Clean-label meat snacks are taking off. Charqui Jerky Co., Country Archer Provisions, and Cattaneo Bros. discuss their company histories and most popular meat snack offerings.

Matt Salts, president of Charqui Jerky Co., first got started in the meat snacks business when he was driving to Michigan. On his way there, he noticed a sign for a beef jerky store. “I was blown away by the store that had 1,200-1,500 square feet of retail space that was nothing but beef jerky,” Salts said.

After seeing the popularity of the jerky, Salts decided to explore this venture on his own. He noticed the growth of the jerky category, but he also observed a market need for a clean product made from natural ingredients.

Salts referred to their vintage and spicy flavors as the company’s top sellers. Aside from these two popular products, Salts said his company has had a coffee flavor, in addition to other fun options.

Country Archer’s new Zero-Sugar Smoked Sausages are available in Original and Fuego Photo credit: Country Archer Provisions

Salts said that their Bloody Mary flavor, which they call Sunday Hangover, has been a hit at shows.

The company has always listened to their customers, Salts said, and their customers craved consistency in the Charqui Jerky Co. products.

“We feel like our flavor is unmatched for the flavor profiles we do … Our goal is to have that flavor through your entire chew process,” Salts said. “It's a maximum amount of flavor and it's very tender.”

Salts noted that his company is not the only one making these kinds of products. “Give folks a try. Don't just try to stick with your national brand stuff,” Salts said. “Reach out a little bit. There's some really good stuff.”

One of these companies is Cattaneo Bros., a family-owned meat processor and manufacturer.

Katelyn Kaney, owner and CEO of Cattaneo Bros., said that her parents bought the company in the 1980s, so she grew up with the company. In 2006, Kaney began helping her father run the company, and after both of her parents passed away in 2008, Kaney took the reins of the company.

Cattaneo Bros. has four lines of beef jerky, and Kaney said that their no-sugar products are their most popular consumer products, in addition to their grass-fed offerings.

The company hand-makes its jerky in smokehouses, and Kaney said that her company has always practiced this tradition. Kaney said that she believes their products have a unique flavor profile due to these methods.

Though the product does not have a very long shelf life like other brands, the products are clean and simple.

The company tries to adapt and evolve with the industry, but Kaney finds that keeping their operations rooted in tradition is beneficial for their company since their product is old-fashioned.

Country Archer Provisions is another clean-label meat snack provider. Andrew Thomas, vice president of marketing, said that their Original Beef Jerky, Zero Sugar Classic, and Hickory Smoked Turkey products are all quite popular. He said that their customers like having variety in their protein selection.

“Our Mini Beef Sticks are massively successful, with strong performance at retailers such as Costco and Amazon, where it’s the #1 selling mini stick,” Thomas said.

Most of the company’s beef comes from Australia, he said, but they also get beef from North and South America. “Australia’s grass-fed beef industry is one of the largest and most mature operations,” Thomas said.

Grass-fed beef has been at the root of Country Archer Provisions’ products since the beginning, he said. The company also supports regenerative farming.

“The brand provides a delicious option for the growing wave of consumers vigilant about the impact their food choices have not only on themselves, but the people, planet and animals,” Thomas said. “Grass-fed beef is known to have more omega-3s compared to conventional beef, plus it’s a more humane option that is safer and does not confine cattle to feedlots.”

Kaney’s company caters to this consumer demand for clean food and said that her company’s products are generally made from a few simple ingredients. Kaney also said that her company works hard to know where their beef is coming from by collaborating with ranchers.

As a mother, in addition to her family’s experiences, Kaney said that she is very aware of the foods that we put into our bodies and the effects those foods have. Kaney said that she only wants to sell a product if she will give it to her kids – this is why she backs Cattaneo Bros.’ products.

Kaney emphasized the importance of minimal sugar, particularly in meat products.

Thomas said that Country Archer Provisions’ products offer consumers high nutritional value and premium ingredients.

“Country Archer firmly believes that sourcing the right proteins makes a difference in the premium meat snack experience and can play a critical role in leaving our world better for future generations,” Thomas said.

Looking toward the future, Salts said that Charqui Jerky Co. plans to focus on its current relationships with vendors and United Dairy Farmers. The company is also now in both the hardware and online spaces, and they plan to develop those relationships, too.

Charqui Jerky Co. is also current working in a sports sponsorship role with OSU All American left tackle and projected first round NFL draft pick, Paris Johnson Jr. That product is called Paris’ Cut.

Kaney said, looking forward, her company plans to focus on their online product sales. She said they also hope to introduce a grass-fed beef stick product.

Country Archer Provisions recently introduced their Zero-Sugar Smoked Sausages to the market, and they are also launching Teriyaki-Style sticks. “Teriyaki is a top core flavor in the stick category,” Thomas said.