The meat snack sector has seen an unprecedented popularity boom in recent years, and as the market has grown, more companies have jumped into the fray. Some large corporations have entered into it, seeking to capitalize on their name recognition or purchasing smaller companies. Others are independent companies that may lack an established brand name but have a high-quality product and, if they’re lucky, an interesting story to tell.

Chef’s Cut Real Jerky has both the product and the story to help stand out in a crowded field. The product was created by Chef Blair Swiler and Dennis Riedel. Swiler was a chef before leaving the industry due to health issues and took up caddying. He made his own jerky in his house and handed it out to friends and other golfers, including Dennis Riedel. Riedel then took the recipe to a course in New Jersey where he caddied, passed product around over there, and word started to spread. Before long, Swiler’s jerky was being sold to other golf courses across the country. It can now be found in retailers nationwde, with a growing portfolio of jerky and other meat snack items.

While the competition is fierce, the company believes that its chef-driven products give it an advantage.

“We believe that we have been able to separate ourselves from other artisan/craft jerky brands by taking traditional flavors that jerky consumers are familiar with and “premiumizing” them by using the best ingredients. Our packaging also stands out on the shelf with a high-quality look and bright, bold colors,” says Bart Silvestro, co-founder and CEO of Chef’s Cut.

Unlike traditional jerky, Chef’s Cut is a tender jerky, made with steak, pork and poultry. Some of its most popular products include Teriyaki Turkey, Honey Barbecue Chicken and Original Recipe and Chipotle Cracked Pepper Steak Jerky varieties. While a Buffalo Style Chicken and Srirachi Bacon Jerky are available, the company doesn’t get into some of the more outlandish flavors that can be seen in the marketplace.

“We have seen all types of eclectic flavors launched over the past few years, but we have chosen to take traditional flavors and put a chef’s spin on them, elevating the eating experience,” Silvestro explains.

Chef’s Cut’s latest development is a line of low-calorie, low-fat snack sticks that continue the brand’s premise of chef-developed meat products. The four flavors are Original Smokehouse (a blend of pork and beef), Jalapeno Cheddar (a pork/beef blend with pieces of cheddar cheese and jalapeno peppers), BBQ Chicken and Buffalo Chicken. The line was introduced at the NACS (National Association of Convenience Stores) Show in October 2016.

“Again, being chef-crafted we are offering a better for you premium snacking option for the ‘on the go’ consumer,” Silvestro notes.

Chef’s Cut does not do its own processing but has found a facility to manufacture the jerky and snack sticks to their desire. Silvestro acknowledges that, as a small company, building brand awareness is a challenge, compared to larger companies that have larger budgets. He believes that Millennials in particular are becoming aware of smaller brands as they become choosier about what foods they put into their bodies. As a result, he says that the company’s decision to put quality at the forefront has paid off.

“It’s important to start with great taste and premium, better-for-you ingredients and then getting these consumers to trial your product,” he says. “At Chef’s Cut we had set a goal in 2016 to sample one million consumers, and I am excited to say we have surpassed that. We are looking forward to building more brand awareness in 2017 and changing the way consumers have viewed jerky for many years.”

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