Sarah Schlafly displays her Mighty Cricket products

Sarah Schlafly displays her Mighty Cricket products on Sept. 10 at her home in Wildwood. The products have new packaging made entirely of recycled plastics.

Mighty Cricket wants to become known for producing the next sustainable, ethical, cheap protein through an unlikely sources — crickets.

The company, with headquarters in St. Louis, offers a variety of cricket-based products, including flavored oatmeal, a pancake and waffle mix and cricket protein powder.

Mighty Cricket processes at least 800 crickets daily, blending, flavoring and packing the powder into its products. The crickets are sent from Thailand to the company’s St. Louis facility.

Crickets use less water than almonds, need less overall feed than chickens and emit less greenhouse gas compared to bees, according to Science Nordic

Mighty Cricket’s owner and founder Sarah Schlafly enthusiastically believes this alternative protein source could be the affordable and sustainable protein of the future.

Her culinary background, business experience and passion for solving the world’s protein problem converged when she started Mighty Cricket.

A accounting major at Truman State University, Schlafly quickly decided it was not her true calling, although it has since served her well in managing the financial aspects of a business.

She shifted gears when she opened a company called Whisking Apprentice to design programs about healthy food options, as well as successful ways to cook on “a food-stamp budget.”

Later, she moved onto a job in digital marketing for a national food brand and observed the industry from the inside. She said she worked with every department to build a foundation that would become essential to starting Mighty Cricket.

In 2016, Schlafly began looking for a a protein source that was more affordable, accessible and sustainable than existing options.

“That’s where my passion lies,” Schlafly said. “Getting all people to be able to afford food that is both good for us and the planet.”

Crickets were the answer she landed upon, but initially she thought it wasn’t an option for a business because, well, they’re bugs.

The initial hurdle the company faced was the product itself — crickets, or as Schlafly describes them, “land shrimp,” faced a set of stigmas.

“Crickets are scary. Crickets are dirty. Crickets are gross,” she said.

But after tossing the idea around, she discovered that cricket protein powder was unusual enough to be intriguing, memorable and “naturally viral.” Roughly 50% of people she polled were willing to try it with no extra persuasion.

In 2018, Mighty Cricket began selling hand-packaged oatmeal mixes Schlafly made. Since then, the company has expanded to selling on Amazon and local retailers and is working toward having its product sold by national retailers.

Mighty Cricket has worked to overcome any resistance to its products with friendly design, a sustainable message and appealing foods, Schlafly said.

The packaging attempts to educate and inform consumers about the ways crickets are energy efficient, pesticide free and ethically farmed.

The protein powder blend is flavored with spices, fruit, chocolate and other ingredients for taste. Oatmeal mixes are complete and only need water, and the company provides free recipes on its website.

All of these factors work together to try to give customers a positive first impression of crickets and demonstrate how this “scary bug” can be “tasty, not gross,” Schlafly said.

The packaging is made from post-consumer recycled plastic, and Schlafly hopes to develop an even more sustainable packaging. Mighty Cricket also intends to have on-site cricket farms in the next five years, a step that would significantly reduce the environmental footprint of the company.

All this is underway at the St. Louis facility, but Schlafly wants to expand into California, hoping to reach a larger national audience. The company also intends to expedite and increase its exports to countries such as Thailand, Mexico and Vietnam.

While the overall goal of Mighty Cricket is to be sustainable, Schlafly explained that it needs an infrastructure to produce crickets as an easily accessible protein source. She went on to describe how in the future, she hopes to move many operations from a global to local level, including the farming of the crickets themselves.

“Starting off, you have to make so many more compromises than you want,” Schlafly said.

“Ultimately our mission is to build a clean protein supply to nourish the world,” she said.