This post kicks off our PORTABLE PROTEIN series! Over the next few weeks, we will be featuring our favorite snack brands that check off the following boxes:
- Travel-friendly for on-the-go snacking
- Fit in your purse or laptop bag
As consumers’ preference shift from salty chips and pretzels to more satisfying cheese or meat snacks, the (awesome) entrepreneurs who run these new brands have some ideas in common.
They aim to design a more nutritious snacking experience without taking away the, let’s face it, downright fun of snacking. They have convenience, clean eating, and a “why not tho?” kind of creativity as the building blocks of their vision. They want to support the growing need for paleo-friendly, Keto-friendly, and Whole30-friendly options, as well as folks who simply rely on protein-packed snacks to feel full and energized during the day.
This week we are featuring Country Archer, a true portable protein pioneer of the gourmet jerky industry. Country Archer has a 576% revenue growth rate in the past three years, and had about $35 million in revenue this past year. According to research firm IBISWorld, the jerky industry is projected to generate $1.4 billion in revenue this year, up from nearly 5 percent from 2015. Country Archer is currently the fastest growing jerky brand in the natural and specialty channels.
And it all started at a roadside jerky stand on the way to Grand Canyon.
“I was blown away by the taste,” says Eugene Kang, 29, co-founder of Country Archer Jerky. “I knew it was something special and had this vision for how a product like this could change the face of convenience snacking and people’s expectations of what meat snacks could be.”
Kang dropped out of college to learn how to make real jerky, diving headfirst into the world of gourmet meats. “In addition to the premium quality of our meats and cuts, we make all our jerkies with an extended marinating and slow cooking process for maximum flavor in every bite – no shortcuts,” Kang says.
Kang went on to found Country Archer because he knew that if he was looking for more jerky like this, other Millennials and conscious consumers were too. In September 2018, it raised $10 million from Monogram Capital Partners, the private equity firm’s third investment into Country Archer.
Why the Moo Matters
Early in his jerky journey, Kang was advised by a business strategist to pursue a co-manufacturing route, in order to be more lucrative.
“While building a new brand in tandem with running a manufacturing facility is incredibly challenging, having a vertically integrated company has proven one of the most successful strategies for us – and continues to be one of the key differentiators that sets us apart,” Kang says. He felt strongly that if he built his vision on the foundation of clean ingredients, taste, and convenience that it would be a success.
While competitors like Jack Link’s still dominate the market, Country Archer is differentiating their product by thinking forward to the next generation of Gen-Z or Millenial consumers, who care about the quality of their meat. “If you look at the ingredients in most traditional meat jerkies, you’ll see they’re filled with preservatives, nitrates and other unappetizing things,” says Kang.
These consumers like to know company values, and like to know how to pronounce everything on the label. “We only craft our meat snacks with gourmet cuts of extra-lean, USDA-inspected 100 percent grass-fed beef and tender antibiotic-free turkey and pork. All of our meat snacks are free of nitrites, MSG, gluten, antibiotics and added hormones.”
So step away from the Oberto and everything will be okay (and taste MUCH better).
Meat Hits the Magic Mark
Country Archer meets consumers in just the right time and place: high-protein, low-carb, friendly to current dietary trends, and doesn’t need to be refrigerated (hello purse snack!). What else could you ask for in a portable protein?
“The popularity of diets like Paleo, Keto and Whole30 the definition of healthy snacking has evolved and now is heavily focused on clean, protein packed snacks like jerky or meat sticks,” Kang says.
You don’t have to be on a special diet to enjoy a nutritious, satisfying, low-carb snack. At the moment, top sellers are Original Beef Jerky, Teriyaki Beef Jerky, and Mango Habanero Beef Jerky and Hickory Smoke Turkey Jerky. The Original Beef Jerky is a competitive $6 per 3 oz. pack, 11g of protein per serving, and 70 calories per serving.
Country Archer continues to grow and expand into new markets and new packaging. In addition to the creative jerky flavors such as Citrus Rosemary Turkey Jerky or Hatch Chile Beef Jerky, the brand recently launched travel-friendly meat sticks, mini beef sticks, and diet friendly Country Archer bars. The bars have 15g of protein and are made with collagen peptides, you know, to keep you satisfied and glowing.
“The convenience and portability of our products are certainly advantageous to our audience of health-conscious, on-the-go consumers. We’ve also seen an increase in how often people are snacking each day—they are looking for options that are not only convenient, but also keep them full, with pronounceable, clean ingredients,” says Kang.
That’s what Country Archer has to offer to consumers, and as a result, they are projecting 246 CAGR on their meat sticks alone from 2017 to 2019.
Meaty Ain’t Easy
Like many entrepreneurs, Kang did not anticipate how challenging it would be to launch and scale a national brand, especially in the early days in college. Country Archer got a lot of no’s from retailers, who had a lot of other brands to choose from in such an overcrowded jerky market.
“All I knew was that the taste and texture of Country Archer was the best I’d ever had. I optimistically thought everyone I shared this amazing jerky with would immediately fall in love with it as I did,” he says. He took some time to reposition, and get creative by partnering with a hot sauce company. “When I decided to take a chance and launch our Sriracha Jerky, it was the key to unlocking many important retail accounts for us.”
The ultimate goal for Kang is to keep his values and principles at heart: ingredient integrity, elevated flavor, and differentiation in a crowded space. “A goal of ours is always to provide delicious gourmet meat snacks made with high-quality, premium, and clean ingredients to our consumers,” he says.
Now Country Archer is sold in more than 25,000 stores across the U.S. in Canada and growing every week. Keep an eye out for new innovations and product flavors at Natural Products Expo West this March!