Summer Centered: Joey Leroux ’18 Grows the Market for Cricket Food
The economics major is working with San Francisco company Chirps Chips, which makes chips out of sustainable and protein-rich cricket powder.
Joey Leroux ’18 wants to build community around crickets. Not cricket, as in the Haverfordian athletic staple played with a bat, ball, and wickets, but the winged, chirping insects that are actually loaded with key nutrients. Supported through the Center for Career and Professional Advising’s Whitehead Internship program, Leroux is working with Chirps Chips in San Francisco, a company that produces cricket flour chips with the hopes of destigmatizing a sustainable and nutritious food source.
Using cricket flour, which is produced by freeze drying and milling crickets, Chirps Chips sells salty snacks, cookie mix, and protein powder. Their products have been featured on ABC’s Shark Tank, where they won investment from business mogul/Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. While they believe they can build a lucrative business on crickets, their larger goal is to lead social change that makes eating bugs—which 2.5 billion people worldwide already do—commonplace in America.
“Americans are very interested in sustainability and health, so something low on the food chain that consumes few resources and efficiently converts them to protein, and which is packed with B12, iron, and other essential nutrients, should be an easy sell,” said Leroux, an economics major. “However, since its inception in 2014, Chirps Chips has realized that in order to get Americans to eat bugs, there needs to be positive social pressure, and right now there is so much negative stigma against it.”
Chirps Chips is a small company without an internship program, so when Leroux demonstrated interest in working for its three co-founders, he was invited to spend 10 weeks with the company to carve out a roll for himself. He has helped bolster the company’s Amazon store listings and expand sales channels into Mexico and Canada. Recently, he has also reached out to customers to get feedback in order to start “build[ing] a community around eating bugs—a community that will hopefully integrate bugs into their daily lives.”
“Chips are a product that reach most Americans,” said Leroux, “and if most Americans eat bugs, then the boundary around what normal food is will hopefully change.”
When Leroux began his internship search, he knew he wanted to work in the small but growing cricket food industry. After taking time off before his junior year to work at AsiaTan, a Hong Kong-based sustainable leather manufacturer headed by Andy Pleatman ’66, Leroux was compelled to align his lifestyle with his own values. Because over half of all human-produced greenhouse gases come from livestock production, he looked into changing his diet. When he heard word of a San Francisco cricket farm, he developed an interest in crickets as a sustainable replacement for livestock, which brought him to Chirps Chips.
“I have been able to do a lot of impactful work because there are such few folks on the team,” he said. “I also think it’s cool that our whole company is motivated by a belief that is ultimately good for society, so if we succeed, we’ll be part of a really positive change in society.”
When he returns as a senior this fall, Leroux hopes to foster a culture of cricket eaters at Haverford. After getting industry experience, he plans to start an on-campus cricket farm to feed students at the dining center, and use compost to feed the crickets. With these little creatures, he’s aiming for big change.
“Summer Centered” is a series exploring our students’ Center-funded summer work.