Most protein bars have an image on their wrapper. Gatorade, PowerBar and Nature Valley show the food itself, often coated in chocolate. Clif Bar shows a rock climber. But Exo’s packaging is minimalist, with no image. That’s because its founders feared drawing too much attention to its special ingredient: crickets.
It’s not as if Exo hides anything -- “cricket powder” is on the package, though in a smaller font than “protein bar.” But when it launched last year as part of a boomlet of cricket-selling startups, nobody knew what Americans would swallow. So Exo was understated. Then paleo diet and CrossFit enthusiasts embraced crickets, Exo netted $4 million in Series A financing and Exo became a leader in this burgeoning industry.
Now Exo thinks it’s time for a new strategy: Flaunt those bugs. “It’s what makes us stand out,” says cofounder Greg Sewitz. “It’s what makes retailers knock on our door instead of the other way around.”
But how? That’s the intriguing branding question it now wrestles with. It’s considering putting a cricket image on its retail boxes, rethinking how it markets the benefits of cricket protein and may start experimenting with cricket flour in a variety of foods -- baked goods, shakes and even pizza dough. “We’ve proven it could be a huge market if done properly,” Sewitz says. “We’ve battled [naysayers] over whether this is a health food fad, but this goes a long way to solidifying our argument.”