A massive shout out to John Bailey from Beefy Boy’s, Nina Marie Cattaneo from Ray’s Own Brand, Dustyn Dahn from Empire Jerky, Alexander Halasz from MTL Jerky, Evan Arndt from Stoney Point Inc., Clarice Owens from Healthy Oceans Seafood Company Inc., Mike Merwin from Crazy Mike’s Beef Jerky, Franco Fonseca from Smokehouse Jerky Co., and Jeff Richards from Jeff’s Famous Jerky for their contributions to this global coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic post.
Our world has entered unprecedented times due to the coronavirus COVID-19 disease. Pretty much every person and business has been impacted, and jerky companies are no exception. Now almost everybody knows the new catchphrases of “Flatten the Curve”, “Social Distancing”, and “Physical Distancing”.
Based on our observations on social media, mainly Instagram, maybe 15% – 20% of jerky makers worldwide have shut down due to personal choice or forcibly. Just a wild guess mind you, where it could be 10%. For jerky makers that are still able to manufacture jerky, this coronavirus has seemingly been a boon for jerky makers, where jerky is the perfect long time storage food, but not cheap. Let’s see if that is true.
Here is John Bailey’s update from Beefy Boy’s who reports a remarkable spike in sales both in online and locally: “All of the team at Beefy Boys Jerky Co. in Salinas is still working, except for one delivery person who had to stay home to care for children home from school.”
“We have far more work than we could ever need right now as we have seen a remarkable spike in sales, both online and locally.”
“But we are carefully monitoring the larger COVID situation, as our primary concern is for the health and safety of our employees and our customers. We will remain vigilant.”
“We have been relieved to receive news of a formal FDA pronouncement that the food supply chains are safe, and not currently seen at risk by the pandemic.”
“Here is the FDA safety comment:”
“So, our loyal employees continue to work overtime to meet consumer demand.”
“I pray that non-essential businesses can open in the next 60 days. If not, I believe that the outcome will be a total disaster for all businesses, whether ‘essential’ or not.”
Here is Nina Marie Cattaneo’s update from Ray’s Own Brand, who confirms an uptick in sales: “We have been crazy busy. Just the two of us, Raymond and I, are working more than we did last year. We have a jerky and sausage manufacturing company, and the stores are nuts. With just the two of us, we produce Monday through Friday 14 hour days. Do you want to talk? With a husband and wife company, we do not need to stay away from one another, and we have distributors that we are keeping employed.”
Dustyn Dahn from Empire Jerky reports that sales are staying steady and dependable. Dustyn, perhaps luckily at this time still, has a full-time job in the financial industry.
Here is Alexander Halasz’s update from MTL Jerky, who is still making money: “Yes, interesting times indeed. Things have been ok on my end. Some businesses I supply to have closed, so that has had an impact for sure, but at least I’m not losing money 😊. Online is picking up a little, but not that busy. To be honest, I think a lot of people still just look at the sticker price and think it’s an expensive product, not realizing how nutrient-dense it is. They are watching their expenses and looking for cheap products to fill their pantries…”
Here is Evan Arndt’s update from Stoney Point Inc., who reports a 15% increase in sales: “We are well suited to handle this situation, to say the least.”
“We are an SQF level three plant and can increase capacity by three time’s current volume, which would put us at 35 thousand lbs of finished jerky a week.”
“That being said, we have had a large uptick in some areas since we private label products for customers, and all sell our brands. Our online orders have gone through the roof, while our farmer markets and smaller stores have suffered badly.”
“We have also been able to grab a lot of business from other locations because their supplier had earlier shut down or cannot meet demand.”
“So overall, we have grown by 15 percent in the last two weeks, but I do think it will settle out over the next few and may even drop a little.”
Here is Clarice Owens’ update from Healthy Oceans Seafood Company Inc.: “Pescavore sales are up 350%. The shelf life of 18 months means this is a great substitution for fresh and frozen seafood that may be harder to get in times of disaster.”
Here is Mike Merwin’s update from Crazy Mike’s Beef Jerky: “I’ve had a slight boom in online orders, but nothing significant where I’m having trouble keeping up.”
Here is Franco Fonseca’s update from Smokehouse Jerky Co., who also reports an uptick in business: “We are doing well. Respecting social distancing, but then again, we’ve always been that way. I have a thing about people being too close to me, thus far it’s proving helpful.”
“We are doing pretty well. We’ve only had one private label client cancel their order so far, but I’m sure lots will not order because they are the people who specifically attend events for the sales.”
“We’ve had six people hit us up about private label, and they purchased our sample pack. That’s always a good indicator of who is serious.”
“Our online sales have seriously picked up. We are up to $2300 this month from a year ago. Lots of large orders where our average is $43.”
“We’ve heard some of the jerky makers are shutting down or curbing production, and honestly, I hope they keep doing it. We are not closing, and I think some of the new business we are getting is coming from the other guys closing. Either way, I’m happy about it.”
And lastly, here is Jeff Richards’ informative update from Jeff’s Famous Jerky: “You can read my blog post and feel free to quote anything you want from this post:”
“You can see that I am trying to be positive and especially urging people who can support their favorite businesses right now… whoever the business is because they are going to need it to survive the months ahead. Most businesses will not want government loans to help them because they already have too many loans to service… what they need are government grants to keep them healthy to have a chance to survive. In the end, I think it will be the innovative hustlers who will survive.”
“The jerky business booming is all relative. It has been booming for quite some time now, but the amount of competition in the industry is now way, way, way overboard. I believe the large companies with heavy financial backing are probably mostly all booming with good year-to-year growth rates. However, the medium and small jerky companies have been fending for themselves the best they can even way before the Corona Virus pandemic. January and February and March are the slowest months of the year for the jerky industry, and the spring season brings lots of new business with people selling jerky at events all over the country. And so with that stopped, many of the people who sell at events already had events lined up with deposits out to event organizers for a few months to start their season. I imagine no one got their deposits back, just a credit for a future event. Some of them already purchased lots of jerky to sell and have nowhere to sell it. And many of those people buy on credit terms of anywhere from a few weeks to 30 days rely on their new sales and income to pay those invoices, so when the world stops, that puts everyone in deep trouble.”
“And to compound this all, the cost to be in almost any type of business has continued to escalate every year for the past ten years. Minimum wage increases like California has experienced two years in a row means fewer companies can afford the employees they need. In the jerky industry, the cost of beef and producing jerky has increased incredibly. You can see part of that by just looking at your local supermarket toward what has happened to the price of a hamburger. And most meat uses lower cuts of beef and still contain some fat, anywhere from 3-20%. When you make jerky, all the fat has to be trimmed off and to make quality jerky, you need whole muscle meat. American ranchers are hurting more and more every year because most of the beef for the big brands all come from outside the USA because it is cheaper. Companies disguise the fact saying things on their packages like “Packaged in the USA” (Jack Links)… think about that and the lack of American jobs it is supporting.”
“The companies who do minimally process their jerky in the quest to make true artisanal beef jerky use real premium whole-muscle American beef still have to compete with the giant companies with deep pockets and all the marketing and advertising dollars they throw out there to persuade the public to buy their product. So, jerky is booming in sales overall. Still, there are too many companies doing it, and the forever rising costs have put every jerky business owner in a position of having to offer wholesale prices that are the lowest in history just to expand their business. Distributors that are out there are working with their lowest margins in history and are struggling, especially if they only sell jerky. Jerky factories are busy overall, but most of their business is booming from the bigger companies private labeling their products and working on low margins using the advantage of mass volume to make their money.”
“Any jerky company that is still showing an increase in sales over last year is doing well. Any jerky company that shows a profit in 2020 will be lucky. Any jerky company that is still in business at the end of 2020 will be fortunate too.”
Well, there we go, there does appear to be an uptick in sales directly related to this COVID-19 virus. Alex from MTL Jerky (Montreal, currently kind of the Canadian equivalent of the epicenter of Canada similar to New York City, but not close), whom I have personally met, is right that money is tight for many people due to massive layoffs and reduced hours. In Canada, the 1 million mark was reached in just over a week of people applying for unemployment insurance as of March 26, which has never happened before in Canada’s history. Compare that to the USA, 3.5 million people applying for unemployment insurance in that same time period with a population of near 330 million people, compared to around 38 million people in Canada. Businesses are pleading for government grants instead of loans.
Here are some of our long term predictions on what changes will become permanent as a result of this COVID-19 pandemic.
Sprouting across stores everywhere companies are installing plexiglass in front of cash registers at local businesses. I ask many of these store clerks if they think the plexiglass barriers will be permanent. The vast majority respond unsure, the correct answer, as nobody knows for sure. What leads me to believe that this change will be permanent is that a surprisingly large amount of clerks respond that they hope and pray the plexiglass barrier will be continuous.
Working from home has become a reality for many. We believe that after this pandemic eventually ends, working from home will become a much more common occurrence. With technology being where it is today, industries were already trending in this direction. I, for one, am going to demand that I work from home one day a week going forward, and I hope that I will succeed as it has been proven it can work. I cannot count the number of stories that I have read, where employees say that they are more productive working from home absent of all the distractions, albeit with exceptions.
More and more companies are not accepting cash anymore, totally illegal as far as I am concerned. Still, I am giving all of these businesses the benefit of the doubt during this pandemic. There is a valid concern that cash could transmit a virus, but that has been true ever since cash was introduced. We firmly believe that Cash is King, but fear that cash will go the way of the dodo bird.
Paul believes that handshakes have already disappeared permanently. He will also add to that list of hugging and kissing each other in greeting family and friends. Hugging and kissing on the cheek between close family members will likely never disappear, but we do fear going forward that hugging and kissing will be severely reduced.
Schooling may change, and especially for students in high school, college, and university. Still too early to tell if this school year will be lost, likely not, as there are frantic efforts to teach online as of Monday. Probably a safe bet to expect more of that. I just recently learned that Google Classroom is a real fast-growing thing in the school system.
While nobody knows when this COVID-19 pandemic will officially be declared over, we regretfully believe that many small businesses will go bankrupt, regardless of government assistance or not. Our local governments are now guessing June 30 will be the return of non-essential services. With parts of China recently going into its second lockdown, who has hardcore lockdowns, this pandemic is far from over.
Early on, when this pandemic was mostly localized to China, people would snicker at people wearing gloves and face masks in public. That is anything but the case now. What then became maybe 5% of the total population wearing masks has grown to maybe 15-20% of the people wearing masks based on personal observation, perhaps more. If an individual has underlying health complications or the elderly, by all means, continue wearing masks and gloves in public. My 77-year-old mother is one of those people who now wears a mask and gloves while grocery shopping. Paul observed, and we have been told that as much as 50% of the population from countries such as China or Japan were already wearing masks in public before this pandemic to combat pollution mainly. Austria is about to make wearing face masks compulsory in supermarkets.
Another concern is that a global (mainly untested) vaccination will be forced upon the population. If it comes down to that, I want to be tested that I have not already contacted COVID-19. Such tests exist today, but I question the accuracy with multiple different strains of this coronavirus floating around worldwide.
I want the COVID-19 test, not for my personal safety, but to ensure I do not pass COVID-19 unknowingly. This coronavirus apparently has mutated many times. I am the type of individual who likely unknowingly contacted the COVID-19 virus, and maybe had a few sniffles, which is the norm, and not the exception with the COVID-19 virus. Ultimately (probably not officially) it will be determined that the actual fatality rate was well under 1% of the population. I do front line work in IT technical support, touching untold other people’s computer equipment, and I am in a very difficult position to respect social distancing.
The second picture in this COVID-19 post was provided by John Bailey from Beefy Boy’s. The picture shows an empty jerky bag rack from a local deli shop in the heart of Salinas, California that had been in business 14 years calling it quits after 14 years of blood, sweat, and lots of tears a few days ago due to this COVID-19 virus. That, unfortunately, has become a common sight.
In closing, we want to stress the importance of supporting local businesses. Not just the jerky industry, but all types of small businesses. They need your support now more than ever. As Jeff eluded to, we also fear that many small businesses will not survive in 2020, which is tragic and heartbreaking. It is so sad to see, for example, restaurants with empty parking lots. Stay safe, take care, as this COVID-19 pandemic will eventually pass.