By CAITLIN CROWLEY
DARLING Downs family-owned business Jim’s Jerky is celebrating a monumental milestone after sending its very first export shipment of Australian beef jerky to Japan.
While exporting has been a key goal for the company in recent years, Jim Tanner said he never dreamed his jerky would be tasted by international consumers when he co-founded Jim’s Jerky with his wife Cathie almost 18 years ago.
“When I cast my mind back to when we first started, the difficulty we had in even getting anyone to try and taste it,” Tanner said.
“We’ve had false starts before and attempts before, and to actually have packages going, it was a bit surreal.”
Tanner’s daughter and company CEO Emily Pullen said there was a lot of excitement and a sense of relief around finally achieving their export goal.
“We’ve been banging on about export for probably 4-5 years, so there’s a certain amount of relief that we’ve got it done,” Pullen said.
“Even though it’s such a modest order, you still have to have all the same processes in place as if you were sending a 40 ft reefer.
“It’s really a difficult process to go through to get yourself aligned with all of the requirements and then to actually connect with retailers.
“It’s difficult in Australia for a whole heap of reasons, then you just transplant that to a different country, different language, different culture.
“It’s a far trickier, multi-faceted landscape than we ever considered when we first started.”
Jim’s Jerky has sent four cartons of its original flavour beef jerky and biltong to be sampled by Japanese consumers, who have a reputation for paying top dollar for Australia’s clean, green and traceable beef.
“We’re working with an Australian company who works in the e-commerce market, so it’s going to be featured on a site that specialises in premium, imported products,” Emily said.
“They’re testing the market with those two products to see if there’s an appetite for it, which is a really nice, sustainable way of testing the market and then if we get really good feedback, we’ll hopefully grow that footprint.”
General Manager of TSBE Food Leaders Australia, Justin Heaven, said exporting to Japan was a fantastic achievement.
“Japan is a mature market for the red meat industry and a target market for Australian businesses,” Heaven said.
“Australian red meat is very popular in Japan and this is a great opportunity for them to grow their global market.”
Jim’s Jerky took part in Shell’s QGC Emerging Exporters Program, delivered by Food Leaders Australia, back in 2018.
The business has evolved from direct-to-customer sales from its shopfront and popular show stalls to a thriving online business and most recently, cracking major wholesale markets including service stations United and Puma, and Woolworths in Queensland.
“When mum and dad first started, beef jerky or protein snacking was not that well-known in Australia but that’s certainly changed,” Emily Pullen said.
She said she’d seen an explosion of jerky brands, particularly in the last five years, but that market growth had helped Jim’s grow alongside an increasing appetite for protein snacks.
Having cleared its first export hurdle, Jim’s Jerky is setting its sights on more international markets, exploring options with Wellcamp Airport, just 13kms from the company’s Charlton factory, its home and headquarters for the foreseeable future.
“We’ve had a meeting with a possible importer from Vietnam via that connection and that’s really exciting and we’re working on that at the moment,” Pullen said.
“If we could match our domestic sales with our export sales, that would be a really nice, sustainable way to grow the business.
“It feels a little bit pipe-dreamy at the moment but when we first started doing our paperwork for export we didn’t think we’d be sending four cartons to Japan.”
While Jim Tanner himself is starting to think about stepping back from the business, he said he had “optimistic goals” for its future, particularly under his daughter’s leadership.
“It needs new, young, enthusiastic people in the business to make that continue to grow,” Tanner said.
“Over the next 10 years, I think we won’t be known just as a beef jerky company. We’ll be pushing into alternative snacks.
“If you take the blinkers off at just producing beef jerky and look at what else we can make, it opens up a huge amount of opportunity here and overseas.
“That’s the way we’re looking to push the business, with Em’s energy.”