A while back, when Rhone was in its infancy, we were given passes to a tradeshow called “Fitcon” where various industry leading fitness brands had a presence. Our invitations were compliments of the Fitcon sales team who had advised us that we should strongly consider locking in our own space for the following year and that such spaces were already limited!
No offense to the people at Fitcon, their brand partners, or attendees, but it took all of fifteen seconds for me to realize this was not the place for Rhone, or myself for that matter. It wasn’t the flat-brimmed hats, white sunglasses or even the awful tattoos (and that was just the guy scanning tickets). No, it was the dizzying commercialism, the unfounded promises about transformations, and the endless amount of products with flavors like “Rocky Road” or “Blue Razzberry.”
Sure at Rhone we make products that can handle training of all shapes and sizes; we cater to active individuals, and market products towards a fitness crowd. But supplements seem altogether different, a world awash with competing voices and lacking regulations and morality. For all of their preaching about “Health and Wellness” these companies often use strange ingredients to achieve flavors and/or consistencies that go down easy. I have fallen prey to these companies and their promises, which is why you may sense a tone of disgust and distrust after having peeked behind the curtain. But recently, I have been concerned about my overall wellness, and opted for a more natural approach to eating and supplementing, which has led me to ditch other protein powders in favor of one that uses possibly the strangest ingredient of them all, crickets.
That’s right, crickets. Bugs, creepy crawlies, etc. Human Improvement (hi! for short) is a brand hell bent on changing the perception around this incredibly nutritious and sustainable form of protein by creating an optimal protein powder that is easy to digest, densely packed with superfoods and above all, delicious. Backed with a 100% guarantee, boosted by sound science and conveniently packaged into individual serving packs, this protein powder promises to change the game, by changing your mind.
And what’s that about crickets? Well considering the amount of land, water, and other materials to raise cattle and harvest whey protein, it’s not much of a stretch that other protein sources would be more sustainable. But crickets prefer dark, cramped spaces and can be stacked vertically. It’s been noted that a small 13,000 foot farm could produce 7 million crickets per week. These crickets get pulverized into powder and that powder is a sneaky superfood, chock full of protein, B12 vitamins, iron, and fiber.
Intrigued, I put it to the test. Yes, me, the infinite skeptic, eating bugs for breakfast. As I blended it into a blueberry smoothie, my kids had about 1,000 questions.
Them: “What’s that?”
Me: “Protein powder”
Them: “Can we have some?”
Me (Not really wanting to share): “Well sure, you just have to know one thing. It’s made up of ground up crickets.”
My son (His eyes growing wide): “No way….gross….AWESOME. Can we have some?”
Me (Begrudgingly): “Fine”
Using one of the recipes from hi!’s incredible Museum of Smoothies, they tasted it, loved it, and asked for more. I felt good giving it to them after assessing the ingredient list and surmising that this was one of the cleanest protein powders I had ever brought into the house.
Now onto the real questions, and although hi! graciously gifted me this protein powder I have assured them that I would be honest in my grading.
Flavor: This was the first question on my mind, as it should be when you are consuming insects and before I answer, I do want to level set expectations. If you’re used to a powder bought at a big box store that tastes like liquid Ben and Jerry’s, this ain’t it. If you’re a vegan eating plain pea protein everyday, this is much much better. I am probably somewhere between those two categories and have, of late, sacrificed flavor for cleanliness. That being said, this exceeded expectations. I really anticipated a funky flavor but in smoothies or even mixed with something like chocolate almond milk, the flavor is good. With water or plain almond milk, yes, you are going to notice that it’s different. But for me, that is a small price to pay for the peace of mind that comes with a concise ingredient list. Score 7.5/10
Texture: Again, I wondered if there would be small antennae sticking out of this powder and was pleasantly surprised when that was not the case. That being said, I would say texture might be an obstacle for hi!. There is a certain graininess to the blend, something that the product team is keenly aware of, and advises that you give your blender bottle a few extra shakes throughout the process just to keep things well blended. Again, in smoothies it’s less of an issue, but mixed into water, milk or something like yogurt, it can be a bit textured. Score 5/10
Presentation: I have to say, there is something gross about digging your hand into a massive canister of protein powder. It has ALWAYS bothered me, especially in a shared environment like living with roommates. Especially in this day and age, the experience needed an overhaul and individual packs are it! I loved the recyclable packs, with an easy tear off top and smooth delivery. Sounds like a small thing, but don’t sleep on it! And the boxes have this neat little tear away button to make it easy to stack in a cupboard and remove one pack at a time. Score 10/10
Digestion: I’m well into my 30s now, and like so many others, I am learning that dairy isn’t always my friend. Whey protein has recently been added to my no-fly list as I have been experiencing some acid reflux and other unpleasant side effects. Without getting too personal, the hi! protein powder went down easy and did not provide the disrupting effect that whey protein had been consistently giving me. My acid reflux was definitely better after using the hi! powder as well, so bonus points there! Score 9/10
All in all, my experience with hi! was so good that I am bound to be a repeat customer. I was floored by the amount of thought and care that went into the packaging, the sound science behind the blend, and the total lack of typical supplement company BS that came with. It’s an actual clean product backed by research and delivered by one heck of a team. If you’re looking to change up your protein profile, follow the advice of Jiminy Cricket when he says “Let your conscience be your guide.”