- Cricket One is a food technology startup that focuses on producing environmentally friendly, high protein food products using crickets
- Raised a seed round co-led by 500 Startups and Masik Enterprise for an undisclosed amount
- Leading research into ‘transforming’ crickets into ingredients for cosmetics & pharmaceuticals
- Their cricket powders are sold in 10 countries, including the US and around Europe.
- Cricket One is currently working with 12 farmers, helping them earn up to six times more income than before.
CricketOne seed round was co-led by global venture firm 500 Startups and Singapore-based Masik Enterprise. The Vietnam-based startup, which farms crickets as a high-protein food source, did not disclose the size of the deal. With the injection of funds, Cricket One will collaborate with research institutions as it branches out into ‘transforming’ the insects into ingredients for cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.
Comments by lead investor Masik Enterprises’ investment director hint at the cricket food technology company taking on the likes of Impossible Foods. Mikhail Zeldovich wrote in the press release “cultivating crickets is almost 50 times more productive than growing soybeans for the famous Impossible Burger. The tailwind for such a product is massive.” As global awareness of the meat industry’s environmental impact continues to grow, there is an urgent need to find and produce alternative protein sources. CricketOne is a Vietnam-based startup that seeks to feed the future with sustainable and affordable protein from crickets. They hope to accelerate the normalization of insect consumption by making the best and healthiest food, beverages, and cosmetics all from crickets. CricketOne co-founders Nam Dang and Bicky Nguyen established the company in 2017 to provide environmentally friendly food sources beyond Southeast Asian countries and further the livelihood of farmers.
For co-founder Bicky Nguyen, a career in sustainability wasn’t necessarily always on the cards. Having attained multiple degrees, none of which she felt particularly passionate about, her path to founding CricketOne was filled with twists and turns. “I’m not super proud of my education because I think I took a completely wrong path,” Bicky admits. “I got a degree in International Business Relations, then I went to the United Kingdom for another degree in Public Law, and then I finished another degree in Corporate Banking, but then I didn’t like any of them.” After working in quality control in the UK for a year, she returned to Vietnam to work for the Government of Israel under the Ministry of Trade. It was there that she first met her soon-to-be co-founder, Nam Dang. The duo’s first collaboration was a tech company called Mimosatek, which they co-founded together in 2014. The startup aimed to help farmers improve their farming practices by making use of Internet of Things (IoT) agricultural technology to maximize productivity.
The company claims it is currently managing over 25 million crickets monthly. Its flagship product, a cricket powder made of 60% to 70% protein and 7% fiber, is being sold to bakeries and chip makers in the US and Europe. It is also now testing new products – such as sausages and mayonnaise made with cricket protein and oil as well as protein beverages made out of soluble cricket powder – in Vietnam, Russia, and Korea. More than 2 billion people are consuming crickets. It’s not a new sector. Across the world, crickets are farmed in the US, Canada, Mexico, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Crickets have long been hailed as a ‘superfood’ due to their high nutritional nature; packed to the brim with protein, crickets are rich in non-dairy calcium, containing all the essential amino acids along with vitamin B12 and omega-3 and 6 fatty acids. Crickets also have a much smaller environmental impact, requiring 10 times less feed and 2000 times less water than if you were to produce the same amount of beef. Crickets are estimated to be 20 times more efficient as a source of protein than cattle, addressing both the issue of malnutrition and production efficiency all at once.
Cricket One also seeks to improve the livelihood of farmers – with an extensive network of 30 farmers, the firm is committed to not only sustainability but social impact. “We build an ecosystem with local farmers and help them earn extra income,” Bicky mentions. “We provide free training and provide them with the equipment to farm crickets first, and then we buy it by the kilo. They can earn four to six times their regular income, which can improve the lives of the whole family.”
Although a food staple in certain countries, the concept of consuming crickets is still unfamiliar territory to many in the West. To combat this issue, Cricket One is taking steps to ease consumers into this practice. “The first thing we do is we don’t try to sell the whole cricket,” Bicky laughs. “We make it into powder and you can really do anything with powder. We present something that won’t attack their vision or imagination. We also work very closely with brands and food producers to develop finished products from the powder itself. You won’t see anyone trying to put a whole cricket on your plate.” With the creation of specialty products like cricket protein shakes, cricket pizzas, and even crickets dipped in caramel or chocolate and sprinkled with gold flakes, Cricket One is clearly determined to override any prejudice or ingrained feelings of taboo you might have. Still, Bicky believes there is room for improvement: “At the end of the day, the market needs more daily staple foods rather than presenting something fancy. Things like bread, pasta, and meat products, that’s the future of the market.”
Will 2021 be the year that eating and breeding crickets go mainstream? CricketOne certainly hopes so.