The vegan jerky – an emulsified, extruded and dehydrated product with a chewy texture, a savory flavor and 8g protein per serving – is designed to sit within the jerky set, rather than the seaweed snacks segment, which is dominated by roasted nori, a different kind of seaweed typically farmed in Japan, China and South Korea.
Beyond the Shoreline’s product, by contrast, uses sugar kelp (brown macroalgae/seaweed farmed off the northeast coast of the US), explained co-founder Courtney Boyd Myers, who became a seaweed enthusiast after advising a non-profit called Greenwave, which is on a mission to “build a new blue green economy” by training fishermen to grow seaweeds and shellfish in ocean farms that require zero inputs (fertilizer, fresh water, and) while sequestering carbon and rebuilding reef ecosystems.
“I was eating the kelp from these farms and I was just blown away and started becoming obsessed with it,” she told FoodNavigator-USA.
“I was helping Greenwave with fundraising but I started thinking what can I do beyond this, and Bren [Smith, the founder of Greenwave] said we need help creating a consumer market for kelp.
“So I started working with food scientists and chefs and I came across an amazing chef called Will Horowitz [who later joined Beyond the Shoreline as chef/co-founder], and he blew me away with recipes for jerky, burgers and sausages.”
What is kelp? A member of the brown algae family, sugar kelp (Saccharina latissimi) is high in fiber, and contains vitamins A, B1, B2, C, D and E, iodine, calcium (unusual for a plant), zinc, magnesium, iron, potassium, and copper.
Kelp is gaining traction
But will retailers and investors think this is the start of a something big, or a niche product that will impress foodies in the East Village, but will be regarded with suspicion by everyone else?
It’s early days, acknowledged Boyd Myers, who is planning "quite a lot of instore demo-ing” when the jerky (MSRP $3.99/1.5oz bag) hits the market next year, and will be co-packing the product in Maine or Connecticut.
But the fact that seaweed snacks are now sold in every major retailer in the US proves that Americans are willing to try new things, while growing interest in plant-based proteins, and Millennials’ enthusiasm for brands with an environmental or social mission, also suggest Beyond the Shoreline has the potential to make it, she said.
“Kelp is also in high demand in restaurants now, universities are buying it, Google’s buying it, farmers are using it in feed, it can be used in fertilizer and also as a biofuel.”
On a more practical note, the fact that the start-up – which has just raised $10k on crowdfunding platform PieShell – has also attracted funding from angel investors, also proves that supporters have been willing to put their money where their mouth is, she pointed out.
There was further validation last week, after the brand – which debuted at the Summer Fancy Food Show - scooped the judges’ choice award at Rabobank’s FoodBytes event in Austin.
Beyond the Shoreline’s kelp jerky, which is sweetened with monkfruit, is naturally high in fiber and low in fat and calories. To make it, says co-founder Courtney Boyd Myers, “We blanch the kelp, freeze it, then defrost it and mix it with mushrooms and other ingredients. It's then emulsified, extruded and dehydrated.”
Jerky is just the beginning
From a pricing perspective, the good news is that “as the industry grows, our #1 product cost gets cheaper every year. When I first started working on this, kelp was $12/lb and now it’s $4/lb,” said Boyd Myers, who will initially be selling the jerky through the company website, but is hoping to deals with other online retailers such as Thrive Market and Amazon, before getting into bricks and mortar stores.
“We want to go really heavy online as this is a shelf stable product [with a 12-month shelf-life] that’s really easy to ship, but we also see this doing well in really cool health stores and bodegas and specialty retail stores in New York, Boston and L.A. We’ve had tons of conversations [with retailers] and they’ve all been extremely positive.
“Jerky is just the beginning; we’ve already got recipes in development for burgers, sausages, instant seaweed stews and vegan bone broth and we want to establish Beyond the Shoreline as a household brand for sea green based products.”
Listen to feedback, but stick to your guns
So what has she learned thus far from her first foray into the food industry?
“The importance of sticking to my guns,” said Boyd Myers, who observed that as an entrepreneur, especially if you’re a woman, you can expect to hear from a lot of people very confidently telling you to change your brand, your packaging, your strategy and your product.
Which is fine, she said, entrepreneurs absolutely need to listen to people that have been there and done that.
“But at the end of the day, you set your vision, you listen to all the feedback, but you go with your gut.”