Have you ever seen or heard something and said to yourself “Why didn’t I think of that?”
This was absolutely the first thing that came to mind when I was introduced to Scott Smith of Riverside, California while covering the Dodgers during spring training at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Arizona.
Scott and his wife Cindy own ‘Game On Jerky‘, a recently created spin off company from their son-in-laws’ successful Game On Snacks, LLC business which caters to gamers – as in video and computer gamers (talk about a target rich environment).
But how is it that baseball, which some historians believe originated in America in 1823 in what is Greenwich Village, New York today, and beef jerky, which has been around since before the first European settlers set foot in The New World that would eventually become the United States, took almost 200 years to hook up? I mean, we’re talking America’s national pastime and America’s first known snack food here. Although Smith did not know the answer to this question, he said that his company’s connection with baseball happened almost overnight.
“My brother [Ron Smith] approached me about doing a fundraiser for the girls softball program that he runs at Corona High School and it was a big hit and he loved the jerky,” Smith said. “Ron is also involved with the Dodgers fantasy camps and asked if I would be interested in coming down to the fantasy camp [held last January in Tucson, AZ]. I told him I would absolutely be interested.
“Before that fantasy camp we had a booth set up at the ‘Frank and Sons‘ memorabilia show in the City of Industry,” added Smith. “We had Rod Martin of the Raiders taste [the jerky], we had Steve Garvey, Davey Lopes, Bill Russell, Rick Monday taste it and they all raved about it. I was then introduced to Jack DeLance [of JD Legends Promotions] who is the agent for A.J. Ellis, among other players. Jack told me that he is a beef jerky fanatic and said that this is the best jerky he has ever tasted and asked if we would be interested in working out a deal with A.J. Ellis to endorse our products. We ended up sending some jerky to A.J. at his home in [Milwaukee] Wisconsin to sample because he wouldn’t endorse anything that he himself didn’t like and he loved it, so we worked out an endorsement deal with him.”
News of the deal between Game On Jerky and Ellis spread quickly when the team arrived at Camelback Ranch for spring training and, as you might imagine, A.J. took a bit of good-natured ribbing from his teammates – until he gave each of them a bag of the jerky to sample. Once he did, it didn’t take long for the product to catch on in the Dodgers clubhouse. Several bags even made it into the Dodgers dugout during some of the spring training games.
Smith said that even though A.J. Ellis is their official company spokesperson, they are in negotiations with several other MLB teams for possible endorsement deals including the Angels, Athletics and White Sox. Additionally, Game On Jerky has also come on board with another popular American sport – the Lucas Oil Off Road Racing Series.
“Jack put us in touch with Lucas Oil Company and they said ‘Oh it’s just another beef jerky company,'” said Smith. “I sent them a sample and told them to try it out and they were just amazed at it and the next thing I know we are doing three races and we’ve become the official jerky for the Lucas Oil Off Road Truck Series.”
So what makes Game On Jerky any better than the hundreds of other brands of jerky on the market today? Smith couldn’t answer this question fast enough.
“Our beef is grain fed, steroid-free and cut from a brisket of the beef which is the best part of the beef, unlike our competitors that might use something different,” Smith explained. “There’s no preservatives and we’re one of the lowest in sodium and sugar and one of the highest in protein. We also have bacon and chicken [jerky] and our chicken is gluten-free. The bacon is just bacon, just great tasting bacon. It’s jerky bacon and it’s triple thick and it’s real strips of bacon.”
Although I am not a connoisseur of beef jerky, I certainly know what I like, or rather what I don’t like in beef jerky. What I don’t like is extremely tough and dry jerky that feels like you are going to pull your teeth out when you take a bite. The other thing that I don’t like is a lot of gristle – you know, that part of the jerky that never goes away no matter how long you chew it and you eventually spit out? Yuck! Well I can tell you first hand that not only is Game On Jerky extremely moist and tender, it has no gristle or anything else suspicious in it.
“Most people we talk to tell us that our jerky is the most tender jerky that they’ve ever tasted,” Smith said. “They also tell us that they don’t stop at one bag, they eat two or three bags before they even realize it.”
So where can you get Game On Jerky? Well, for the time being, you can only get it on-line through the Game On Jerky website and at several Unocal 76 gas stations in the Riverside area, but Smith hopes to eventually get on board with other convenience stores.
“We are currently talking to some retailers and some auto [parts] stores and different things to put our products in there,” Smith said. “I won’t be able to mention them until we actually have a solid contract, but we should have a contract within the next three weeks. They’re all tied in with Lucas Oil.
“We’re also in the process of making our beef jerky gluten-free and sugar free and that will be done in the next three weeks,” added Smith. “And then we’re going to be approaching a lot more retailers in the health food industry, the Sprouts and the Clark’s and different health food stores and I’m sure it will be a big hit. But right now we’re just doing street fairs, school fundraisers, connections with the Dodgers and some other major league teams and Lucas Oil. The next phase will be retailers and if we sell out this weekend [at the Lucas Oil Off Road Truck Series event in Chandler, AZ], then they’ll want to start putting it in certain retailers, and it’s over ten thousand stores.”
Will Game On Jerky ever makes its way into the concession stands at Dodger Stadium?
“When [the Dodgers] get back from Australia I’m going to be put in touch with the powers that be with the Dodgers,” said Smith. “For us to be able to get in there, if it’s going to happen, they would purchase it and then do something with the Dream Foundation and we would get a percentage back, but I won’t know any of that until I’m introduced to that person.”
With so many different flavors to choose from, which are the most popular? According to Smith, the top-five sellers are:
- Barbecue Mesquite
- Traditional Western
- Sriracha Bacon
- Original Pepper
- Volcanic Jalapeno
What is A.J.’s personal favorite? “Sriracha Bacon. He’s a big Sriracha man,” says Smith.
As you might have guessed, selling jerky is not Smith’s primary source of income – not yet, at least. He also owns his own construction company and is quick to point out that he would not be able to run his construction business and Game On Jerky were it not for the help of his wife Cindy and their 14-year-old son and 18-year-old daughter and her fiancé.
“She’s my right-hand person,” says Smith of his wife Cindy. “She goes to the street fairs with me, she’s also involved in the Lucas Oil Off Road Series. She’s got a great smile and is a beautiful woman, she’s very personable and that makes all the difference in the world. Game On Jerky is definitely a family affair.”
Whether or not Game On Jerky will become a common sight at ballparks across America both in the dugout and in the stands remains to be seen, but in a time when people are becoming more health and fitness conscientious and scrutinize what they eat more and more (especially snack foods), there is every reason to believe that Scott Smith has hit a home run with Game On Jerky.
Why didn’t I think of that?