Investing in the Future of Food: How Ayoba-Yo is educating Americans about a South African staple

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Introducing consumers to a new brand isn’t easy, but when the product is an entirely new concept, this challenge is magnified ten-fold, as illustrated by the struggles startup Ayoba-Yo experienced trying to explain biltong to American shoppers.

In this episode of FoodNavigator-USA’s Investing in the Future of Food, the entrepreneurs behind the South African inspired brand explain how they tackle consumer education and how being a part of Kraft Heinz’s Springboard incubator is helping them improve their communication.

“Biltong, first of all, is a South African product, and it is very popular in South Africa. Just like coffee over here is at every supermarket and every convenient store, biltong is in every butchery, every grocery store. It is widely available,”​ said Emil van Blommestein, co-owner of Ayoba-Yo.

“What makes biltong special is we use a unique set of spices and also premium cuts of beef and we air dry the product versus cooking it in an oven at a low temperature for eight hours. It is air dried for 14 days.”

The air drying allows the muscle fiber to remain more intact, which means more protein than most other beef jerky products, he added.

In addition, the brand doesn’t use any MSG, nitrates, soy, fillers or sugar – the last of which sets it apart from most beef jerky on the market, van Blommestein said.

The idea of biltong and the brand is that they are both larger than a protein-packed snack – they are something to be excited about and to share with others as a more sophisticated, nutritious alternative to everyday beef jerky, van Blommestein said.

This ethos also is reflected in the company name, added Wain van Blommestein, who is the other co-founder. “Ayoba-Yo is a slang term colloquially from South Africa. If you like something or you are excited about something, that is ayoba-yo. So, it is a term to express agreement and excitement. So, if you like our product, you say this product is ayoba-yo!”

Ecommerce provides more space to explain products

Conveying such a rich cultural history and points of differentiation from other jerky on the market to Americans who may never have heard of biltong is one of the most challenging aspects the co-founders say they face.

One way that they help consumers understand what their product is and its benefits is to use ecommerce, which allows them to provide additional context alongside images of the package versus in stores where consumers only have what is on the package to go off, van Blommestein said.

Consumer data helps team zero in on key claims

The brand also is using consumer data from Kraft Heinz’s Springboard to identify the best ways to communicate its main messages on the product packaging.

“We are working on kind of revamping our packaging right now, a little bit, and that is something that Springboard has helped us with. They have opened up a lot of data to us so we and kind of understand consumer trends a little bit more and understand what consumers truly want to see, and we are able to portray that on the packaging better,”​ van Blommestein said.

Elements of the current package that the duo wants to retain in the redesign include the brown boarder around the pouch that recalls the craft paper that butchers in South Africa would use to wrap biltong at purchase. In addition, the packaging calls out in large font on the center that the product is beef based and sugar-free. They also give premium real estate to making the product in the USA from an authentic South African recipe.

Ultimately, van Blommestein said, “We wanted it to be visually appealing, we want to make sure it stands out from the other packages and make sure the consumer understands what is inside, so they are not confusing it with beef jerky.”

Investing in the Future of Food: A new series from FoodNavigator-USA

The food and beverage industry is experiencing a renaissance and it seems like everyone wants in on the action – resulting in a huge influx of funds into the space and slew of innovative new startups coming to market with innovative products.

In this new series from FoodNavigator-USA we will try to answer these questions and others by looking at how different players are investing in the future of food, what besides money it takes for startups to succeed and how entrepreneurs are using these resources to get ahead.

Check-out past installments, including:

Advice from Kraft Heinz’s Springboard on crafting the perfect pitch 

Poppilu balances ambition with fundamentals for long term success

Join us in the coming weeks to find out what investors, brand builders, other iconic food manufacturers and entrepreneurs see as the path forward for the food and beverage industry and what it takes to succeed in the increasingly competitive space.

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