I’ll be honest with you, fellow consumers, this review happens to be one that I let peer pressure push me into. I first heard about this product via our producer Dan, who asked me to call him that because he doesn’t want his real name attached to this website. I said “absolutely not, Chris, I mean Dan.” My real choice of words was a little more colorful, but that’s another story for another time.
If you don’t know what an Exo Bar is, you’re probably not the kind of person who responds to someone’s disgust at the thought of eating bugs with “yea, but think about the protein.” An Exo Bar is a protein bar made with cricket powder, and I can psychically hear the sound of 80% of you closing this page in disgust while the other 19% are intrigued and the last 1% are preparing to take my presumably blubbery ass to task in the comment section for disrespecting your gains. I mean no disrespect, put down the protein shake and don’t smash your keyboard.
The benefit of these protein bars is that they are gluten free, soy free, grain free, and contain no dairy. Crickets are high in the same stuff we get out of meats, from omega 3 fatty acids to iron and calcium, with minimal impact on the planet. Unlike cows, and anecdotal evidence about human women, crickets don’t emit methane in their farts. The secretion is collected, boiled, and used to glaze supermarket hams, which is why they’re always so expensive around Thanksgiving when crickets usually hibernate.
Crickets also hold a special place in Chinese culture, where the Tang Dynasty back in AD755 popularized the blood sport of cricket fighting as a diversion while scientists perfected a powdered orange beverage that would one day be capable of going into space. In my research, I found that the consumption of crickets is actually quite popular in the country of not-America, where people are unable to keep animals alive, and this isn’t going toward a PETA joke.
I received three bars for this review, Cocoa Nut, Blueberry Vanilla, and Apple Cinnamon.
The first bar I tried is the cocoa nut bar, which solidified my presumption that this whole product line is a well coordinated prank. You see, these bars are made with cricket powder, not cricket chunks, so there aren’t any actual insect pieces to bite into. To make up for it, apparently, Exo adds in things that look and crunch like insect parts, like almonds, cocoa nibs, and flax seeds.
The Cocoa Nut bar is pretty tasty, it is a dark chocolate with a powerfully bitter taste, and mixes well with the almonds and sweet hint of honey. If you like dark chocolate, and I mean bitter dark chocolate, you’ll probably enjoy this.
The hardest part, as I said, is all mental. You’re eating something you know is cricket, and the cocoa nibs are bitter kinda like you’d expect a cricket to taste, and it crunches like an insect’s exoskeleton. In short: You’re not eating a full cricket, but it sure does feel like it.
The blueberry vanilla lives up to its name, in the sense that it doesn’t taste like blueberries or vanilla. This one has a heavy flavor of not-blueberry, which I found to be apricots by looking through the ingredient list. The blueberry concoction also comprises of blueberries in apple juice concentrate, and the product also contains strawberries, so make of that what you will. It’s rather common for fruit products to be cut with other fruits, but this is bizarre, and Exo would’ve been better off calling this an apricot bar.
The Apple Cinnamon bar is my favorite, but not because of its apple or cinnamon virtues of which it has neither. On the ingredient list, apple is superseded by plum paste and apricots, making this more of a plum apricot bar than an apple cinnamon. Great if you like plums, but the taste doesn’t match the description.
Furthermore, there apparently isn’t enough cinnamon to list as its own ingredient, falling under “spice.” Technically speaking I can’t prove that there even is cinnamon in this bar. I’d rate this one higher but I practically broke a tooth biting into what appeared to be a small piece of a pit. This is what happens when you cut your fruit bars with other fruits.
One thing to note is that people with crustacean shellfish allergies might be allergic to crickets, at least that’s what the packaging says. Further research shows that crickets and crustaceans share a lot of chemical properties in their exoskeletons, which makes the above statement a little more sensible.
Ultimately these bars are really for the hardcore exercisers, people who labor over their protein counts and have a stash of protein bars and powders as meal replacements. These really aren’t for snacking, or for people like you and me. At the same time, it probably tastes a lot better than many of the hardcore protein bars.
Verdict: 3/5 – I took off points because in two of the bars you couldn’t even taste the advertised flavors. The Exo website is stupidly difficult to navigate. The bars are also rather expensive, $3.50 apiece at normal price.
Nutritional Facts: (See website)