Alumni Spotlight: Charles B. Wilson
Ask Charles B. Wilson (‘11) why he’s passionate about flour made from crickets – yes, crickets – and he lists several compelling reasons. “It’s a good option for people who can’t eat wheat or dairy; it has lots of protein, fiber and antioxidants; and it could help feed the global population by 2050.”
Founder and CEO of Cricket Flours, Wilson launched the Portland, Oregon company in 2014.
Close to Home
When he was in law school, Wilson took a food sensitivity analysis and learned that he needed replacements for wheat and dairy. He found articles promoting edible insects as a sustainable source of protein. “That led me down a rabbit hole of information and I discovered you could actually make flour from insects,” Wilson recalls. “They eat insects in other countries, but it’s actually something our ancestors did even here in North America.”
Wilson had already obtained his bachelor’s degree at PSU in Criminology and Criminal Justice. While completing his law degree at the University of Oregon (UO), he took some MBA courses and pitched the concept for Cricket Flours as part of that coursework. The idea was a hit.
“It was something I was passionate about, and the UO program had access to competitions and funds that allowed us to launch the business,” Wilson says. “After graduating from law school, we entered and won PSU’s Lab to Market Competition and Clean Tech Challenge in 2016, which helped us get funding to purchase inventory and expand the business.”
Wilson spent two years growing Cricket Flours. Now, he’s a fulltime lawyer in corporate law and securities law who manages his business on the side.
Environmentally Friendly Food
Raising insects for food is ecological sustainable, as they require much less land and less water than conventional protein sources. “You waste fewer resources and there’s less processing, so you get all the essential amino acids without chemicals or additives,” Wilson notes.
Crickets in particular made business sense because U.S. suppliers were already raising them for the pet industry. Wilson’s suppliers became licensed to raise crickets for human consumption, and he asserts supporting local companies is in line with his sustainable mission. “All our insects come only from the U.S. and Canada,” he says. “We reduce our carbon footprint without overseas shipping, and we know our supply chain. We know what our suppliers feed the insects and how they’re treating them, so we’re sure we have a great product.”
According to Wilson, the flavor profile of cricket flour is somewhat similar to sunflower seeds or roasted pine nuts. He constantly concocts recipes to show people how to bake with the unique flour and the company offers a packaged brownie mix. Wilson’s lighthearted personality shows through his latest book, “Cricket Flour Cookbook: All Cricket, No BULL…”
“It’s exciting to explore the unknown, and this is a food option that allows people to be more sustainable,” he says.