Chew on this: two Squamish entrepreneurs are partnering with local breweries to make beer-infused beef jerky.
Just six weeks after starting full production, the “jerky girls” have already partnered with 10 different breweries across British Columbia, including A-Frame and Backcountry Brewing in Squamish.
“This started out for us as a fun venture, and I’m not saying we didn’t see the potential, but there is so much potential that we’re thinking of our business a little differently,” said Suzie West.
“We’re brainstorming and tweaking our business plan. We need to figure out where to go from here.”
The original idea for the beefed-up snack started in the spring, when West’s friend Beth Shaw was making her own smoked salmon. She quickly moved on to jerky, and began experimenting with a backcountry beer in the marinade – when West got involved, the Craft Jerky business idea was born.
“Both of us were like, this is amazing,” said West.
Both women already have full-time jobs, and they’ve been moving forward cautiously to make sure they can keep up with the demand. In 2018 they plan to hire a few employees and lease more commercial equipment.
“Part of it is the growth of the microbrewery industry,” said Shaw. “This is just a unique product that no one has really done before. It’s like everything has been done before, but I think we really found something and we want to be frontrunners.”
Other breweries that have joined on include Phillips in Victoria, Central City in Surrey and Coast Mountain and Whistler north of Squamish. They’ve also created a kid-friendly root beer version.
The breweries order batches of jerky made with their own craft brews.
The average batch is about 40 bags, which have 50 grams each of the dried meat. Each batch comes from six kilograms of Alberta beef, which ends up being about two kilograms when dried.
Shaw said the best beers to use are IPAs, because of their strong hoppy flavour, but they have also made a batch with Howe Sound Brewing’s Imperial Megadestroyer licorice stout. She also has plans to experiment with red wine.
Both Shaw and West admit they prefer savoury snacks to sweet, and they both love jerky.
They’re also tapping into a bigger market – according to a study done by Neilson in 2017, sales of “meat snacks” including jerky and other dried meat, has been rising steadily for the past five years, while the dominating chip market has been declining.
“I love that it’s a snack, and it’s chewy and salty and full of protein. I’d much rather eat that sitting and watching a movie than chips. Our product is very clean, and for what it is, it’s very healthy. For me, it’s just a great snack. That’s why I love it,” said West.