The EntoBento Team in downtown San Diego.
Chris Glascoe (top row, center) and the EntoBento Team in downtown San Diego.

A commitment to environmental sustainability and shared love of dogs spurred San Diego startup EntoBento to develop pet treats based on a unique protein source. The company uses cricket flour that requires hardly any water or land and significantly reduces pollution compared to livestock like cattle. Humans may need to be convinced, but dogs immediately love it. Times of San Diego spoke with co-founder Chris Glascoe about the company as it prepared for its Kickstarter debut on Tuesday.

Why did you start EntoBento?

EntoBento dog treats were started somewhat by mistake. When our team came together for the first time at a start up competition here in San Diego, we originally formed to create a mealworm grow kit. Think of it like an edible bug garden for your home. The problem is…nobody wanted it. We could not give them away. We knew we wanted to address real problems like water scarcity and sustainability, but we didn’t know exactly how to do it.

Why use cricket protein rather than more common ingredients?

Cricket powder is a small step toward tackling some of the major environmental challenges. On average it requires around 2,000 gallons of water to produce one pound of beef. When you compare that with the 1 gallon it takes to raise a pound of crickets, it just makes sense. All of our ingredients are human grade. You can actually try the treat yourself to see what it tastes like. But, we can not guarantee you will like it as much as your dog.

Dog sampling EntoBento

We consulted with Dr. Ken Tudor, a certified dog nutritionist. We were amazed to hear that crickets in many ways are not just as good, but better than livestock. They have higher omega 3’s and 6’s than beef and pork. They contain a greater quantity of edible protein, and they even provide the necessary amino acid profile that pets need. We wanted a healthy treat that dogs love and people would love buying.

How do you deal with a potential “yuck” factor?

We listened. Once you educate someone on the environmental resources required to produce traditional protein you get their attention. Especially living in southern California. We are all affected by the drought. When we asked people if they would eat bugs, many said “no way.” When we asked if they would let their dog, most of them responded by saying, “they already do.” That is when we realized we had our product-market fit.

When do you expect the first EntoBento treats to be on the market?

If our Kickstarter launch goes well, we plan to have product shipped in April. Kickstarter is a way for us to collect pre-orders to raise the capital needed to do a large scale production run. We have spent the last year testing different recipes. We tested them on some of the pickiest dogs in San Diego and finally found something that 95 percent of dogs go crazy for. We have an inside joke calling it the “cricket crack” for dogs. We are just glad dogs like it so much.

After dog treats, what’s next for EntoBento?

DOG FOOD! One of our goals is to bring a sustainable protein source to the forefront of the pet industry. We have been contacted by people in different countries asking us if we are doing dog food next. There are huge challenges introducing a new ingredient to the pet industry. But we are going to do it. In order to take the next step we need support from our local community by supporting and sharing our Kickstarter page by signing up at www.entobento.com.

Times of San Diego, a startup itself, regularly writes about startups in technology, biotech and other sectors of local business. If you are a startup in the San Diego area and want to tell your story, please contact news@timesofsandiego.com.