Bugeater Foods, in the NMotion accelerator program in Lincoln, Nebraska, came into existence less than 9 months ago, with the idea of cricket- (yes, the insect) based health supplement products, and they have been sprinting ever since.
You can already find their product on the shelves of the local HyVee and in the latest Bulu Box health and nutrition discovery box.
“It goes from pure joy to terror as you realize what you’re doing,” said Bugeater Foods Co-founder Kelly Sturek. “I think to myself, ‘Oh my God, we’re in Bulu Box. Oh my God, we’re in Hyvee. What the hell are we going to do next?”
Will it blend?
With the speed and confidence in which the group is carrying itself, some might assume that the leaders of this group are seasoned veterans with years of entrepreneurial experience, but they would be wrong. Bugeater Foods’ founders, Juliane Kopf, Kelly Sturek and Alec Wiese, are all under 24 years of age.
“Alec and I were having cheap tacos one night, and we were wondering why the tacos were so cheap. I was like, ‘Well, it should be insects,’” said Sturek. “We tried to make our own first product in a blender with some crickets we found from Thailand, and then we found out that we were terrible at making products on our own.”
After some failed attempts, Sturek and Wiese teamed up with Kopf who they met through the University of Nebraska Food Science Club.
“Juliane had already been working with cricket protein for 3 years at the R&D lab and working with the main supplier for all of the cricket flour,” said Sturek said of Kopf who responded to a message they had sent to the club. “And I told her, ‘You’re onboard, let’s go.'”
Changing consumer perception
With NMotion’s Demo Day just around the corner on July 28th, Bugeater Foods is confident but still can’t shake their youthful nerves.
“Oh yeah, we’re a bit nervous. It’s 500 people from the Midwest coming in and watching us. I feel like there is some expectations of us. It’s like the beginning of being a real company,” said Sturek.
Nerves aside, Sturek and his co-founding partners have no doubts about their products and their company’s future.
“We’ve seen a lot of different food items in the past 10 years come about, and the spread of information helps that consumer perception increase. Like kale and quinoa,” said Sturek when asked about the uphill battle getting people to consume bugs. “People eat snails. Lobster 200 years ago was considered a cockroach, vermin, and now it’s a modern delicacy. It’s all because of consumer perception.”
Bugeater Foods hopes to change people’s perceptions, starting with the crowd at the Rococo Theatre in Lincoln, NE on July 28th. This year’s keynote speaker will be Paul Singh.