How to Start a Beef Jerky Business

Beef jerky recipes are often handed down through the generations and are a popular family item. If you’ve got a great recipe that everyone seems to love when they try it, then you might just have the foundation of an incredible business opportunity. If you want to know how to start a beef jerky business, then the first thing you’re going to need to do is know the local laws regarding homemade food products. You will need to follow specific guidelines in order to sell your food products and you may even need to secure the help of a local commercial kitchen.

Some jurisdictions even have specific requirements that must be met for beef jerky to qualify for sale. Make sure that your business is able to meet and satisfy all of the requirements before moving forward with the other steps that are necessary to get your business started.

1. Will you need a commercial kitchen?

If you are not allowed to sell food products out of your home kitchen, then you may need to upgrade your kitchen so that it qualifies as a commercial one. You’ll need to speak with your local development services department to discuss zoning laws. You may need to get a zoning permit before transitioning to the commercial kitchen.

You might also talk to your local Chamber of Commerce to see if there is a small business incubator that is available. These incubators often have a commercial kitchen that can be rented for a relatively low cost. Just incorporate the costs of the rental into the beef jerky that you sell and the food products will pay for the commercial space.

2. Make sure you have the equipment needed to produce beef jerky.

If you’re running down to the local department store to purchase a $20 food dehydrator, then you’re not going to be able to produce commercial quality beef jerky. You’re going to need to invest into food scales, storage equipment, and a commercial dehydrator at the very least. You’ll also need some sort of packaging materials and you may wish to have freezer or cooler space available to store excess inventory.

3. You’re going to need to label the beef jerky appropriately.

The one big problem that a small business faces in the food industry is the local labeling law. Most jurisdictions require that all food products have all ingredients listed on the package of the item being sold. This is due to extensiveness of food allergies that exist today. You may also need to have calorie counts, serving sizes, and specific nutritional information included as well. Your local jurisdiction may even require that your packaging be approved through a government mandated inspection.

4. Make sure that you price the beef jerky right.

You’re going to need to make a profit on your beef jerky. You also don’t want to price yourself completely out of the market. This means that you’ll want to find out what other jerky makers in your area are selling at so that you can create a competitive pricing model. Don’t fall for the temptation of undercutting the competition. That will just drive all prices down and eventually someone else will wind up undercutting you as well.

5. Find a place to begin sales.

You may not be allowed to sell your new beef jerky out of your home. That doesn’t mean that these kind of sales don’t happen from time to time, but it can’t be your main place of operations. If you want to sell your own products, then you’ll need to be in a commercial zone. If you are looking to have other retailers sell your product for you, then visit the local specialty shops that are in your area and speak with gourmet gift shops. The local grocery store might be willing to sell your products as well. Make sure you’ve got samples of that awesome family recipe to hand out during your presentation.

6. Pick up your own retail sales license.

If you don’t find success with other businesses and you can’t sell the beef jerky out of your home office, then the next best option is to utilize a concessions stand. These stands are portable and can be taken along to county fairs, city festivals, and other venues where you can interact directly with potential customers. A local food festival or “Taste of the City” event are two of the best options that are available. Hand out information about how people can get more of your product when they stop by to make a purchase.

7. Be prepared for a slow, difficult journey.

Food products are traditionally one of the more difficult industries to break into as a new business. People are routine orientated and tend to stick to the brands and foods that they know they enjoy. Trying something new, even if it is a 5th generation recipe, is dangerous because if they don’t like the food, they’ve wasted their money. Your best bet is to provide small samples and low cost items for customers to begin engaging with your product so that your prospects see a low risk, high reward opportunity.

8. Get active and engage.

People tend to do more business when there is a relationship present with the business. This loyalty is often seen in the food industry with frequent sales. To get your new brand recognized, you’re going to need to start building relationships with your local customer base. The best way to do this is to get active on social media, offer samples in public locations, and to just pound the pavement in your local community. The more exposure you have, then the more recognized your brand is going to be.

Starting a beef jerky business can be a long and difficult process, but it can also be a rewarding one. Use these tips to get your business started today and then begin making that award winning beef jerky that everyone loves so much.