An Old West Tradition
A modern take on an American classic. Read more….
SnackMasters Impresses Meat Industry
Takes jerky market to new frontiers. Read more….
High Quality v. High Yield
Snackmasters chooses quality. Read more….
Awards and kudos for Snackmasters. Read more….
A blend of old-fashioned taste with healthy goodness
Jerky is one of the oldest meat products around. Meats were smoked and dried by Native Americans for hundreds of years; settlers of the Old West cured their meats with seasonings for a year-round protein source. Many variations have existed, but the most important qualities are still great flavor and the instant energy of a protein-filled meat snack.
In this tradition-bound business, Jim Rekoutis of SnackMasters has built a company that blends old-fashioned taste with healthy goodness. SnackMasters’ natural, gourmet jerky is an excellent source of low-fat protein that is also low in cholesterol and contains no trans-fat. Their beef and salmon jerkies are 97% fat free; the turkey jerky is 98% fat free, and the Ahi tuna is 100% fat free. SnackMasters starts with the best cuts of meat: solid meat turkey breast meat, solid top round beef and solid tuna and salmon fillets. They add no preservatives, artificial colors or flavor enhancers (MSG). Their packaging is even chemical-free, unlike most jerkies.
A jerky processor’s spice and seasoning blend is more than just a mix of ingredients: it is the processor’s signature. The blend also contains the proper number of enzymes to cure the meat and stimulate long lasting effects critical to unrefrigerated, shelf-stable products. Preservation of SnackMasters products, because they do not use nitrates or other preservatives, must come entirely from a synergy established by the natural ingredients of Worcestershire and soy sauces, liquid smoke, vinegar, and powdered spices such as black and red pepper, garlic, turbinado sugar and cumin. These basic ingredients make up SnackMasters’ three award- winning flavors: Original Recipe, Teriyaki, and Hot and Spicy.
SnackMasters sacrifices high yield for high quality
Hilmar, California, near the turkey capital of the world, is home for SnackMasters. They take advantage of the locally abundant turkey to buy thousands of pounds of it per month. Along with beef and fish, SnackMasters makes lots of jerky.
“However, here at SnackMasters we sacrifice high yield for high quality,” says SnackMasters founder Jim Rekoutis. SnackMasters yields less than other processors because they prefer processing without water or preservatives. “By using just the right blend of sauces and spices, our jerky is better tasting, better chewing, healthier and longer lasting than our competition. We produce what our customers demand.”
“SnackMasters features products without preservatives and has a fifteen-month shelf life. We exclusively use premium cuts of beef and turkey meat, including certified, all natural beef and range-grown turkey, full slice configuration, fresh marinating ingredients batched each morning, and no added water. There are also no artificial colors, flavors, enhancers or ingredients. All of the ingredients are natural and have received the stamp of approval from the USDA as being all natural. We ensure product integrity by using strict quality control procedures and we support our claim of being truly gourmet because all phases of our processing procedure are considered hand-made. SnackMasters is truly not a mass production-machined product.”
Great reviews for a great jerky:
For four consecutive years, The American Tasting Institute has judged SnackMasters jerky products the Best of Show at their annual tasting benefit in New York City this year. The Gold medal and Best of Show awards are given out each year to food processors and manufacturers who meet this national organization’s criterion. One year, SnackMasters won the Best of Show award and the Gold Medal Taste Award.
Convenience Store News voted SnackMasters Jerky products the best new product for the year 2000. A panel of 25 trade magazine editors judged SnackMasters jerky the best, based on based on packaging, graphics, product innovation, creativity, convenience store market appropriateness and taste. Convenience Store News is the voice of convenience store businesses across the United States.
“Your Turkey Jerky is absolutely fantastic. What is that addictive ingredient you put in??? There must be something—I crave this stuff (especially the Teriyaki). Go, Snackmasters!”
“I just bought a 2.5 oz bag of your Original recipe Beef Jerky…on a whim. I am very impressed with the taste, quality and leanness of the jerky. It’s delicious and I think I will probably make it a regular purchase when I grocery shop. Keep up the good work. P.S. I never take the time to write companies for stuff like this. You can take that as an additional compliment!”
“I’m compelled to write this letter based on your turkey and beef snacks. The quality of your products are consistently good. You’ll never realize how much your product means to my family and friends. I guess if I had [to] describe Snackmasters products in one word I’d say…Fantastic.”
“My class is doing a project where we write to companies whose products we use and like. I chose you! One thing I have to say is I love your Turkey Jerky. It is so delicious and tender. You just want to eat the whole bag up. My whole family loves it. I have four brothers. If I leave out my Turkey Jerky, it will be gone in a second! That is how much we love it. I hope this letter makes you happy. Now I am going to go eat some of that Turkey Jerky.” –Young fan, age 11
“My friends and I are avid campers. They asked me to pick up some beef jerky for a recent trip. We discovered that you’all produce a superior product. Outstanding!” –Mike
Old Product, New Life
by Nicole Zaro Stahl for Meat Processing, May 2005
It’s an ironic twist that a food item like jerky, as old-fashioned as they come, could wind up at the center of the latest eating vortex. A mainstay of the pioneer diet—and probably that of prehistoric man—it’s relatively easy to make, and recipes for in-home preparation abound….
One jerky processor that has earned a respectable share of success forging his own path is SnackMasters of Ceres, Calif. Owner Jim Rekoutis, who steered the company to the gourmet track on its founding in 1982, is very clear about his target market: “the consumer who wants to eat products that are mostly or all natural.” Having won several national taste awards and overseen sales growth up to the $10-15 million category, Rekoutis has so much confidence in his individual processing methods that the prospect of competition from the powerhouse brands doesn’t even faze him. If the behemoths want to get into the all-natural space, “they’re going to have to change their processing,” he warns.
What’s so different about the SnackMasters approach is the extent of activity carried out by hand—and the commitment to keeping it that way. Apart from automated slicing and vacuum-tumbling, the company’s processing emphasizes manual product handling, which, Rekoutis contends, is one reason behind the label’s superior quality….
Another distinctive aspect of the Rekoutis’ operation is the strict avoidance of concentrated seasonings and powdered ingredients, which not only detract from overall quality but can also, with their need for added water, interfere with processing. “We take our marinade ingredients right from the vendor containers: Worcestershire sauce in 240-gallon totes, Kikkoman presser-free soy sauce in 55-gallon drums,” he observes. “That’s a significant difference from mixing water into powdered ingredients to make your flavor,” a practice of the giant jerky manufacturers, he points out. It’s also a great advantage for SnackMasters when it comes to food safely. Ordering ready-to-use materials eliminates the introduction of extra moisture into an environment where one of the most serious bacterial hazards is the emergence of mold on the product….
Rekoutis also steers clear of incinerated smoke, preferring to use liquid smoke blended into the marinade. And instead of hanging the jerky in a smokehouse to dry, SnackMasters relies on Alkar ovens. When the jerky has finished cooking, employees unload it on screens from the oven. They then transfer the individual pieces by hand to trays, from which they are swept into stainless steel gondolas, where they rest until reaching room temperature. At that point, the jerky is bagged in plastic, deposited in barrels, and shuttled over to the Ceres facility for final packaging. “That procedure is very key to the quality of our product,” remarks Rekoutis. “If we were fully automated we could never put out the product we do. I don’t know of any other jerky company that goes through this process.….”
While many of the finer points of SnackMasters’ production don’t register with consumers, the results are undeniable in terms of product taste and texture.
As for competition, he invites the megabrands to enter his own territory: “Our plan is not to fight the big boys but to challenge them to put out an all-natural product,” he avows.