Last week, Aspire Food Group announced that it had acquired Exo, a company that makes protein bars from crickets.

Exo will, under the terms of the acquisition, become Aspire’s consumer-facing brand. Aspire’s Aketta line, which launched in 2016, will be rebranded as Exo products. Exo, meanwhile, will exclusively use cricket protein from Aspire. “Aspire is the Procter & Gamble and Exo is the Gillette — on a much more humble scale right now,” Aspire cofounder and CEO Mohammed Ashour said last week.

Ashour, along with cofounder Shobhita Soor, actually met Exo cofounders Greg Sewitz and Gabi Lewis in December 2016, when the four of them were in the Forbes 30 Under 30 list and attending the corresponding summit. 

Exo’s an experienced player, relatively speaking, in the fairly new market for edible insects in Western countries. The company has, since its founding in 2014, worked with Michelin-star chefs to create and perfect its protein bars.

But Aspire’s acquisition of the company should make its brand, not to mention the concept of eating bugs, a lot more accessible to the average consumer.

We’ve seen insects, including crickets from Aketta, land on the menus of various upscale restaurants in the U.S., and there’s a growing e-commerce market for the critters as well. And while the market for edible insects is predicted to grow to $520 million over the next five years according to Global Market Insights, eating bugs remains rather taboo in the West. About a quarter of the world’s population might eat insects regularly already, but the U.S. has a long way to go before it can convince consumers to follow suit.

On the other hand, insects turned into protein bars are definitely seeing success, presumably because biting into a protein bar is behaviorally less jarring than eating a forkful of intact grasshopper. Even back in 2013, Exo blew past its $20,000 Kickstarter goal in just 72 hours, and has grown in popularity ever since.

It also helps that Aspire recently launched its first automated cricket farm, which could go far in standardizing farming practices and costs for edible insects. Aspire also won the Hult Prize of $1 million; Exo followed a few years later, with a $4 million Series A round of funding.

With the acquisition, all Aspire products will become part of the Exo brand, and the two companies are already working on new product lines to be released in the near future.

“Combining product lines and supply chains better equips us to succeed in our shared mission of fighting global food insecurity and promote insects as a healthy, everyday food source,” Ashour said. “This is a giant leap forward for the whole edible insect industry.”

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Jenn is a writer and editor for The Spoon who covers restaurant tech and food delivery, developments in agriculture and indoor farming, and startup accelerators and incubators. On the side, she moonlights as a ghostwriter for tech industry executives and spends a lot of time on the road exploring food developments in more remote parts of the country. Previously, she was managing editor of Gigaom’s market research department and was once a competitive pinball player. Jenn splits her time between NYC and Nashville, TN.

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