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The tagline on Gryllies’ website says the company makes “delicious, future-friendly protein alternatives. P.S. they’re made from crickets.” Gryllies—the result of a Queen’s University initiative designed to help students create a company—launched in Kingston, Ont., last summer with a very big agenda: “The inspiration came from wanting to solve the problem of food sustainability. Which is, of course, a huge issue,” says Esther Jiang, an environmental science grad who is now the company’s CEO.
The team (partner Natasha Baziuk has since moved on) settled on cricket-infused products when they discovered the bugs require far less water, feed and land than livestock to produce nutritious protein. Then they found a Peterborough-area supplier of cricket flour, which Jiang says has the look and feel of cocoa powder.
Fast-forward more than a year. With $15,000 in prize money earned in a Queen’s business pitch competition, Gryllies is now being incubated at Food Starter in Toronto, a food business accelerator that will help the company commercialize and sell its product.
While it is still in the taste-testing phase, about 50 jars of a prototype pasta sauce have been sold at farmers’ markets. Jiang hopes to launch, in early 2017, commercial sales of the “tomato-based pasta sauce enriched with protein, vitamin B12 and iron, from your favourite bug,” before offering a wider range of cricket-infused food.