So you have an awesome beef jerky recipe and all your mates think your beef jerky is the best and way better than the commercial stuff
– so what next?
You want to start your own beef jerky business.
This is a common thought for many DIY jerky gurus, so before you start selling your beef jerky commercially, let’s take a look at what is required to start your own beef jerky business in Australia.
The first thing to consider when starting any business is the business structure. Getting this right from day one will save you a lot of trouble and money if you have to change your structure once well established.
Although it might be hard to know how the business will perform in the future, there will be some clear indicators initially as it what the best structure is for your business.
Most beef jerky businesses will start as a sole operation as many of the day to day operations can be run by a single person. However, if you plan to scale, consider whether you will need to register for gst, or hire staff.
Common types of business structures ideal for a beef jerky business are:
- Sole Trader
- Limited Liability Company
Running the business as a sole trader is a perfectly fine way to operate. Normally, sole trader is the best business structure for a small-scale beef jerky production company. This is especially true if you have a modest startup capital.
If your goal is to grow your business and distribute your jerky across the country or even overseas, then a sole trader may not be the best option.
The benefits of running your jerky business as a sole trader are:
- It is easy to set up, inexpensive and maintain.
- You are fully in control of the direction and management of your business.
- All profits and assets of your business are yours.
- It is easier to manage paperwork than other business structures.
- You don’t have to reveal your profits to the public, unlike companies.
- Greater privacy Tax-wise, it is easy to manage (profits are subject to the individual income tax rate of the owner).
- Retained earnings are not used to increase tax complexity.
- It is easy to dissolve the business.
- If you decide to sell your business, any gains after tax are retained.
If you have a mate who you want to run the jerky business with then a partnership may be a better option.
Partnerships have many advantages
- It is easier to form partnerships than businesses and they are also less costly.
- Partner may continue to do business under the trading (business name).
- Partnerships bring together the expertise and resources of many people.
- Partnerships are easy to manage. The ‘partnership agreement” specifies how profits and losses will be divided between partners.
- Partnerships are not required to reveal their profits to the public like companies (i.e. Greater privacy It is easy to change the legal structure (i.e. It is easy to convert a partnership into an entity at a later stage.
Limited Liability Company
A limited liability company will protect you from personal liability. You are only responsible for the money you have invested in the company. This is not true for partnerships and sole proprietorships. Limited liability companies are easier to manage and require fewer formalities than operating as a trust.
Advantages of a company include:
- In general, shareholders are only liable for the loss of the shares they own and not responsible for any company debts.
- Limited liability
- Legal arrangements are in company name and not directors or managers.
- Because company shares can be transferred, the business structure provides continuity in management and ownership in case of death or disability.
- Companies pay less tax than individuals.
Trusts provide asset protection and limit liability related to the business.
Benefits of a trust include:
- Trusts are a way to separate ownership of assets from their owners. This can be beneficial for protecting income and assets of young people or families.
- For tax purposes, trusts can be very flexible. A discretionary trust allows for flexibility in the distributions of capital gains and income among beneficiaries.
- Trust debts are not usually liable to beneficiaries, unlike partnerships or sole traders.
- Trust beneficiaries pay income tax at their marginal rates on income received from trusts.
Learn more about business structures and starting a business in Australia.
When starting a new business there is generally large expenses when starting up. This is applicable to a beef jerky business, however, there are many ways to reduce intial costs and still create a commercial beef jerky business.
The main expenses will be:
- Food Safety Program
- State food license
- Kitchen rent
- Insurance premiums
- and most importantly, Meat
To reduce costs, start small, and reinvest profits from jerky sales to slowly expand the business. If you have a good product, you should be able to gain new customers along with selling to repeat customers. This combination will see revenue slowly compound.
The cost to start a jerky business will vary greatly depending on how you manage your production. Budgeting at between $5000 – $10,000 will allow you to purchase several small dehydrators, obtain the required licensing, and rent some space at an existing commercial kitchen.
If you plan on leasing your own kitchen straight away, then be prepared for additional expenses involved in having your own kitchen lease (insurances, pest control, rubbish removal, fire safety and more)
For more information on the costs involved, see our article on how much it costs to start a beef jerky business.
If you want to fast track your jerky business then it would be best seeking finance. There are many finance options available for small businesses.
Licensing / Council Approvals
Making jerky at home and giving it away to friends and family is great, however if you want to sell commercially, then there are quite a number of licensing requirements. As mentioned earlier, these can be costly to setup and take some time to produce (food safety program)
The 2 main requirements to consider is a state food safety license or procedure, and council approval.
Food Safety Program
In order to legally make jerky for commercial sale in Australia you are required to have a food safety program in place. Each states requirements will vary and the actual name of the licence may be different from state to state. The food safe license will ensure that your processes and production facility to produce jerky meet the states safety requirements.
There is alot of information to cover regarding a food license for a jerky business, please visit the Food licensing for a beef jerky business article
Part of being compliant is having a suitable council approved kitchen facility. Working from a home kitchen will not be allowed in many states – see kitchen space. In the Brisbane City Council region, the kitchen must be zoned appropriately for commerical production (light industrial/commercial). This would be the case in many councils however it is best to contact your local council directly.
When starting out, we recommend working from an existing approved food production kitchen. This way you can benefit from the approval already in place and it will save you money. Consider a cafe after hours, football club kitchen or a shared kitchen facility
Running a business comes with many risks, and a beef jerky business is no exception. Selling food to the public comes with it a new set of risks that you must be aware of and be prepared for. Having the necessary insurance in place in the case of a food borne illness will protect yourself and business from disaster.
If you are working from your own kitchen space, then it will be a requirement in your lease that insurance be in place. Public liability insurance is the most common, however the type of insurance required will vary depending whether there is a retail front, public access, glass windows etc.
Learn more about business insurance in this article – Insurance requirements for food business
For more detailed advice it’s best to speak to an insurance broker and they will tailor a package to suit your requirements.
Recommended small business insurance brokers
- Brisbane small business insurance
- Sydney small business insurance
- Melbourne small business insurance
- Perth small business insurance
Many beef jerky companies start from humble beginnings experimenting with recipes in their own home kitchen. This is great if you are just making jerky for family and friends, however to product jerky commercially you require an approved kitchen space.
The definition of an approved kitchen space will vary from state to state based on your local council requirements, however, producing commercial jerky from a standard home kitchen is not allowed.
It is possible though to setup a home beef jerky business, however the production area or kitchen space will need to be a dedicated area and meet all council requirements for food production.
Many states will consider jerky production as a high risk process similar to a butcher shop, so the licensing requirement can be quite strict. It’s best to way up the costs of setting up a home kitchen versus renting a space.
Many states will have dedicated kitchen co-working spaces which can be rented by the hour, or more long term. These are great options when starting out to keep expenses low.
Think outside the box, and consider a venue that does not use it’s kitchen full time. A few other kitchen space options include:
- Football or local sporting club
Making jerky on a small scale doesn’t require much equipment, however, if you want to scale and create a business then you are going to need to invest in specialty equipment to manage production, packaging and logistics.
Without going into too much detail here, here is a quick checklist of the core equipment every beef jerky maker should have.
- Quality knife. Usually at least 2 sizes, one for trimming, one for slicing
- Containers. Lots of large BPA free sealable tubs
- Large fridge to store both raw meat and marinated meat.
- Dehydrators. You can get away with having small units, and just keep adding more as required.
- Meat slicer. Slicing meat by hand will become a slow and tiresome.
- Heat sealer. Once the jerky is packed, it needs to be sealed
- Date/batch labeller. Food safety requirement
- Tape gun. Tape up boxes for deliveries
For a complete breakdown, check out our article on Must have equipment to start a beef jerky business
Sourcing Meat / Ingredients
You can’t make beef jerky without meat and ingredients, so best to get these two sorted from day 1. Sure you can go to Coles or Woolies and grab a topside roast, soy sauce and other dry ingredients, but this is going to cost you profits and also be a time consuming process.
With meat prices constantly rising, it’s best to source your meat wholesale. Contact your local butcher and see what price they can do on a whole topside. You will find it will be much cheaper than buying 1kg portions from the supermarket. You should be able to get a 5kg topside from a butcher, and they may even slice it for you. Cost will vary between $14 – $18/kg.
Going direct to a wholesaler will save you even more money, but be aware, you will most likely have to buy more. Most topside beef will come in a 18kg to 22kg which is usually 4 cryovac portions. Average cost may be as low as $12/kg.
For ingredients it’s best to buy in bulk. There are many companies around Australia where you can buy bulk spices and soy sauce online and have them delivered the next day. Companies to consider include Moco Foods in Brisbane region, Bidfood, PFD.
Once you have volume, consider getting your spice mixes or marinades professionally mixed by an ingredients blender. This will save on time and money and make a massive change to your production process.
Packaging and Labeling Requirements
Packaging can really set your jerky apart from the crowd. However, it can also be costly, especially in small volumes.
Maintaining a good profit margin is the key for any business, so you don’t want to over capitilise on your packaging.
Buying in bulk where you can is the way to go and this can apply to jerky packets and labels.
To keep costs down when starting the best option is purchasing some simple plain coffee pouches. These can be purchased in a range of sizes and will have a low minimum order quantity (moq). A packet with a foil liner will keep your jerky fresh.
Jerky Labels / Stickers
Buy using stickers or labels instead of printed bags will also allow you to keep your quantities and expenses low. Most sticker companies will charge per 1000 labels, however if you print 2000 the price will be reduced dramatically.
Food safety requirements
It is law that your packaging includes the following information:
- nutritional panel
- net weight of product
- use by / batch number
- address/contact details
Generate a nutritional panel using the Food Standards Australia Nutritional Calculator
Website and eCommerce
Once you have a product you need to sell it. The easiest however time consuming is to do the hard yards and visit as many retailers as possible in person. This is only viable for so long and you will need to venture to online sales.
To see jerky online you will need:
A domain name is your address on the internet, ie jerkybusiness.com.au
This is one of the first things you should register (after your business structure has been setup). For Australia it’s best to register a .com.au and the new .au domain extension. If the .com is available then secure that also.
Learn more about registering a domain name here
You don’t need to go crazy with a website. Keep it simple and easy to manage. You will be busy enough with all other aspects of the business, so you don’t need more tasks. There are many services such as WordPress, WIX, Squarespace and Shopify that will allow you have a website up and running in no time. Then you can post blogs, showcase your products and more.
Learn more about building a website for your small business
Unless you are going to handle sales offline, then having an ecommerce store is vital to growing your jerky business.
Many websites will have built in ecommerce facilities and allow for an online store to be setup in a few clicks connected to payment gateways such as Paypal and Stripe.
Sites like Shopify make it very easy to get an online store setup in minutes and very cost effective.
Just remember, what you can save by not spending on a website you can put towards online advertising and promoting your brand.
To accept credit cards online you will need a payment gateway. The most common are:
Setting up an account is quick and easy as long as you have the correct documentation for your business setup/structure.
Once you have an account setup, you can connect it to your ecommerce/online store provider.
Learn more about accepting payments online.
Marketing & Sales
Once you have your jerky product made, packaged and ready for sale you need to market it. The quickest ways to get your product to market is:
- farmers markets, market stall
- social media / instagram / facebook
- paid marketing
Consider some prizes or giveaways online via Facebook or Instagram. Get people sharing your promotion. Team up with other local small businesses to do joint promotions. Get your product included in sample bags.
Google Ads, Facebook Ads and Instagram promotions are one of the quickest ways to get your product seen, however it can quickly get expensive.
Learn more about marketing for your small business
Q. Is it expensive to start a beef jerky business?
Starting a beef jerky business doesn’t have to be expensive. You can setup a business quite easily and for under $500, however, if you want to rent your own kitchen space, printed packaging and do marketing then it can cost upwards of $10,000
Q. Can I make beef jerky at home and sell it?
Yes and no. You can make jerky at home and commercially sell it IF your home kitchen meats all your local and state licensing requirements. Many states will not allow for commercial home kitchens.
Q. What is the markup on beef jerky?
The markup on beef jerky is anywhere from 50 to 100%. Keep in mind, the cost of meat is regularly increasing as to electricity, rates and staffing costs. It is becoming more and more expensive to produce beef jerky.