Beyond Beverage: Arizona Brings Value-Play to Jerky

Meagan McGinnes

The Vultaggio family may be beverage billionaires, but the founders of Arizona Beverages are ready to have a taste of the natural food industry as well.

During last week’s National Association of Convenience Stores (NACS) Show in Chicago, Illinois, the tea titans announced the launch of their first natural food line: Crazy Cowboy jerky.

“Based on our distribution, we are in a lot of stores everyday so we thought why not also be able to offer a snack to complement our drinks?” Wesley Vultaggio, co-owner and creative director of Arizona Beverages, told NOSH. “We [want to] play to a space that is as artisanal and good tasting, while at the same time offering value, which is our niche market.”

This isn’t Arizona’s first entrance into food, although beverage has always been the company’s primary focus. Arizona also has a small line of conventional tortilla chip and dip trays that are sold in convenience stores.

However, Crazy Cowboy marks the company’s first move into natural food: the product is non-GMO certified, is made with less sugar and contains no nitrates, MSG, or artificial preservatives. Crazy Cowboy debuted with five beef and pork SKUs, and will be sold in 1.5 oz. bags for $1.99 to $2.99. The line will launch in convenience stores and look to that channel for future growth.

Crazy Cowboy’s inception stems from the company’s want to create a better-for-you snack to accompany its alcoholic beverage portfolio, which includes the Crazy Stallion beer line as well as other alcoholic drinks. While the jerky’s branding is reminiscent of the Crazy Stallion line, Vultaggio added that he hopes retailers will also pair the line with Arizona’s other non-alcoholic offerings, including its line of ready-to-drink canned and artisanal-style teas.

“They complement each other perfectly,” Vultaggio said. “[From] our more artisanal forward line of teas to our beer line, we think there are a lot of synergies that make sense, especially with retailers.”

Founded in 1992, Arizona’s now expansive distribution footprint in beverage could give the newcomer jerky company a leg-up in the increasingly crowded meat snack category. Last year, Arizona sold more than 3 billion containers of beverages—an estimated $1.2 billion worth of Lemon Tea, Green Tea, Arnold Palmer Half & Half and 85 other varieties of teas, juices, waters and beers, according to the company. That scale makes the brand the second-largest ready-to-drink tea brand in America, behind only Lipton. With an impressive presence and fully formed retail relationships, Arizona could potentially make waves in the $4 billion dried meat snacking category.

Vultaggio also noted that the jerky line’s branding gives Arizona flexibility to expand into other snacking categories in the future. For now, the company is already working on R&D to offer poultry varieties to complement their beef and bacon offerings, Vultaggio said. However, regardless of SKU or category expansion, he noted the company will always focus on one thing: providing value to the customer.

“We are definitely not trying to play in the super high end artisanal jerky, but I think we definitely compete with our product and flavor systems. So we will be offering a similar value-play as we do with our drinks in the jerky and snacking space,” Vultaggio said. “We are providing a super high quality, super premium cut of jerky at a value, which is what we think is sort of missing in the category and that is where we think we could live.”

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