Jim's Jerky | Celebrating Australian Food and Agribusiness Innovations 2021
As it did for many small businesses, 2020 proved to be a testing time for Jim’s Jerky. The arrival of COVID-19, lockdowns and restricted retail — combined with escalating raw material costs — had a negative bearing on revenues.
That downswing was a turning point for the company, as it became clear that a lack of diverse routes to market had left them unwittingly exposed. Jim’s Jerky had three established retail channels: a shopfront frequented by travellers, a solid national calendar of agricultural shows and the company’s retail website. While the wholesale business was still moving along, the overnight loss of two retail avenues caused a notable decline in sales and highlighted the inherent risk.
Success of the Australian beef industry and a period of sustained drought had also put pressure on supply, with prices for the quality cuts used in the company’s jerky products skyrocketing. Knowing there was little wiggle room in that product format, the team revisited an earlier development idea. They began working on a concept that utilises secondary cuts of beef to deliver an innovative new snacking product. This has the dual advantage of using less sought-after cuts, which increases overall value of the animal carcass and creates a better industry outcome.
Product details are a closely guarded secret while commercialisation trials are finalised, but the process was accelerated through funding provided by FIAL. For CEO Emily Pullen, that assistance has helped futureproof the business.
“Working with FIAL allowed us to fund development and accelerate innovation. For small businesses, things like comprehensive product testing are nice-to-haves, but realistically not always financially achievable. We’ve put funding toward a program that’s delivered strong consumer sentiment and feedback, giving us confidence that we’re developing a product the market actually wants.
“That support means we can work on a new concept and innovate while still running our day- to-day operations — a hard balance to achieve. It means we can maintain our focus on serial innovation, ensuring we remain relevant, and keeping our customers interested,” she said.