Bitty Wants to Create Bug Snacks for a Mainstream Audience
After returning from a trip to Southeast Asia where she regularly dined on bugs, Megan Miller came back home convinced Americans should embrace edible insects. She also convinced her friend Leslie Ziegler to join her in the kitchen to experiment with recipes incorporating critters.
Both friends lived in San Francisco. Ziegler worked at a health tech startup and previously as an art director. Miller worked as a magazine editor before moving into a director role at Bonnier, a publisher.
In the kitchen, the friends were making muffins, cookies, crackers and energy bars. “I invented the recipes myself, and they were pretty darn tasty—enough so to give us confidence that we could build a business around cricket flour products,” Miller told us.
Around this time the United Nations came out with a report on the environmental and health benefits of eating insects, which helped convince the friends of the legitimacy of a cricket business.
“We were cooking up the idea of a business,” she said. “It’s not just a quirky, interesting idea. It has the potential to be world changing.”
But first, they had to convince consumers to eat them.
In 2014, Miller and Ziegler launch Bitty. Their first product line included three flavors of cookies and all-purpose flour made with cricket protein.
“It became obvious that if we were going to popularize insects with Americans we weren’t going to start with whole inspects,” said Miller. “We started by incorporating insects as a powder for quicker adoption.” Flavors like chocolate chip, orange and ginger, and cocoa and chai didn’t hurt either.
While some other insect products in US markets focus on the CrossFit crowd and extreme eaters, Bitty targets moms looking for healthy snacks for their kids and early adopters. Their packaging is bright and inviting, with only a hint of the insect ingredient inside–a simple outline of bug head and antennae dotting the “i” in Bitty and on the front of the package.
“It felt like especially a couple of years ago when we first started, the companies that were doing [insect food products] were focused on the adventurous quality of insects, and we wanted to strip away anything that felt like fear factor,” said Miller. “This has to feel super friendly, super approachable.”
The company’s vibe appealed to consumers early on. Before launching online sales, they had thousands of preorders, said Miller.
The first two years they stuck to e-commerce. Now they sell at health food stores across the country and have gotten interest from larger grocery chains, the founders said. They recently launched a line of chips made with lentils and, of course, cricket flour.
Bitty products are also distributed to tech and startup offices through SnackNation, a company that delivers snacks to companies like Linkedin, MailChimp, and Uber.
“People who work at tech companies tend to be savvy about new trends and early adopters,” said Miller. Just the sort of customers they’re looking for.
Ready to be a cricket cookie early adopter? Check out Bitty here.
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