Duo works to expand beef jerky business

SEYMOUR — When he’s not assembling Ford Edge headlights at Valeo North America in Seymour, Shawn Akemon is working on expanding his beef jerky business.

The 42-year-old Scottsburg man started A and S Jerky Co. LLC in January 2020 and began selling in June.

He’s now up to five flavors and soon will have a sixth, and his products can be purchased at nearly 10 locations in the area.

His ultimate goal is to reach 10 flavors, and he wants his beef jerky available in at least 50 stores by the end of 2021. Plus, if events go on this year, he wants to sell there, too.

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One of the places his jerky can be purchased is Darlage Custom Meats in Seymour, which is where he got his meat when he first tried making jerky from home nearly five years ago.

“It started with deer jerky. It was just kind of an outlet for me to continue my culinary journey,” he said.

Akemon took culinary classes at Sullivan University in Louisville, Kentucky, and worked in nursing home kitchens for a while until deciding to return to manufacturing.

As he was starting his business, Akemon reached out to former co-worker Aaron Hacker of Columbus to be a co-owner. They had worked together at AK Tube in Walesboro.

“I brought him in, and he has been a real big help. He’s more of the retail side. He approaches most of the stores,” Akemon said. “I’m more of the online presence. I built the website, I try to drive traffic to the website, do the Facebook page, that kind of thing is more where I center myself, dealing with the packaging and dealing with all of the business side of it.”

Akemon said it took about four years for him to hone it down to where he knew he had jerky that people liked.

“I went through a lot of marinades and narrowing down what people liked in coming up with my recipes,” he said.

After starting the business, he provided his recipes and packaging to a co-packer because the jerky has to be made in a U.S. Department of Agriculture facility.

Teriyaki and Sweet and Hot were his first two flavors, and they remain his most popular sellers.

“Teriyaki is safe and everybody knows it. It’s actually the bestselling because anybody who comes up and doesn’t know what they want, they get Teriyaki,” he said. “The returning customers, it’s usually Sweet and Hot is the favorite.”

Sweet and Hot (medium), Sweet BBQ (mild) and Parental Advisory (hot) are made with the same base.

Teriyaki and Peppered are more for the traditional jerky lovers, Akemon said.

“These are made with honey, so they are still sweeter than other jerkies of the same name but much more savory than the other three,” he said.

The sixth flavor is Reaper, which is his hottest jerky. Parental Advisory and Reaper are both made with Carolina Reaper, one of the hottest peppers in the world.

“When I made (Parental Advisory) at home, I made it way hotter than this, and that’s why I’m making another flavor because when they made (Parental Advisory), I knew it was way less hot than what I normally made, but everybody who really liked hot stuff really liked it,” Akemon said.

All of the flavors, including Akemon’s favorite, Peppered, are made with solid strips of premium whole muscle beef and crosscut for tenderness.

“It’s cut across the grain, so it’s more tender than most, but it’s still tough enough to be jerky,” he said. “Its unique flavor and the texture are the two things that really kind of set it apart.”

His tagline is “Sweet jerky, perfectly balanced.”

“It’s less salty tasting than most. It’s sweeter,” Akemon said.

His next flavor will be Bourbon Salt and Pepper. He’s talking to Bear Wallow Distillery in Nashville about a partnership using its bourbon in his jerky. His products can be purchased there.

“I have several other flavors that I want to make once I get into my own place,” he said.

Besides some area stores, A and S Jerky can be purchased online at aandsjerky.com and at shows and festivals.

“It looks like we’ve got about 20 events scheduled right now that all say that they are going to go on, and we add more just about every day,” Akemon said.

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A and S Jerky Co. LLC beef jerky is available at 10 area locations, including Darlage Custom Meats in Seymour, Guitar City and Sound and The Savory Swine in Columbus and Bear Wallow Distillery in Nashville.

For more information, visit aandsjerky.com. The business also is on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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