Beef Jerky Entrepreneur Brian Levin Wants You to ‘Jerk It’ with Perky Jerky
Whether you’re driving from New York to D.C., Chicago to St. Louis, or L.A. to Vegas, almost every road trip has the same checklist: a reliable, well-tuned car; a map; a good playlist that includes Tom Cochrane’s “Life is a Highway”; a strong cup of coffee; and a robust packet of beef jerky. The combination of beef jerky and a strong cup of coffee is perhaps the ultimate driving food combination; the coffee keeps you alert and focused for the long-haul and beef jerky is available at every gas station and truck stop in the country, providing just enough sustenance and protein to hold you offer until you find the nearest Waffle House.
Unfortunately, pounding a sugary energy drink or a Big Gulp of coffee in the car increases the frequency of pee-breaks. So Brian Levin, a Colorado-based entrepreneur and Wharton alum, came up with a solution that blends the best of both road-trip necessities: caffeinated beef jerky. The idea was born when a can of Red Bull busted in a backpack while skiing, soaking into a coveted stash of beef jerky. Four years since trying the accidental concoction on a ski lift, Levin’s company has garnered significant national buzz with “Perky Jerky,” which Levin tauts as “the filet mignon of beef jerky.” You may recall it being the butt-end of a Conan O’Brien joke last summer. This July, Levin will be navigating his “Jerk Mobile” — a long-time staple in Colorado mountain towns — eastward to the Hamptons, where he plans on getting “nickel bags” of Perky Jerky in the hands of A-list models and taking his brand to the next level. We caught up with Levin to discuss the origins of “Perky Jerky,” why it’s an ideal snack for any Bro with an active lifestyle, and his plans for a dubiously titled event known as”The Great American Jerk Off.”
BroBible: How did ‘Perky Jerky’ come about?
Brian Levin: Well, like all good things, completely accidental. Matt Keiser, my partner and my old college roommate, were big skiers and we liked to get a little bit of extra energy and sustenance so, after a big night of partying, we would be ready to go out for a powder day the next day. We would put together a backpack with supplies that we needed to go out in the snow. There were two required objects: beef jerky and Red Bull. Low and behold, when we were on the chairlift and having a little snack, the Red Bull can opened and spilled into the back of jerky. Rather than throw it away, the first thing we did was eat it. It wasn’t so bad! That’s sort of how we came up with the idea for “Perky Jerky.”
How much actual caffeine is in a pack of “Perky Jerky?”
A. Well, “Perky Jerky” is flavored with guarana. Guarana is a tropical fruit from Brazil that is like a cousin of the coffee bean. It’s a natural caffeine source. We actually make no claim over the amount of caffeine in the product.
Would you say that eating “Perky Jerky” would be the equivalent of any cup of coffee or energy drink?
For that you would have to ask different people. We get different reactions all the time. Because you are metabolizing all this with protein it tends to give you a boost that is more steady than any energy drink. It’s not as up and down; it’s there for the long haul.
Is Perky Jerky habit-forming?
Well, it’s been known to become habitual. And, like all good things, we say make sure you jerk in moderation. But people follow the philosophy that nothing succeeds like excess.
How did the concept catch on?
It took us four years to create something. We wanted to take beef jerky upscale. This is definitely more like the filet mignon of beef jerky. Even though we call it the “action-packed snack,” it’s also the best jerky out there, hands down. It’s more tender than the stuff you get at the gas station. It’s all natural ingredients, so it’s not pumped up with MSG and nitrates, the kind of crap that should be in the gas. We are taking it upscale, raising the roof of beef jerky.
Our biggest customer base is actually female. Women tend to eat jerky, but keep it in the closet. Since [Perky Jerky] is more upscale and it’s high protein and low carb and low fat, it’s almost like Dexatrim, the diet aid. It’s picking up with the hot model crowd.
That’s why “Perky Jerky” is in the hands of the hot model crowd?
Yeah. Our one-ounce package is only 90 calories. It’s better than a 100- calorie pack of Pringles with only two chips.
How is the product great for anyone with an active lifestyle, say in a skiing or mountain-town culture?
That’s where we started out, that’s where it resonates. But we have everything from traders, troops, truckers, and triathletes. And, of course, women. It goes very well with anyone who does active or endurance sports. And it’s light to carry if you have a lot of crap in your bag. Cab drivers and pilots love it because they get the energy and don’t need to stop and take a piss all the time. Anything where your driving and on the clock.
We hear your cruising around Colorado in a jerky mobile?
The Jerk Mobile.
Nice. How much of a chick magnet is that?
Oh man, with great power comes great responsibility. You always have to be ready with a nickel bag of jerky.
Is that how people ask for it, nickel bags of jerky?
That’s how we give it out free. Everybody asks for a sample, so when your driving you need to master a left-handed flick.
What about cops? They must be hitting you up for nickel bags all the time.
Well the good news is when you get pulled over, it’s only to get a sample. I think it’s like police protection. We are so confident in our jerky and it’s taste that we’re going to be doing a big taste test against all the other jerkies out there. It will be called “The Great American Jerk Off” and we will win.