There are easily over 500 jerky brands in the world, probably in North America alone. In other words, the competition is fierce and crowded. It is no simple task starting a jerky business.
Based on our interactions with various small jerky makers just starting out, be prepared for long days. Jerky making is just one aspect of the jerky business. Successful jerky makers tend to work their heart out, always striving to improve and grow.
Jerky as a Side Business
For people wanting to make beef jerky as a side business, and still retain a full time job, you will quite likely burn yourself out after a while. If you take an extended break, and run out of stock, your loyal customers are likely to become very upset, and start looking elsewhere.
You will need to decide if you can manufacture your jerky in a USDA compliant facility. Or, hire a copacker, and manufacture the jerky in their USDA compliant facility. You can decide if yourself will prepare the jerky, or the copacker prepares the jerky.
Jerky making rules and regulations can vary from state to state, province to province, country to country. There could well be over 100 rules that you have to follow to meet minimum standards, which are always evolving. There are too many regulations to list, so do your homework in the area that you plan to make your jerky.
Depending on where the jerky is sold, you need to submit it to the government for further processing. This is why on most jerky bags you will see some sort of stamp claiming it was inspected by the Department of Agriculture.
Depending on where you make the jerky, to sell jerky commercially you need a commercial dehydrator that is National Safety Foundation (NSF) certified. A commercial dehydrator can easily cost over $10,000. Research the laws in your area.
To experiment with making jerky, our 9 tray Excalibur dehydrator has been reliable for over 10 years now. Upgrade to the stainless steel trays, and we also upgraded to the heavy duty Excalibur dehydrator model. Excalibur sells commercial dehydrators also.
Buying a used dehydrator can save you a lot of money. The fact is jerky companies go out of business, where you can find real bargains, with dehydrators costing 1/2, 1/4, or less the original price. Spend time searching for classified ads and auctions geared towards the food industry.
You can find a basic commercial food slicer starting around $500, but it can be quite a bit higher in price depending on the size, and brand. Again, look for a used slicer, where there are deals to be found in classified ads and auctions.
Based on experience. buying bags for jerky is cheap in comparison to buying labels. 2,000 resealable bags averages out to about 5 cents per bag. Ordering 2,000 plain colored labels, with just the name of the flavor, is 30 cents per label. Buying your bags and labels in larger quantities can drive the price down considerably.
To make custom labels, a label maker will develop what they call a template. The initial cost to create a template can easily be $5,000, $10,000 or more. Assuming you want to start your business with four different flavors that could cost you $20,000 in label costs alone. The decision to create a new label template can be a big leap financially.
While not mandatory, it is helpful to use oxygen absorbers. They are quite powerful if used properly, and relatively inexpensive. Typically, oxygen absorbers come in bags with a minimum of 500. Once opening the bag you had better use the oxygen absorbers within days, or they will be rendered useless if exposed to air for any extended period of time, no matter how hard you to try keep them sealed from air.
Do not underestimate the costs of cleaning your equipment and jerky making area. You definitely want to avoid your jerky from being in contact with Salmonella or E. coli. If one of your customers got sick from eating your jerky you could face a big lawsuit, where multiple lawsuits could easily bankrupt you. One owner of a meat store mentioned that they factor 25% of their costs to cleaning alone.
This is the most challenging aspect of opening up a new jerky business. Sure you may have great tasting jerky, but figuring out where to sell your jerky is no easy task. It is quite difficult to get any major chain store to sell your jerky. Many of the small jerky makers sell their product at Farmer’s Markets.
As an example, one jerky owner had the 4th highest jerky sales in his state, but the disparity from 1st place to 4th place was quite large. He claimed that they needed to sell over 3,000 pounds of jerky a month to make the business worthwhile, which is a daunting task.
In this day and age, all jerky makers should have a web site, where customers can order your jerky online. Otherwise, all of your jerky sales will be regional, rather than nationally, or internationally.
While not cheap, the most popular eCommerce platform out there for jerky makers is Shopify. Ensure that your web site is popular with the major search engines, using Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques.
Getting on social media is an absolute must. Consider it to be free advertising. The sooner the better, where you want to grow your followers.
As a tip, do not mix business and personal on social media. Get a separate social media account for personal affairs. There is a fine line here, where you want to remain a professional looking business.
www.instagram.com – People just seem to love pictures of food, and jerky is no exception. Instagram has the most user activity of all the jerky centric social media sites.
www.twitter.com – Any business should be on Twitter, not just jerky makers. Twitter gives you a good pulse on the jerky and other industries.
www.facebook.com – It is important to be on Facebook, currently the largest social media web site in the world. Facebook can be very good, but it’s arguably too large.
The most common way on raising funds to start a jerky company is using Kickstarter. Another alternative is Go Fund Me. For example, let’s say you need $15,000. You set an exact target date to achieve $15,000 from any potential backers. You need to reach the entire $15,000 on the date that you committed. If you miss the deadline, you get nothing, and the campaign ends.
Generally, you would make a short video that sells your jerky above the rest. If you succeed, in repayment to the financial backers, you could offer some jerky in exchange as compensation at a later date.
JERKY FLAVOR NAME
We are sticklers here at Jerky Ingredients in that the flavor name should match the actual flavor. Many jerky makers in our jerky reviews have lost one taste rating only because the flavor name does match the actual flavor itself, regardless of how good the taste is.
While a pure technicality, this taste rating deduction can be avoided by appropriately naming your jerky flavor. If you name your jerky flavor Hot, then have a reasonable amount of heat. Otherwise, just name the flavor Spicy. If you name your jerky flavor Peppered, have a noticeable level of black pepper, a garlic flavor should have a noticeable garlic taste present, etc. Think of it as somebody eating jerky blindfolded, and being asked to guess the flavor name.
We here at Jerky Ingredients have reviewed over 450 unique jerky flavor names, broken down into over 60 jerky flavor categories. Jerky makers are encouraged to add a flavor description for each flavor sold on their jerky maker web sites, which is much appreciated, where the flavor description factors into the taste rating.
Submitting jerky for review can be a great way to get free advertising, apart from the cost of shipping, and the jerky itself. We see submitted jerky as a win-win situation. We get new jerky to review, and the jerky maker gets advertising and exposure, including on social media.
In the last five years or so, we see more and more of these jerky subscription clubs. A customer will sign up and pay a monthly fee for a box of jerky, where the jerky brands can vary from month to month. What we have noticed is that we will favorably review a jerky brand, and a few months later we will see the jerky brand in one or more of these monthly subscription boxes. Do not underestimate the publicity and possibilities garnered from a professional jerky review.
True, we may not favor the flavor, and rate the taste low, but that is highly unlikely. In this day and age, most craft jerky makers have good to excellent jerky flavors. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for further details. As usual, we provide jerky makers a draft copy of each review before they are published. Fair, honest, and thorough are the most the common descriptions given to us in our jerky reviews.