The anti-carb, gluten-free diet trend has been a great thing for the makers of beef jerky.
In fact, according to market research firm IRI, the market for jerky has become approximately a $1.5 billion industry in the United States and beef jerky sales are up 46 percent since 2009.
That's great news for Kassandra Segars, owner of the new Columbia Beef Jerky Outlet which will celebrate its grand opening on Saturday at 1206 Bower Pkwy. off Harbison Boulevard.
"Beef jerky is the latest food craze--Americans (are) craving high-protein, low-fat snacks," said Segars, a former teacher in Lexington School District One.
Now a national chain that began with one store in Seymour, Tenn., in 2010, Beef Jerky Outlet has six founder-owned stores and 47 franchise locations in 26 states with plans to grow to more than 100 locations across the United States in the next year and a half. The shops can already be found throughout South Carolina in Greenville, Florence, Conway, Myrtle Beach and Charleston.
The Columbia location specializes in more than 200 jerky varieties and sizes, including specialty meats like kangaroo, alligator, venison and elk with flavors ranging from Moonshine to Cajun. Free samples are available to help customers navigate the jerky pool and find their favorites.
Though the official grand opening festivities are Saturday (complete with a live radio broadcast and a free-jerky-for-a-year contest), Beef Jerky Outlet is offering special deals all week, including Humpday Ham Day today with 10 percent off all ham jerky; Thirsty Thursday with a free 20-ounce drink with purchase of any bag of jerky and Fire Friday with 10 percent off anything from the store's Hot Zone jerky section.
The store plans to donate 10 percent of Saturday's gross to the Palmetto chapter of Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.