Written by: Lyndon Chiang, Co-Founder, Gryllies

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If you’re not familiar, Entomophagy is the haute term for eating insects, and it’s taking over Western culture like a storm. For the past two hundred years in North America and Europe, bugs have been perceived as pests. They’ve had a bad reputation for ruining crops, and spreading disease globally. So, why did we decide to build a start-up that serves crickets? Because they are the newest superfood, and are 100x better for the environment compared to traditional meat.

We turned our passion for food security into a business and this is how we convinced investors and customers to

In this blog post, we’ll go over how we turned our passion for food security into business, how we convinced investors and customers to try insects, and what we have planned next. If you’re not in the ento space, there are still lessons to be learned if you’re in a new, and developing market.

How we started

Gryllies was founded at Queen’s Innovation Connector Summer Initiative (QICSI) in the summer of 2015. Our advisors taught us to tackle problems rather than chase ideas. With that, our team had united to take on the impact our food system had on the environment. By 2050, the global population is projected to grow from six to nine-billion. Our current food system is largely inefficient, especially with our resource-intensive habits of eating meat. The facts are clear, the environment can not be able to support the growing food demands. We needed to rethink how and what we ate.

How do we convince skeptics to try your product?

Convincing others to try something new can be difficult for any start-up. For us, the biggest barrier to entry was the fear factor of eating insects. That was a challenge of taking this:

To this:

Overcoming this barrier lies entirely with a brand and product that are aligned with your values. Everything from your brand name to your colour palette is a form of communication with your customer. What have we learned from this unique branding challenge?

1) Stay true to you

We heard it all from: “crickets will only sell as a diet fad”, “you can’t tell people there’s crickets in there”. All the discouraging advice only spun us to question our positioning for months. Until we decided to stay true to why we started the company; rethink protein for a sustainable future. Gryllies is about integrating sustainable sources of protein into our diets and with that comes a lot of education and awareness. No small task for any small company.  But our interactions with people have allowed us to build a community who shares the same beliefs.

2) Make something complex, simple

Simplicity is the key to our approach. Make the product simple, then focus the bulk of our message to explain the benefits. We wanted to serve crickets in a fun and relatable dish, to overcome the barriers behind entomophagy. So, our core product is a tomato sauce enriched with cricket powder (ground and dehydrated crickets).

As a company we care a lot about what our customers eat, and what we do to help the environment. Nutritionally, crickets are an amazing source of protein, iron, and Vitamin B12. Environmentally, Gryllies Sauce packs just as much protein as your regular Bolognese sauce.

3) Put it into perspective

If you think back to the 1980’s, sushi had not even made a dent in the North American market. People saw it as raw fish and viewed it as disgusting. Until, one man decided to hide the raw fish in something more familiar… RICE. And a food craze was born. Secondly, crickets and eating insects is not a new phenomenon. It’s actually one of the oldest forms of food. Two billion people worldwide still consider them a staple part of their diet, spanning across many regions in Africa, Asia and South America.

4) Power of community

We have found the most likely way to get someone to try something new is if through the recommendation from friend. How do you get people to tell their friends about you? Find the small network of people that align with your cause and immerse yourself with them. These are the people who are going to lift you up. There is no replacement for building real connections with people face to face.

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