It appears that sharks like to eat crickets.
In 2014, ABC’s Shark Tank moguls — Mark Cuban, Daymond John, Kevin O’Leary, Barbara Corcoran, and Robert Herjavec — were approached by Salt Lake City entrepreneur Pat Crowley with a health food product unlike anything they’d seen before.
Crowley’s pitch? Energy bars made with sustainable, protein-rich cricket flour. Corcoran wasn’t sure she wanted to try the product, but Crowley swam into the Shark Tank hoping to score an investment of $50,000 in exchange for 5 percent equity in his insect-based startup. Ultimately, the Utah native couldn’t pass up a deal with billionaire Mark Cuban for $50,000 for 10 percent of his company. On a Season 5 episode of Shark Tank, Cuban immediately began coming up with ideas for his new investment, even suggesting adding raw cricket flour protein into the company’s lineup.
At the time that he appeared on Shark Tank, Pat Crowley was still hand-making — and hand labeling –every cricket bar with the help of friends and family. But what a difference a five-figure investment makes. On his blog on the Chapul.com website, Crowley revealed that less than two years later — his company began working with a major protein bar manufacturer in order to mass produce the popular product.
By 2017, Chapul had racked up sales close to $1.5 million, and had closed a major retail deal with the natural and organic grocery store Sprout — and its 200-plus locations. Chapul cricket bars later landed shelf space at over 500 other stores across the United States and Canada, according to CNBC.
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Today, Chapul bars come in a wide variety of flavors — such as dark chocolate coffee cayenne and coconut ginger lime — and there are new cricket flour products being added to the company’s line on a regular basis. Chapul now offers a gluten-free cricket baking flour, and Keto-friendly, chocolate flavored Chapul Protein Cricket Powder can be easily ordered online on Amazon.
As for the competition, Crowley feels there’s plenty of room for everyone in the cricket protein business. After competitor Chirps Chips presented their cricket flour chips to the Shark Tank Sharks in early 2017, Crowley wrote on his company’s blog that he was “thrilled.”
“When we started Chapul in 2012, we were the first company of its kind,” Crowley wrote. “Since then, we have tried to establish an environment of collaboration among newcomers to the market, who have a similar underlying mission that we do: improve the health and sustainability of our food supply. And after all, as they say, a rising tide raises all ships.”
You can check out Pat Crowley’s Chapul pitch on Shark Tank below.
Shark Tank airs at 7 p.m. on CNBC.