By Sarah Shutt
In the quest to find a more sustainable, ethical, and environmentally friendly source of protein, Laura D’Asaro found her answer at a market in Tanzania: crickets.
Since this discovery, D’Asaro and two friends founded Six Foods and began the production and distribution of their signature snacks, Chirps Chips and Chocolate Chirps, made with cricket flour. Their commitment to the environment and healthy living is engraved into their mission, but is Six Foods a social enterprise?
\A social enterprise is a company that is motivated by a social impact, based on local partnerships, has a sustainable business model, utilizes an innovative product or idea, has measurable social impact, is scalable, and practices transparency in their work. Six Foods ticks some of these boxes, but not all.
The environmental motivation for Six Foods is clear, and the results of this environmental mission have the potential for significant social impact in the future. Although, the core mission of Six Foods doesn’t appear to be improving human quality of life through the protection of the environment; rather it appears to be an environmentally-driven mission with health benefits. In addition to this, the profits made from Chirps are not necessarily being reinvested into the social (nor environmental) mission of the company.
While the company originally started with three girls and a kitchen, it has since grown to increase their production rates and meet consumer demands across the country. Even though the crickets are farmed in North America, the business is not entirely based on local partnerships or community involvement.
The business model for Six Foods is sustainable because of the population they are targeting. One bag of Chirps goes for about $5 (depending on the place of purchase), so it can’t be labeled as an affordable snack. Their main audience seems to be upper middle class millennials who have an interest in sustainability and personal health. The environmental movement is extremely popular amongst younger generations, so keeping this sustainability mission will likely help the business flourish in years to come. While the price point isn’t feasible for the majority, they have done well in finding a niche market which will hopefully spread. As their company grows, they should be able to lower the price point and scale their business to a larger audience.
If there is one quality that would make Six Foods a social enterprise, it’s their innovative use of cricket flour to make a product that is sustainable, desirable, and delicious. As the company has grown they have added new products to their collection, and will continue to do so as they build up their customer base. They started Chirps “to get Americans excited about eating bugs,” and so far they have been relatively successful. Food trends tend to catch on very quickly (as seen with the Gluten Free and Dairy Free movements), so there is no reason that the consumption of cricket flour couldn’t become a social trend.
Given the evidence provided, I wouldn’t go as far to say that Six Foods is a high performance social enterprise. There are definitely some positive social impacts that may result from the growth of the business, however, the company is not driven by a social impact at the grassroots level, nor are their products at a price point which are accessible to the majority. If Six Foods truly wanted to become a social enterprise, they would have to reevaluate their mission for social impact and commit to reinvesting the profits to sustain this social impact mission. The potential is there, although the founders might find that sticking with a traditional business model is more profitable.