When I think of eating bugs, I think back to Disney’s “Lion King”: “Slimy, yet satisfying,” Pumbaa the warthog advises a young Simba. 

More than 80 percent of the world eats thousands of species of insects every year, Ames business owner Shelby Smith says. Her fare isn’t slimy, though -- I know, because I tried a bite of Smith’s dry-roasted crickets during a trip Feb. 19 to the Iowa State University Startup Factory headquarters. 

Smith had the little bugs and samples of her Gym-N-Eat Crickets protein bars ready for me when I stopped by with Communications and Business Engagement Specialist Julie Lelonek from Iowa State’s Office of Economic Development and Industry Relations. 

Smith’s business model has a lot of “wow” factor, and by that, I mean that she literally has half a million crickets in a small, insulated office about every six weeks as she raises them in rubber totes. Smith, it turns out, is a big podcast fan, and decided about a year ago to order her 10,000 starter crickets online after hearing a couple of different episodes about the nutritional and sustainability value of the little buggers -- all before taking a taste herself. Good thing it worked out. 

The real reason you’re still reading is for a first-person report, so here you are: I first tried a sample of the chocolate sea salt protein bar, and I wouldn’t have noticed the unconventional ingredient if I didn’t know about it (Smith has about eight flavors listed on her website, gymneatcrickets.com). 

Smith also has quite a few flavors available of the dry-roasted crickets, but I was encouraged to try just the salted ones to start (and not to look too hard at my hand). 

You know what? It really did taste like salted chips. I’d try crickets again. You could have your chance soon -- Smith is taking orders online.