golden milk, a hot beverage made with either cow’s milk or a plant-based milk mixed with turmeric, ginger and black pepper. She’s also interested in creating a hamburger patty with ground-up crickets.
“When you grind that stuff up into a powder, it’s not an offensive flavor,” she said. “So it can be carried in a world of ingredients.”
She sees potential for a line of insect powders, each with their own nutritional profiles.
“It’s not just crickets, you know,” Stoddard said. “It’s mealworms and black soldier flies and ants. Beetles, for instance, have a lot of essntial fatty acids and more omega 3s than salmon.”