Snack Jack: The Jerky of the Future
Local start-up debuts plant-based jackfruit jerky
By Alisha McDarris,
5:00PM, Mon. Feb. 12, 2018
Plant-based jerky isn’t a revolutionary concept. Several brands have been selling their delicious meat-free dried treats for quite some time, but there’s a new player in the game and they’re from right here in Austin. Snack Jack is a brand new start-up, but this company making the world’s first vegan jerky from jackfruit is bound for success.
If you’ve never heard of jackfruit, it probably just means you don’t spend much time with meat-free folks chowing down on delicious exotic produce. For the uninitiated: Jackfruit is that lumpy, green, gourd-like fruit about the size of your three-year-old niece. You might have passed one in an Asian market and, among other things, jackfruit makes a killer barbecue pulled pork substitute.
Diana Dussan, Snack Jack chef and co-owner, decided to try using jackfruit for jerky after the idea came to her during a kayaking trip in 2016. She wasn’t certain of the ingredients, or what the process would look like, but she knew where she wanted to start. “It had to be vegan, it had to give back to the community in some way, and it had to be good for people,” Dussan said.
She bought the cheapest used dehydrator she could find online and started experimenting, despite having never eaten jackfruit or using a dehydrator. Much to her surprise, it worked, and she had a unique and tasty product on her hands.
To negate any bias, she had non-vegan friends and family give her some feedback. Most of them loved it, and didn’t even believe it wasn’t meat. It tasted like jerky, it looked like jerky, but most importantly, it bit like jerky with a truly impressive tear, giving consumers a mountain man jaw workout.
There’s a vegan and paleo-vegan line with flavors like pepper and sweet chili and it’s chock full of fiber, potassium, even protein. Plus, by using jackfruit, Snack Jack aims to help alleviate some of the havoc wrought by the invasive species on South American rainforests. “If we can use it up, maybe we can back it up out of the rainforest,” Dussan said.
Snack Jack launched in December and, for now, it can be found at the Texas Farmers Market at Mueller on Sundays, the Wandering Vegan Market on the first Saturday of every month, and the Vegan Stop Shop in San Antonio. But Diana and her brother, co-owner Julian Dussan, are dreaming big with hopes of not only supplying local restaurants and specialty stores soon, but ramping up production to line shelves at Central Market and beyond.