We spoke to Nicole Meredith of the Louisville Vegan Jerky Co. about their origins as a happy accident while attempting to make vegan Hawaiian pork buns, the importance of decadent vegan options and sourcing local ingredients.
in : What’s the most surprising (or humorous) response you’ve gotten from someone who tries your jerky for the first time?
LVJ: One time, we had a booth at a flea market. Rough audience, didn’t sell many bags. However, a lady with no teeth came over and tried our jerky. She said because she had no teeth, she had to give up meat jerky because it was too tough on her gums. But she loved our jerky because it was soft enough for her to chew… I have to say that’s been our most unique reaction.
in: Clearly many people choose to be vegan for a variety of ethical and environmental reasons. Has veganism always been important to you and if so, how come?
LVJ: The one thing we love about vegan foods is that they can always be tinkered with. There are a lot of mediocre vegan products and vegan meals in restaurants. Additionally, many people assume because something is vegan, it’s “healthy”. We love the challenge of producing meals and products that are indulgent and stand out from the rest. When you’ve been vegan or vegetarian after so many years, you start to crave guilty pleasures like nacho steak fries and BBQ sliders. That’s what we try to create.
in: LVJ was actually a Hawaiian vegan “pork” bun recipe gone wrong. Tell us more about the origin story.
LVJ: Stan [LVJ founder] spent his childhood in Hawaii. In his elementary school, they had char-sui in a bun called manapua, which is essentially BBQ pork inside a bun. With Stan being who he is, he wanted to re-create this childhood staple in vegan form. So he baked the soy protein, because traditionally thats how you make it in Hawaii, but when he pulled it out of the oven, it had an undeniable taste and texture that resembled jerky. That’s when he bagged it up and brought it to his favorite local bar and let all the regulars try it out. Everyone was immediately hooked!
in: What’s been y’all’s most popular variety to date? Any future flavors that you’re dreaming about?
LVJ: Ever since we released Smokey Carolina BBQ, that’s definitely been the best seller. However, our current favorite around the kitchen is the cowboy steak. It’s a small batch sold on our website, but we are considering making it a standard flavor in the future. We sell variety packs on our online store, and if you want something a little more unique than our standard five flavors, we have what we call Pete’s Pick that features the Cowboy Steak, Buffalo Dill, Carolina BBQ, Sweet Chili Garlic and Unreal Bacon Bits.
in: We’re huge proponents of sourcing locally and we were surprised/impressed to see that you’re using Kentucky sorghum. Tell us more about where you source your maple syrup.
LVJ: We get our sorghum from a farmer in Kentucky named Randel Rock who makes it about 30 minutes outside of Louisville! We source everything from our ingredients to our packaging from companies in the United States, which is something that sets us apart from most other vegan jerky. A lot of people don’t realize that some of our biggest competitors are imported from places like Taiwan.
Photos from Louisville Vegan Jerky Co.