Frisco founder finds passion, launches innovative snack company

Everyone has a favorite snack, and if you asked Adam Van Cleave, beef jerky would be his first pick every time. So it’s no surprise that he developed his own snack company, Van Cleave Dry Goods, with a mission to produce the highest quality Angus beef jerky on the market, Genuine Craft Jerky. Launch had a chance to sit down with the Frisco founder, taste some jerky and learn more about his startup journey.

How It All Started

Despite having entrepreneurial pursuits early on in his life, Van Cleave pursued a career in law in Detroit, Michigan. It didn’t take him long, however, to realize that being an attorney wasn’t the best fit for him so he decided one day to uproot his life in the Motor City, move to Dallas and begin working in the supply chain industry. Soon after the move, Adam was faced with the same crossroads in his career that he experienced before and still felt the need to pursue something more so he started thinking about his next step.

Van Cleave credits his wife Carmen for inspiring him to start his path as an entrepreneur and create his own company. She gifted him with his first food dehydrator and jerky starter kit. He began to craft his own marinades and recipes and quickly discovered a deficit in the current beef jerky market. He observed that many of the current offerings lacked quality, natural ingredients and superior flavor. It was at this time that he decided to quit his logistics job and put all of his efforts into launching Van Cleave Dry Goods’ first product -Genuine Craft Jerky.

Tasty Strategies For Success

Photo Credit: Adam Van Cleave

Genuine Craft Jerky is currently offered at popular retailers such as Brookshire’s, Spec’s and Total Wine & More. The brand has quickly gained traction due to his team’s persistence and the authentic quality of the product.

But like any young company, figuring out how to affordably scale while your product grows in popularity is an important part of the journey. Van Cleave ultimately realized that he needed to use a co-packer in order to produce enough jerky to meet demand. The company is now able to fulfill the larger orders coming through the system, and it frees up Adam’s time to focus more on R&D.

I got an opportunity to meet with Van Cleave and get a sample of the popular jerky. He instructed me to open the bag and get a whiff before I took a bite. The experience felt similar to a wine tasting where you are instructed to smell the wine first, then sip. I never thought about this concept applying to snack foods let alone beef jerky. This illustrates Van Cleave’s unique approach to his jerky in general – food should be an experience.

Photo Credit: Adam Van Cleave

Along with creating memorable experiences, Van Cleave has also focused on naming. He modeled the names of his jerky to the style often used by craft breweries. Utilizing quirky names like “G-Dub” and “Type X” separates his product from the traditional jerky brands.

He also stays up to date on ingredient trends in the culinary world and uses those trends to inspire the creation of new, unique marinades and flavors.

Moving forward, Van Cleave is building partnerships with various breweries in the DFW area to assist in establishing Van Cleave Dry Goods as a craft foods company. He hopes to eventually incorporate beer into his marinades to create co-branded flavors for a truly innovative beef jerky.

Photo credit: Adam Van Cleave

Van Cleave’s journey proves that following your dreams (and your tastebuds) can be the ultimate reward if you have the guts to go all in. Genuine Craft Jerky comes in three different flavors in order of “heat” level: the original and mild “G-Dub”, “Spicy G-Dub” (my personal favorite) and the hottest of the three “Type-X”.

Sam Schafer

Storyteller - Spotify peruser - Traveler Instagram: @sam_schafer27