When we conceived the idea of protein powders made from natural and sustainable proteins, namely crickets and plants, we had no idea how bumpy the journey would be from the idea to the (almost) reality.
The sourcing of the right ingredients took months. Who knew pea proteins could taste so different, right? And sourcing cricket flour from the right supplier was another journey in itself! We spent a lot of time in our kitchen, mixing, shaking and drinking. Spreadsheets were filled-in, nutritional information was scrutinised and our family and friends were our first guinea pigs. We’re indebted to their patience and taste buds! The first versions of the products weren’t great but we were confident that there was huge promise in what we were trying to achieve – 100% natural protein powders that tasted great and were good for our bodies AND the planet.
We were thankful for the support from NoWFOOD innovation centre at the University of Chester. We gained some valuable knowledge and insights from the NoWFOOD team and University, not least the blind ‘sensory testing’ with students. Each student tested our products and some leading competitors’ products in a private cubicle. They rated the taste, mouth feel and texture and from the feedback, we knew there was still a way to go to get the products how we wanted them. The ‘mouth feel’ just wasn’t right but we were struggling to figure out how to get the products smoother. Were we missing something? We made some improvements following the sensory testing but were beginning to wonder whether it was time to source some expert manufacturing help. After all, there’s only so far you can go in your home kitchen.
It was around this time that the opportunity to appear on BBC 1’s ‘The Customer is Always Right’ with our cricket protein shake (Protein Rebel Reload) came along. The show puts new products through their paces with customer testing and feedback. We realised the product was still at the prototype stage but decided to progress with the opportunity anyway. After all, it’s not every day you get to appear on BBC1 and we knew it would be a great learning experience.
The TV show gave us a boost and after the filming, we put all our energies into getting the products right. After what seemed like endless searching, we found our manufacturer. They were happy to handle cricket flour, they understood the market and they were onboard with what we were trying to achieve. With just a few minor tweaks to our protein powder recipes and with the help of their specialist equipment, the texture of the protein shakes had been improved ten-fold. We finally had products to be proud of!
So, we’re still a couple of months from launch and we’re working flat-out to get everything in place. When we finally launch Protein Rebel we may well crack open a beer or two!