On her website Bite Snacks owner Sydney says: “We’re a local Vancouver company getting people excited about eating crickets! Crickets are delicious, nutritious AND sustainable. So why aren’t we eating them yet?”
Attitudes to healthy eating and sustainable farming practices are changing but when we spoke Sydney said, and in so doing answered her own question: “It’s all about the mindset and the culture we have here. It’s like sushi, nobody here used to eat sushi and now in Vancouver there’s a sushi restaurant almost on every block.
“Lobster, too, was like that. People used to think it was a garbage bottom-feeder and now it’s a delicacy. So I really think it’s just a matter of time [till we start eating bugs in the West].”
Her awareness of healthier choices evolved over time and has been framed by her environment. As a young adult, noted Sydney, she struggled to make sustainable choices, but growing up in Vancouver—living and loving nature and an outdoors lifestyle—she started to become more aware of how food is produced and to worry about the environmental effects on future generations.
Bitten By The Bug… Travelling
While the outdoors lifestyle of Vancouver was her catalyst for seeking healthier and more environmentally sustainable food practices, it was her travels far from home that had a tangible impact on her philosophy.
After studying engineering at Ontario’s Queen’s University, Sydney travelled Asia, South America and Africa. “I first tried bugs in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, Thailand, where there are lots of outdoor markets,” she said.
“I always like to try everything and thought it was really good. And then I saw it as a recurring theme in parts of South America and Africa I went to.”
Upon her return to Canada, Sydney worked as a baker. Having been raised by one it is a profession close to her heart, and it would prove to be integral to the rise of Bite Snacks, and she produces her protein bars in a bakery kitchen in downtown Vancouver.
During our interview she cited a report by the United Nations which states people should eat insect as a sustainable food source. [If you want to a paired down version, here’s a shorter read on the benefits to eating insects].
Inspired by the knowledge 80 per cent of countries consume insects in their diet, and that crickets in particular contain high levels of nutrients (proteins, vitamins and minerals) and require far less energy to produce compared to traditional proteins, she created her business to give people the chance to include crickets in their diet. “If most other countries are eating them why aren’t we?”, she reasons.
Where To Buy Bite Snacks: Educating Consumers At Vancouver Farmers’ Markets And After-School Clubs
Sydney has pitched up at farmers’ markets in Vancouver, New West and on the North Shore. “I did my first in August,” she said. “I want to hear from different types of people to get feedback, so I wanted to try out farmers’ markets.
“Feedback has generally been positive and people have been interested in the statistics about how much more sustainable it is to farm. Some people try it and are like ‘I don’t know what I was ever worried about.'”
Crickets taste earthy and nutty and work well in baking as the ground-up form can be used to thin out traditional flours. You can, as Sydney examples, “make your muffins healthier.” But ground crickets do not have the same properties as flour so it cannot be used as a complete substitute.
As of now she buys them from Entomo Farms in Ontario but is interested in farming them herself. She sells her bars at farmers’ markets, at a growing number of stores in the Lower Mainland and through her website. The energy bars come in chocolate, peanut butter and ginger flavours and come in boxes of 10 costing $35.
Sydney also supplies an after-school club in Vancouver, and has noticed kids at farmers’ markets are very interested. “In terms of education,”she says, “it’s a pretty good fit because things tend to take a generational shift.”