First Stage Investor

New Pick: Healthy, High-Quality Snacks You Can Feel Good About

New Pick: Healthy, High-Quality Snacks You Can Feel Good About
By Andy Gordon
Date August 19, 2021

Deal Details
Startup: Ayoba
Security type: Crowd SAFE*
Discount: 15%
Valuation (cap): $7 million
Minimum investment: $100
Where to invest: Republic
Deadline: August 21, 2021

Note: Ayoba’s raise deadline is right around the corner, so if you’re interested in investing, make sure you get in by Saturday, August 21

Once upon a time, items such as backpacks, sandals, sunglasses, mattresses and T-shirts were cheap and basic. But now there are upscale, high-priced versions of all of them. And customers are scooping them up.

It’s driving enormous leaps in consumption. And that’s creating enviable revenue-generating opportunities for discerning startups. 

The food and beverage sector is no exception. Gourmet hamburgers and fried chicken and waffles are served in upscale restaurants. Artisan craft beers have loyal and enthusiastic customers. Even the common cupcake has become a high-end treat.

Now this upscale trend is sweeping the jerky snack market.

And that trend is giving Ayoba — the snack company I’m presenting to you today — a nice boost. 

In the snack space, going upscale means putting more emphasis on quality — offering healthier, more nutritious foods using premium and natural ingredients. Quality-focused snacks have seen massive growth in recent years. And Ayoba is bringing that focus to jerky.

Healthy Jerky and Much More

Ayoba’s jerky is so different, it’s not even called jerky — it’s biltong. It’s an old family recipe of Ayoba’s South African-born founder, Wian van Blommestein. Ayoba’s biltong has no hormones, sugar, antibiotics, soy, nitrates or chemicals and uses high-quality, 100% grass-fed beef. It’s Paleo- and Keto-certified. Ayoba uses a unique air-drying process that takes up to 14 days, which sets it apart from most low-quality jerky that’s cooked in a commercial oven for about six hours. Its biltongs come in traditional, spicy and other flavors like rosemary truffle.

Ayoba also makes a meat stick called droewors, which is seasoned with natural spices like coriander. The company just launched its latest innovation called “Grab & Go Droewors.” It contains no sugar and almost double the protein of other meat snacks on the market. 

I’ve tried both the biltongs and droewors. And both are delicious. (Confession: I’m not a big fan of jerky. But I really liked Ayoba’s products.) 

A Changing Market

The snack market is huge — around $75 billion in North America. Its two main categories are sweet snacks and salty snacks. The salty snack category is the smaller one at about $28 billion. Meat snacks are the fastest-growing category within the salty snacks market. They accounted for $2.8 billion of sales last year, a nearly 4% jump over the previous year. And the meat snacks market is expected to grow at a clip of 7.2% per year into 2023. 

A company called Jack Link’s — which sells beef jerky and other products like meat sticks and meat bites — dominates the market. But it’s in danger of losing market share to companies like Ayoba. In 2016, it had a 56% share of the beef jerky market. In 2017, its share fell to 51%. At that rate, it would be a 40% share by 2021. Jack Link’s has expanded its product lines and is marketing to a broader universe of customers. But it’s still selling cheap products that do nothing to address issues of quality and healthiness. 

Jack Link’s failure to address growing demand for healthier, high-quality snack options leaves the door wide open for Ayoba. Ayoba is tackling the oncoming wave of market demand in ways that Jack Link’s can’t or won’t. And Ayoba has the right products at the right time. 

To be clear, Ayoba is not the first in the upscale jerky market. Gourmet jerky brand Krave has been around since 2009 and raked in $36 million in revenue before Hershey acquired it for $218.7 million in 2015. (It was sold back to Krave’s founder in 2020 for an undisclosed amount.) 

Another beef snack company, Texas-based Epic Provisions, was bought by General Mills in 2016 for $100 million. Epic makes jerky bites and trail mix that pairs meat with fruit and nuts. Its revenue at the time was $20 million.

But if these are considered premium brands, then Ayoba should be considered a super-premium brand. It makes a highly differentiated product that raises the bar in terms of quality and healthiness. 

Growing Sales and Revenue

Ayoba generated more than $1 million in revenue in 2019. And despite the pandemic, it did nearly as well in 2020. Its growing online sales made up for a drop in retail store sales. The company expects 2021 revenue to roughly double, hitting the $2.4 million mark. Online marketing continues to bolster direct-to-consumer sales. An increase in ad spend has led to a 5.6x return on investment (ROI) for and 9.7x ROI for

And Ayoba’s retail presence continues to grow as well. It’s currently in 150 Whole Foods stores and will be in 205 stores by October. While foot traffic in stores is still below pre-pandemic levels, Ayoba’s sales velocity (as of early this summer) was 75% higher than last summer. 

Whole Foods is not the only grocery store chain that’s bullish on Ayoba’s products. Ayoba expanded into 250 stores last quarter. It’s now in a total of 700 stores nationwide, including Sprouts, Erewhon and Wegmans. 

All of this puts Ayoba in a great position to accelerate sales. Wian is taking a measured approach. He’s aggressively pursuing growth while giving priority to current, active accounts. He wants to make sure his highly-reviewed products are selling in those stores first because it opens the door to getting into more stores and enabling geographical expansion at the same time. 

In the meantime, his e-commerce efforts via, and are yielding great results. Wian plans on doubling his digital market spend to more fully leverage those channels. 

While it may not be the first to market, I have no quarrel with Ayoba’s timing. Half the U.S. population hasn’t even tried jerky. Cheap, low-quality brands are losing their dominance over the market. There’s ample room for an upscale jerky company to grow. And Ayoba has the ideal products to lead that growth.

How to Invest

Ayoba is raising up to $1.07 million on Republic. If you don’t already have a Republic account, you can sign up for one here

Once you verify your account and are logged in to Republic, visit the Ayoba deal page

Then click the blue “Invest in Ayoba” button. Enter the amount you want to invest, starting as low as $100, and proceed through the required steps. Be sure your investment is confirmed, then you’re good to go.

*NOTE: The security you will be investing in is a Crowd SAFE. A SAFE is a Simple Agreement for Future Equity. An investor makes a cash investment in a company, but gets company stock at a later date, in connection with a specific event. The Crowd SAFE is a modified SAFE that is better suited for crowdfunding.


This opportunity, like all early-stage investments, is risky. Early-stage investments often fail. Ayoba might need to raise another round of funding in a year or two, if not sooner.

If it executes well, this shouldn’t be a problem. But that’s a risk worth considering when investing in early-stage companies. The investment you’re making is NOT liquid. 

Expect to hold your position for five-to-10 years. An earlier exit is always possible but should not be expected.

All that said, I believe Ayoba offers an attractive risk-reward ratio.

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