Producer of artisanal, antibiotic free, tender meat snacks that spurn the word “jerky.”
By Kelly Bastone
The black, palm-sized pouch looks like it might hold leaf tobacco. But open the zip-top and you release the smoky aroma of barbeque. Sinking your teeth into delectably moist Sweetwood fare is more like savoring a tender smoked brisket or petite filet mignon than the sugary convenience store gristle or stringy roadside products that pass for jerky.
Sweetwood Jerky is the latest venture from Ryan Wood, the former Dallas Cowboys fullback who co-founded the billion-dollar Under Armour apparel company before cashing out in 2007. Just as Under Armour upgraded workout clothing for urbanites from the basic cotton T-shirt, Sweetwood is elevating jerky. Each morsel is cut from the muscle of the beef (rather than the tendon, apparently) and hardwood smoked for 12 hours. That’s important since many low-grade jerkies are simply dehydrated. The Sweetwood beef is raised without hormones or antibiotics on Wood’s ranches in Nebraska and Colorado.
And guess what? All that health-minded, quality production makes Sweetwood Jerky spendier. With a two-ounce pouch retailing for $7, this fast disappearing snack costs more than a Happy Meal. Nutritionally speaking though, the corresponding 11 grams of protein is actually a good serving of lean meat. And high-end jerky is in keeping with the rest of the Sweetwood product line, which focuses on choice cuts of beef raised sustainably on Wood’s 600-acre ranch near Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
The filets are amazing, too, but it’s the jerky that’s gained momentum. “We can’t keep up with it,” says Rebecca Fix, Sweetwood’s general manager. “Jerky is 80 percent of our business right now.” Outdoorsy types concerned about where their food comes from are fueling the demand. The pouch-sized packages fit easily into fly vests and backpacks. And REI is a major retailer. Perfect timing doesn’t hurt either. The meat snacks category grew 65 percent since 2003, thanks to rising interest in low-carb and gluten-free diets. But mostly, says Fix, Sweetwood’s success comes down to taste. “Our jerky just blows everything else away.”
Visit sweetwoodjerky.com for more information. From the Spring 2013 issue.