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.”
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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.”
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