Hunters Biltong – The Right Taste
Hunters Biltong, a UK-based family-owned business, is set to meet the growing demand for healthy high-protein snacks.
With over 30 years of knowledge and experience in the industry, Hunter’s Biltong is a specialist in its trade. The company offers great-tasting, award-winning Biltong expertly hand-crafted from responsibly sourced, free-roaming grass-fed cattle to an authentic South African recipe, dry-cured at low temperatures the way it used to be made many years ago.
Today, headquartered in the UK, the company moved to Europe in the early 2000s, returning to where its forefathers (the Voortrekkers) left almost 200 years ago searching for new opportunities on the African continent.
“We brought with us a beef snack (Biltong) which was not readily available in the UK at the time. With our passion for Biltong and inspired by our family who has been crafting this delicious snack for generations, Hunters Biltong was established in the UK in 2002 and is still a family-run and owned business,” says CEO Dean Van Niekerk.
Today, the company offers a delicious range of authentic beef Biltong by combining traditional recipes with new dry curing methods. Crafted onsite in small batches, slices of silverside beef are added to a selection of specially prepared spices. Tumbled under vacuum to infuse the herbs with the meat, then marinated and slowly dry-air cured into the ultimate high protein, low carbohydrate beef snack.
Two beef snacks
Mr Van Niekerk explains the difference between Biltong and Jerky: both products are made from silverside beef and marinated for the same length of time, but Jerky is sliced 6 mm thick, Biltong is wider at 22 mm. Jerky is cooked and smoked in an oven at a maximum temperature of 80 °C for 4 to 6 hours. On the other hand, Biltong is dry-air cured for several days at a maximum temperature of 27 °C.
“Both products are sliced into bite-sized pieces, with Biltong having a higher protein content than Jerky. Depending on the flavour, Biltong contains less sugar than Jerky and is the healthier choice. Both products are ambient and have a shelf life of one year.”
The premium quality of Hunters’ products has been recognised many times. The company has won GOLD STARS in the ‘Great Taste Award’ organised by the Guild of Fine Foods for several consecutive years, including 2021.
“We were recently awarded six gold stars for our Jerky, Biltong and Beef stick products and are shortlisted for the best-rebranded pouch in the 2021 UK Packaging awards,” notes Dean Van Niekerk.
Speaking about the product quality, he says: “High-quality animal welfare is of primary importance to our family, which is why we source all our beef from accredited suppliers within the UK and EU. We only use prime cuts of silverside from free-range grass-fed cattle.This gives our Biltong and Jerky that unmissable flavour, which is the way beef is supposed to taste.”
The healthy trend
Today, the company produces between 4 and 5 tonnes of beef Biltong and Jerky a week and is set to grow to meet demand. According to Information Resources (IRi) estimates the current size of the UK Biltong and Jerky market is at £31m, having grown by 23% last year.
Market Data Forecast (MDF) estimated the European Meat Snack market will be worth$1.01bn this year and is estimated to grow at a CAGR of 6.85% to reach £1.41 billion by 2026.
“With the estimated growth in healthy high-protein snacks and the continued increase in our Biltong production, we are in the process of expanding our production facilities. This will give us the ability to produce a further 4 tonnes of cured Biltong per week,” affirms Dean Van Niekerk.
Not everything has been plain sailing, he admits. Brexit has made it almost impossible to export products that were selling well in Germany, the Netherlands and France.
“Hopefully, these export issues will be resolved soon. Labour is proving to be our biggest concern.
After Brexit, we have struggled to find staff willing to work in a factory environment and now face a major shortage of butchers in the UK.”
“Another current challenge, affecting most companies in any industry, is the price increase for all materials: beef has increased by up to 15% in the last two months with no end in sight and cardboard and other packaging materials have seen increases of up to 20% in the last six months.”
The dream made true
Despite the challenges, the company has recently invested over £100,000 in its production facility and a further £290,000 in new equipment, which will increase the capacity for Biltong and Jerky and facilitate some new and exciting snack innovations.
“We have the knowledge and infrastructure in place to manufacture in commercial volumes and deal directly with all major stores and distribution outlets. We are in talks with retailers and are looking to launch our new brand of Biltong and Jerky in outlets across the UK in 2022,” says Mr Van Niekerk, adding that Hunters will have a stand at IFE 2022, the International Food and Drink Event in London, hoping to catch the eye of some new UK customers and European distribution partners.
Reflecting on the development and future prospects of the company, he says: “If someone had told me ten years ago that we would be producing several tonnes of Biltong and Jerky per week, I would have laughed at them. It goes to show how hard work and determination pays off. In this respect, I must express a big thanks to my wife Belle and my son Seth who are instrumental in the day-to-day running of the business, as well as our fantastic staff members who make the magic happen.”
“With our new state-of-the-art machinery, we will be able to craft some of the finest Jerky you will taste in the UK. We are looking to broaden our range of products in the New Year by introducing a plant-based Jerky, Turkey Jerky and Pork Candy Jerky, in line with current market trends.”