Business Name: Mr. Biltong Beef Jerky Company Website: https://mrbiltong.ca/ Established: 2020 Questions answered by: Jen Effa
Can you please fully explain your business or product line?
Mr. Biltong makes a different style of beef jerky that is cured and air-dried slowly at low temperatures, using techniques that originated in Southern Africa over 400 years ago. With a unique spice blend and a minimum of preservatives, Mr. Biltong offers a healthier and tastier alternative to conventional beef jerky. We are also very proud that all of our products are made in Winnipeg using only Manitoba beef.
Mr. Biltong makes two different styles of beef jerky:
Biltong, which is dried in large steak-sized pieces, then sliced thinly across the grain. This results in a tender finished product, with a rich, meaty taste that is best described as a cross between prosciutto and conventional jerky.
Stokkies, which use the same spices as the biltong, but are cut into thin strips before seasoning and drying, resulting in a drier and chewier finished product (similar in texture to conventional jerky), perfect for those who want a mouth work-out!
All of our jerkies are available in four different flavours: Original, Spicy Cayenne, Red-Hot Habanero and Teriyaki.
In addition to the jerky, Mr. Biltong also makes boerewors; a traditional beefy South African farmer’s sausage. Made fresh with no preservatives using only Manitoba-raised meats, our “boerie” recipe is based on coriander and black pepper, with added nutmeg, cloves, and allspice, so it is quite savoury.
With the Winnipeg local maker community continuing to grow, what is the most important thing you’d like potential customers of your company to know?
Mr. Biltong’s beef jerky is tastier than conventional jerky, and with less salt, fewer preservatives, and almost no sugar, it is better for you. Most importantly, we use only Manitoba beef in all of our products, so by supporting us, you are also supporting local farmers.
What inspired you to start your business?
While living in South Africa back in the late 2000s for work, I discovered biltong and fell in love with it…and ate quite a lot of it! Biltong wasn’t really available in Winnipeg back then, so before I moved back home, I learned how to make it for myself, just so that I could feed my own addiction. I spent several years playing with different recipes and was eventually able to recreate the flavour of my favourite biltong from Johannesburg.
After making biltong for about a decade primarily for myself, I started making bigger batches and sharing it with friends, family & co-workers, who always gave it rave reviews. I saw an opportunity, and I wanted to share my love of biltong with more people, plus I figured that starting a side business would allow me to subsidize the cost of my own consumption. Thus, the Mr. Biltong Beef Jerky Company was born!
What was the biggest struggle you’ve had to overcome?
The biggest challenge we faced was regulatory approval. The traditional biltong-making process isn’t recognized in Canada and it was difficult to make changes to our process to comply with local regulations while still maintaining the flavour and texture we had developed.
After this, the next hurdle was to increase customer awareness, since most people had never heard of biltong before and had no idea what it was!
What has been your biggest success as a maker?
Mr. Biltong has won a couple of awards – a bronze medal in the Great Manitoba Food Fight (2017), and Favourite Local Product from Food and Beverage Manitoba (2019) – which is great, but the thing that really makes us feel successful is when a South African tells us how much they love our products or how much it reminds them of home.
Do you have any advice that you would pass on to someone hoping to start up their own business or product line?
Pick something that you are passionate about because this will help keep you motivated during the long hours and difficult times, plus your passion will shine through to potential customers and will help sell the product. Get input on your idea from friends and family and adjust to suit them if you can; they represent your possible future customers and it’s about what they actually want, not what you think they should want. Lastly, remember that you don’t need to (and probably can’t) appeal to everyone, so find a niche and fill it with excellence, you can branch out later.
Please share any upcoming events as well as the best place(s) for people to purchase your product!
We will be at the Scattered Seeds and Third + Bird markets in the fall/winter, but follow us on social media for other events that we attend before then. Also, visit mrbiltong.ca or visit one of our local retailers to pick up a snack for your next road trip!