Jon Sebastiani — of the Sebastiani winemaking family — wants to change your perception of meat jerky, reports Nicole LaPorte in The New York Times (2/17/13). Jon sees a parallel to the way consumer perceptions of wine changed after a 1991 60 Minutes report “that consumption of wine actually reduced the chance of heart disease, then a radical assertion.” Before that, “wine was considered just alcohol — it was bad for you,” he says. But after the 60 Minutes story, wine sales skyrocketed. Jon thinks he has a shot at replicating such a shift with Krave Jerky, a “line of beef, turkey and pork jerkies.”
The idea occurred to Jon in 2009 as he prepared for the New York City Marathon and “began snacking on beef jerky — cuts of meat with fats and juices removed that he ordered from a butcher in Sonoma. It was naturally high in protein, and unlike some commercial jerkies, it was not loaded with artificial ingredients.” While taking a course in entrepreneurship, he developed a business plan that would emulate and scale the artisanal jerky he had sampled. Halfway through the course, he landed “a $500,000 order from Safeway.” As Jon sees it, his low-sodium, nitrite-free, chili lime and sweet chipotle jerky should transform the category.
Taking another page from his wine background, Jon has “even created pairing suggestions. That chili lime beef jerky, for instance, is best accompanied by a Corona beer or a glass of Brunello di Montalcino.” He also notes the success of boxed and screw-cap wine as evidence that consumer perceptions can be changed. And he’s making progress: “Today, Krave is available in 15,000 stores across the country,” and is “stocked in minibars at Four Seasons hotels. More than two million bags, at $5.99 to $7.99 were sold in 2012.” Jon admits that the jerky business is not as glamorous as the wine business, but says that’s why he’s “having so much fun with it.”