Let Them Eat Crickets!
Advice from Greg Sewitz, Exo

Greg Sewitz on Food Startup Business

Greg Sewitz

Exo has been generating lots of buzz with their trendy cricket protein bars, helping to create and expand this new, edgy category that now has around 20 players! They raised $55K on Kickstarter while at Brown University, changed careers to stay focused on Exo, and have since raised $2.9 million.

Co-founder Greg Sewitz – who will be guest speaking in my upcoming Food Products Business Class: Strategic Planning with his partner – recently shared advice for food businesses on how to get consumer trial of new and unfamiliar products, as well as insights into the funding process for startups and selling online:

Biggest Challenge:
Getting people to taste the unfamiliar (like bugs!)

  • If you’re in an early adopter category, you need to educate consumers
  • Find people who are predisposed to your idea – work from lowest-hanging fruit to highest
  • Flavor / taste is key – people are willing to at least try something new – then they can see there’s no weird off-taste
  • Run an influencer campaign – know and target your core audience through people / organizations they respect, e.g.  athlete and celebrity spokespeople
Cricket Exo Getting Consumers to Try Something New

Coming soon to a dinner plate or protein bar near you…

Why Bugs?

  • Insects eaten in other countries for centuries
  • Nutritional + environmental benefits: crickets are 60% protein by weight, 20x more efficient than cattle, less land, water, feed

Funding for Startups

  • Top influencers are investors in the company – incentivize to keep talking about your company; align incentives
  • A Kickstarter campaign is time-consuming work!  Pitching press outlets, drafting email updates, compiling different lists, updating funders…
  • Could have raised $50K faster than on Kickstarter – but publicity, marketing and press worth it; 1200 people talking about Exo to friends before there was even a product

Accurately / Profitably Target Customers by Selling Online

  • Direct-to-consumer sales with higher margin and targetability vs. wholesale strategy – Exo is turning down physical stores – 90% of business is selling through online store
  • It’s easier to target customers online – know where they read, what they eat
  • Find a target audience for your food product – for Exo it’s paleo, Crossfit – then find influencers in the community
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