A Sittingbourne man who is enjoying the sweet taste of success by selling insect-flavoured snacks is to release a board game based on his thriving critter-based trade.
Ben Bartlett, 23, is hoping to have Bushtucker Trial Challenge on sale in time for Christmas.
It’s based on the jungle-based TV reality show I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here in which contestants are tasked to eat a selection of foul-looking bugs and insects to win meals for fellow camp mates.
Examples of insect-flavoured sweets sold by Ben Bartlett
Ben’s aim is to produce 10,000 editions of the game, which has been approved by the ITV programme.
It costs £19.99 and involves players winning stars for downing bushtucker snacks such as crickets and mealworms, which are included in the package.
Ben said: “It can be played while watching I’m a Celebrity or with friends and family at any other time because it’s a really social game.
“It should be available online within a month.”
For four years, Ben has been the proud owner of Bush Grub, a company specialising in munchies with a crunchy twist.
For those who enjoy real creature comforts, his product range includes salt and vinegar crickets, barbecued mealworms, and most curious of all...scorpion lollies.
The Bushtucker Trial Challenge board game
Having unleashed them on the market in 2011, the candy critters have earned the former Westlands student a tidy packet.
Ben, of Adelaide Drive, said he sold 100,000 of his edible novelties last year and hopes one day they will take the culinary mainstream by swarm.
He said: “We’re looking at ways of making insects a future food source.
“About 80% of the world eat them - they’re a very sustainable form of protein.
“We’ve sold Bush Grub to anyone, from 60 and 70-year-olds, to three-year-old children.
“People have said, ‘that’s disgusting’ and started coughing, but nobody’s ever complained or thrown-up.
“All the insects are farmed for human consumption - I wouldn’t be doing it otherwise.”
Ben got the bug for his unusual business while running Claws and Jaws, an exotic animals show for children’s parties.
He wanted to create creepy-crawly party bags for his young audience and tracked down a US insect farm which sold flavoured varieties wholesale.
His initial stock was gobbled-up in an instant, leading him to double his next order.
The natural nibbles, which sell at about £3.50 a packet, can now be found in 100 shops around the world, including High Street favourites, Hawkins Bazaar.
Such has been its success, business has became a family concern with Ben’s dad, Gary, 49, leaving his job as an Argos store manager to help place and sell their weird and wild wares.
Proving himself a real marketeer, Ben persuaded licensing chiefs at ITV’s I’m a Celebrity to allow him to display the show’s logo on his products.
“We sent bush tucker goody bags to all of last year’s I’m a Celebrity contestants,” Ben said. “But none of them contacted us to say if they liked them or not.”
The Bartletts have introduced a few more flavoured-up floor dwellers to the shelves,
such as an Ant Candy Bar Apple, and Coco Bugs.
“We won’t sell tarantulas, they’re not a not a sustainable source,” Ben said.
Ben, whose girlfriend Robyn apparently “doesn’t mind” Bush Grub’s distinctive taste, said he is currently working on a prototype of an insect recipe to invade the health food market.
He said: “In Holland, they make flour made from ground crickets for people with nut allergies.
“It goes into making cakes and biscuits.
“Crickets taste like peanuts, so in this way, you get the nutty taste without the reaction.”
“People have said, ‘that’s disgusting’ and started coughing, but nobody’s ever complained or thrown-up" - Ben Bartlett
Ben said most of us, knowingly or otherwise, will have eaten something they would rather swat.
“Cochineal, which is the red colouring used in certain sweets and things like strawberry jelly, is extracted from beetles,” he said.
“Most things labelled ‘only natural colouring used’ will have been made this way.”
Ben said his creature-led career sort of crept up on him - he had other aspirations.
“I wanted to be an airline pilot or a vet,” he said.
“But instead of saving little animals, I’m farming them.”