Louisville Vegan Jerky
When Alex stumbled across Louisville Vegan Jerky while perusing Reddit, he immediately texted me. "New veg jerky- Looks AMAZINGGG." I was intrigued immediately. Alex and I have varying opinions on what kind of vegan meats and actually worth eating, and as someone who also doesn't eat gluten, I sometimes have a hard time finding faux meats I can even taste test. After chatting with Stanley, the guy behind the jerky, we arranged to try each of their current three flavors: Bourbon Smoked Black Pepper, Bourbon Smoked Spicy Chipotle, and Sriracha Maple. Louisville Vegan Jerky is a winner across the board- vegan, gluten-free, sourced local ingredients, amazing meaty texture, and creative flavors all in one bag. Our favorite was the savory black pepper, but the sriracha maple tasted like breakfast sausage- SO GOOD! Right now, LVJ is hosting an Indiegogo campaign to help raise funds for new packaging and to spread the jerky goodness. If you're a fan (you will be- take our word for it), consider supporting them- they're a great company! Plus, if you donate, you get all kids of great jerky goodies. Check it out here.
We had a few questions for Stanley on the jerky situation- including how to get Louisville Vegan Jerky in your local grocery store. Read on for his answers!
What was the “aha!” moment that brought you to making vegan jerky?
I moved to Louisville when I was 13 from Oahu Hawaii where my father was stationed in the Navy. We had a lot of exposure to foods like Musubi and Char Siu while living there, but they were all centered around meat. I called my dad one night back in 2012 and asked him for a Char Siu marinade recipe. Char Siu is typically bbq pork, but I was going to try to make it with some soy protein. I marinated the soy and through it in the oven forgetting to set the timer. I was watching tv when I suddenly realized it had been in the oven too long and rushed into the kitchen to find slightly burned "vegan char siu". I put the tray to the side and started on a new batch. About 30 minutes later I went into the kitchen and out of curiosity tried the overcooked char siu. It wasn't the best (as it was a little burned), but I could taste the potential immediately. I cooked the next batch with a little more care and WOW it was delicious jerky! I took a few ziplock bags up to a local bar and let people try it. Within 30 minutes people were asking me where they could purchase it. We worked on several different jerky flavors over the next few weeks and started selling it in local coffee shops and grocery stores right away.
We loved the Bourbon Smoked Black Pepper. What’s your favorite flavor?
My favorite is the Sriracha maple. The sriracha mixed with the maple just does wonderful things to your taste buds.
Can we request to get your product at our local store?
Yes! That's the way we've been able to grow into 50 stores over the last two years. I make cold calls to grocery stores all over the country based on requests we get from people that want to see it in their town.
We really dig the artwork on your bags. What’s the story behind it?
I worked in graphic design before I got into this business and my brother is an illustrator. We've worked on several different packages working our way up to the current one. I really like vegan products that take themselves seriously. Like a lot of vegan cheeses that were out in the early 2000's for example, all based their packaged on "vegan! natural! green living!". Now there are companies like Kite Hill and Dr. Cow that very nicely blend into the dairy cheese brands with wax paper and wooden containers. I love that kind of stuff. When we were putting together our packaging, we based the characters off of historic Louisville people that made an impact on the city. I like the apothecary, minimalistic look that's pretty trendy right now and kind of based the overall feel around those two ideas.
Do you have a favorite vegan spot in Louisville?
Louisville's a great town for vegans. Most restaurants have something vegan on their menu's, or will make a custom plate on requests. I really like this popular sushi/mexican restaurant called Dragon Kings Daughter. They do a ton of vegan dishes (tofu tacos, vegetable gyoza, vegan sushi rolls, etc), and they even have veganaise! I also like the Asian restaurants that all have tons of vegan options in the Highlands : The Joy Luck, La Que and Heart & Soy. I wish we had more places that were all vegan and made crazy stuff like buffalo tempeh wings, and philly cheeze steaks etc., but there are a lot of great restaurants here.
We know you have an Indiegogo campaign going, tell us how that’s going and some of your big plans for the money.
The money we raise from the Indiegogo campaign will help fund our brand new packaging. We're changing over to printed bags and had unexpected "printing plate" charges and art department fees. This Indiegogo campaign is really very different from a lot of other crowdsourcing campaigns. We're essentially selling pre-sales of our new packaging and new Sesame Teriyaki flavor. We're not looking for money to start a business or fund an idea that still needs to be developed. We're ready to roll and the people that purchase jerky through our campaign will get jerky for the dollars they pledge and things like LVJC stickers and t-shirts.
What’s your long-term goal for Louisville Vegan Jerky?
I want LVJC to be the household name for vegan jerky. I know there are other veggie jerky's out there, but I truly feel like the effort we put into our texture and ingredients makes our jerky the best brand available. I want to provide a healthy, meat free snack for people avoiding animal protein. I've always been a huge fan of vegan products and still get very excited when I see new products on the market. It's a very cool time we live in for vegan food and I love being a part of it.
Be sure to support Louisville Vegan Jerky on Facebook & Twitter, and consider donating to their Indiegogo campaign to help them reach their goal- and score some free jerky! These guys are great and make the best vegan jerky I've ever had. Thanks again to Stanley for introducing us to this seriously addictive stuff...now what're you waiting for- get yourself some jerky!