The Americans are coming! After a sensational round of funding brought them to success, the next top-end Biltong house could well be based in Texas, not Amanzimtoti or Zamunda. Let’s take a closer look at the phenomenal success of Stryve Biltong and its ambition to bring biltong to the land of beef jerky with everything.
The import dilemma
For a long time, biltong has had a hard time gaining acceptance on American territory. The reason, of course, is twofold. First, America and beef jerky go hand in hand.
There’s no denying that this popular snack has a firm grip on the hearts of Americans, and it’s hard to convince people that biltong offers them something even better than this thoroughly patriotic snack.
It’s hard to convince people that biltong offers them something even better than this thoroughly patriotic snack.
On the other hand, due to American import laws’ quirk, you can’t really bring genuine South African traditional biltong into the US.
Although many biltong fans and ex-pats have done their best to keep the biltong tradition alive, it has been a tough road so far.
Enter: Stryve Biltong
One 17 million dollar round of funding later, Stryve Biltong is poised to change all that forever.
Stryve is the brainchild of former American football athlete Gabe Carimi and espouses the bold and brash (but entirely true) view that “Biltong is what jerky wants to be.” Of the $17 million, much of it is earmarked for the Oklahoma factory’s construction, the rest for promotional purposes.
Stryve: “Biltong is what jerky wants to be”
Let’s flashback to 2017, Gabe Carimi wants to find a high-protein snack that fits the ideals of sports nutrition.
Surprisingly, in a market that’s crazy about protein, that’s hard to find, and the all-American beef jerky, with its many flavorings and sugar-packed formula, certainly wasn’t it.
He was suggested to try biltong.
As we all know, biltong packs an immense protein punch for its weight.
The “why” is actually pretty simple once you know more about this delicious cured meat.
Because it is cured through the dehydration process, biltong loses more than half the volume of the cut of meat used – a 200gr/7oz piece of raw meat making just about 100gr/3,5oz of biltong, if not even a little less.
This effectively doubles the protein content of biltong even next to a piece of lean meat, many people’s idea of the ultimate protein.
Gabe Carimi was no different. At first, he couldn’t even begin to believe the nutritional claims he saw for biltong. After making sure this “miracle protein food” wasn’t a lie, he and his company, Stryve Foods, which is quickly becoming known for its Stryve Biltong division, want to teach the U.S. to eat biltong – and show them why it’s nutritionally superior (and more appealing) than beef jerky.
Appealing to patriotism
While Stryve is open about their new product’s South African origins, they advertise heavily that it is a proudly US-made product.
We also see a somewhat unorthodox flavor approach, more reminiscent of jerky, with flavors like teriyaki, mesquite BBQ, green hatch chili, and “smoked” – a scandalous notion to many die-hard biltong enthusiasts.
Not to mention some very un-South African ideas of what to do with biltong.
This includes a brand new “trail mix” idea that mixes the staple snack with nuts and dried fruit to appeal to a broader market.
One thing’s for sure – Americans love their trail mix, and this move is sure to draw locals to Stryve, even if it gets some side-eye from South African immigrants.
Stryve has another good reason for the innovation. Trail mix has long been a staple for those trying to eat healthily, but it’s low in protein. The addition of biltong fixes that tremendously.
While the trend around the world is toward unhealthier, lower-protein diets, this is of particular concern in the U.S., where cheap access to junk food means that many – especially women and teenagers – are eating far less protein than is healthy in a day.
Buying out a South African brainchild
Still, Stryve is somewhat disingenuous with their US rally call. After all, their 2018 acquisition of Biltong USA, a South African founded company founded in the 1990s by the expat Joubert family, has given them a pre-formed network of fans.
Biltong USA has slowly carved a niche for itself from its North Carolina home, spreading into 7 states, including California and New York, typically considered key markets in the US.
They were also among the first to convince the FDA to produce traditional South African biltong on American soil.
And that’s not the only South African company Stryve has acquired, either. They also bought out Braaitime, which once sold braai utensils in the New Jersey market.
With these two acquisitions, Stryve now has sole control of every FDA-inspected and approved biltong production facility on American soil.
Breaking the jerky barrier
Still, finally breaking through the last true biltong-free market is a commendable approach.
The American dedication to the unhealthy nature of beef jerky has taken a lot of convincing over the years. So if it’s a biltong-based trail mix and calling droewors ‘biltong sticks” that breaks the market open on this high-protein, low-carb snack, then so be it.
To date, Stryve’s biltong products can be found on all Walmart shelves, and Americans looking for healthy but easily accessible nutritional blends have been incredibly receptive.
At a time when there is an increasing push for transparent packaging, the simplicity of the ingredients and the fact that “air-dried” is the sum total of human intervention is undoubtedly appealing.
Seeing “beef, salt, sugar and spices” in a world where it’s sometimes hard to tell what you’re even eating has its own appeal.
Between the easily accessible minimalism and the impressive nutritional value, it’s no wonder the American market has finally found its place in the global biltong craze.
Where do we go from here? Stryve is definitely poised to make a big splash in the global biltong market, not to mention their ongoing attempt to take biltong to the next level: North America.
With the US finally open to a high protein, high-quality alternative to beef jerky and the growing popularity of keto and other low carb diets, they could well be in the right place at the right time.
We will be watching their innovative take on biltong with a watchful eye and great interest.