Editor's Spotlight: Startup Focus

My ethics epiphany: Former beef-specialist chef launches cricket protein brand to combat damaging meat industry

By Nikki Cutler

- Last updated on GMT

A globe-hopping chef who once specialised in beef dishes has built a truly sustainable and environmentally-friendly cricket protein brand after realising the damage caused by mass meat farming.

The Cricket Hop Company is a Vietnam-based brand founded (in March 2018) and funded by Hayden Smith, from Guernsey, England. The company aims to bring to market cricket protein infused cold brew coffee, cricket protein bars and cricket flour all produced and manufactured in Vietnam.

Cricket Hop Co

Smith’s strong sense of ethics developed after 12 years of cheffing in Australia, France, Italy, London, Hong Kong and Vietnam. He even worked in a dry aged beef facility in Singapore for a period.

“I realised how much wastage there was in the beef industry and I started thinking about what we are going to do in the future," he said.

"Intense agricultural farming can’t be sustained – one beef burger requires 22 gallons of water and half a tonne of feed.

“The fact is, if everyone went vegan for a year it would sort out the majority of the environmental issues we’re struggling with today.”

Harming our health 

The passionate entrepreneur adds that the damage goes beyond the environment.

“All the carcinogenic drugs and hormones pumped into cattle can cause a whole range of health issues. Humans aren’t really built to eat dairy anyway but now lots of people are becoming dairy intolerant and it’s because of all the hormones pumped into the cows, not the lactose.

“We have all these chronic diseases such as cancer, alzheimer’s and diabetes and the NHS will crumble under the pressure. I think the governments have to step in to make a real change and make people aware of where their meat comes from. As soon as people see the reality of how their meat gets to the table, it doesn’t sit so well with them. The problem is there is no short-term economic benefit to the government for them to step in.”

The vegan conundrum

Cricket protein doesn’t follow most people’s idea of vegan ethics but Smith says that even many vegans – labelled ‘entovegans’ - are embracing this alternative thanks to its unarguable sustainability benefits.

He explains that the products will be sold in biodegradable packaging but they will need to come with a premium price point in order to do this. He expects they will appeal to well-educated individuals who share the same ethics as the brand, as opposed to muscle-mad teens.

“The product is more for those interested in buying into the brand as a lifestyle choice. It’s not for teenagers looking to take it before going to the gym to get buff. It’s for people interested in the organic, environmental aspects of the brand.

“We are looking to sell the bars in Silicone Valley as I think the market is more ready for these products than the UK market. There are definitely pockets in the UK – such as Brighton – but it’s not going to be viable to launch there just yet.

“California is in the right mind set for these products. They are all for sustainable and biodegradable packaging and ethical standards.”

Cricketfoodco Instagram post

Cricket coffee anyone?

Perhaps more innovative than the bars, is the planned launch of a cold brew coffee using cricket isolate and Lion’s Mane mushrooms.

“Once we’ve got the bars going we will develop our protein cold brew coffee using soluble cricket protein whey isolate, Lion’s Mane mushrooms and raw cacao. The isolate is still in development stages and should be ready to mass-produce in February or March next year. The plan is to sell that online from spring next year.”

Lion’s Mane mushrooms are said to stimulate the growth of brain cells and even protect against Alzheimer’s disease. Through nootropic stacking, Smith says the cold brew coffee could help combat anxiety and stress, and improve memory, brain function, energy, insulin sensitivity (good for type 2 diabetes, and hyper tension) and gut health.

Continuing his first passion for creating recipes, the health-focused foodie is posting cricket flour recipe ideas on @thecrickethopco Instagram page. 

Smith’s ultimate hope is to provide people with a way to follow their ethics without being duped onto buying another product that isn’t actually good for the environment.

“There are a lot of other cricket protein bars out there claiming to be environmentally friendly but when you look at the ingredients you see they’ve imported every ingredient from a different country and then packaged it in plastic.

“This product will be as sustainable as we can possibly make it and people who share our values will pay the premium for it.

“It’s easy to cut down on the amount of meat you eat, people just struggle with the stigma attached to being vegan. At the end of the day, you have to be true to what you believe.”


  • Livestock alone accounts for 70 % of global agricultural land and produces up to 18 % of all greenhouse gases caused by human activities.
  • Globally, livestock contributes to about a third of total human protein consumption. In developed countries, this share rises to 50 %.
  • In 2050 there will be close to 10 billion people on the planet. The United Nations estimate that meat production has to double to provide all people with protein. 
  • 25kg of feed is needed to create 1kg of beef as opposed to 2kg of feed for 1kg of cricket.
  • Crickets use 8% of the land needed for beef farming and less than 2% of the water plus they emit less than 1% of the greenhouse gases.
  • Nutritionally they provide all nine essential amino acids, lots of vitamin B12 and other micronutrients and are 70% protein.



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