After a successfully funded kickstarter campaign, True Gentlemen’s Jerky is ready to grow their business one tasty morsel at a time. It all started in college with an old family recipe. They received an overwhelming response from their friends and family and soon realized there was a business opportunity in front of them. Their goal is to provide a high quality, healthy snack that is often lacking nowadays with mass produced jerky. Currently they have two flavors: Original Peppered and Sinsa Korean BBQ. We got a chance to conduct a Q&A with them and here’s how it all went down:
Tell me how the idea for the business came about.
It absolutely came out of a need we found in the market. Jason and Michael, two of the original partners, were roommates at the time and both studying for different tests (Michael – MBA, Jason – CFA level 1). They live in east village and often found themselves at liquor stores and 7-11’s looking for study snacks on the weekends. That part of town has a lot of places open when Petco has an event, but during the regular business hours there are only a few options. They would buy jerky, but were getting irritated paying $6-7 for a product that was an obvious product of mass distribution. The first few ingredients were “mechanically separated chicken” and were often filled with nitrates, sodium, fat, and large amounts of sugar. After a while Jason and Michael started to make their own jerky at home utilizing an Jason’s dad’s recipe and a couple of Nessco Dehydrators.They used all fresh ingredients, low sodium soy sauce and prime USDA cuts of meat. They handcrafted the meat and obsessed over even the smallest change to the recipes. They tried “grass finished” meat, but found that the marbling from the meat was gone and that the flavor was drastically worse.
Where do you make your jerky? Can you tell us a little about the process?
Originally we were preparing our jerky in a commercial kitchen in San Diego. When we looked to start selling wholesale (to stores) we needed to craft the jerky in a USDA certified facility. We have partnered with a northern California company to translate our recipe and flavors into a larger scale production at their USDA facility. Our process is a little unique when compared to some of the other jerky’s currently being sold. The majority of the ingredients that go into our marinades are organic and hand delivered to our manufacturer by a produce delivery service similar to a restaurant. The use of fresh green onions, ginger, and even garlic help us bring out the flavor of the meat without having to resort to manufactured flavorings or artificial ingredients. We cut our jerky in a “french fry” style cut for increased snack-ability. We found through some research at SDSU that consumers, in particularly women, disliked grabbing huge slabs of meat out of jerky bags and attempting to eat them. Our smaller cut allows for easier, cleaner snacking. We want to show people that Beef Jerky does not have to be some barbaric caveman food. Beef Jerky is almost a super food with how high in protein and low in fat it can be, we just have to show the consumers not all jerky is equal. The meat is marinaded for 24 hours in all of our fresh ingredients and gluten free low sodium soy sauce. We then dehydrate the meat for almost 8 hours, causing the flavor to really absorb. We also use the Eye of the round so that when we go to cut our meat we are not cutting through multiple muscles and therefore do away with that stringy white substance that you often find in the bottom of jerky packages.
Where do you currently sell your jerky/how do people buy your jerky?
The easiest way to buy our jerky would be through our website www.TGJERKY.com
We are currently in about 25 various locations around the country. Here in San Diego, if you dont contact us directly, you can pick some up at the Rust General Store in Old Town and the Little Italy Farmers Market on Saturdays. We also sample and sell at Green Flash Brewery every Thursday from 5-9pm.If you are ever in San Francisco, you can find us at Triple Voodoo Brewery in the Dogpatch District near the SF Giants ballpark, and also various markets and liquor stores throughout the city such as Golden Gate Market. Along with purchasing at their dock store,you can also find us make appearances from time to time with our good friends at Sudwerk Brewery in Davis, California.
We also partners with the following Companies:
– Pijon Box
Describe your jerky in 3 words. How would you describe mass produced jerky in 3 words?
TGJ: Healthy classy snack
Others: “mechanically separated chicken (this is seriously the first ingredient on some of the 7-11 jerky’s)
How are things going for True Gentlemen’s Jerky?
Things are going really well. We have been slowly gaining traction in both Northern California and San Diego. We have been selling online for about a year now, but our presence at the Little Italy Farmers market has really helped us connect with customers. We have been able to gain so much feedback from interacting with people every week, it has been great. We are slowly branching out into retail locations across the United States with hopes to eventually be offered in all the major grocery chains.
What do you see your biggest challenge going forward and how do you plan to overcome it?
I think the biggest challenge moving forward will be figuring out who has to quit their full-time job first )\(ha ha). We have been expanding and making headway pretty quick. The use of Kickstarter and some of our other social media platforms has really helped us gain notoriety fairly quickly. I think we all have a very solid grasp on the different elements of the business, but scaling up will obviously require more capital and some learning curves.
Any other flavor’s in testing right now?
We are currently in the middle of perfecting the perfect marinade for our Mango-Habenero flavor. We also started experimenting with a Vegan friendly jerky, with the use of Coconut meats.
What do you think about kickstarters now and what would you do different, if anything, if you could go back in time?
The staging of the “rewards” is really key. You need to ensure you offer value to both the consumer and some built in profit for you to actually… you know… fundraise. We use premium ingredients and thus our price point is higher than some jerky’s so, for us, determining a price that we were comfortable asking family and friends for all while still maintaining a profit was a challenge. If I were to go back and do it again I would absolutely want to include some sort of service related rewards such as: In person Jerky cooking lessons, or Jerky pairings, … something that would allow us to give some value to the consumer without just providing jerky and a shirt. Kickstarter is so great for so many reasons. The feedback you get from having so many backers involved is amazing. It is really a “learn by doing” type of exercise.
What’s next for TGJ?
We are looking to become the “girl scout cookies” for the boy scouts. We would love to partner with a local youth sports league or boy scouts and allow them to sell our jerky for what we would sell it wholesale. When you make a sale to a grocery store there are brokers, and distributors who both want a cut before the meat makes its way to the shelf. We want to offer that same discount to youth sports and groups but instead of having the brokers/distributors make money we would allow the groups/teams to absorb that profit. Girl scouts only profit about .60 per box they sell, our jerky could be upwards of $2.00 a bag and is much healthier and has a longer shelf life.
Around the holidays we are also looking to launch a clothing drive with the hopes of acquiring business suits and related garments. We want to provide these dress clothes to recovering adults who are looking to apply/interview for jobs to get back on their feet. We have had some talks with Father Joe’s village and they seem receptive to partnering with us.
As all of this goes on in the background we are still aiming to be in the high end grocery stores within the year. We have high hopes and a close knit diverse group of individuals behind TGJ. We are excited.
True Gentlemen’s Jerky