Minimal Snacks Air Dried Beef. Photo provided.

After two-and-a-half years of brainstorming, experimenting and beef, Minimal Snacks launched its first product: air-dried beef.

Ryan Teo, a 2021 Northwestern graduate and founder and product manager of Minimal Snacks, said the idea for the company came to him in an entrepreneurship class when they were discussing the snack industry.

When talking about emerging snacks, Teo thought to himself, “I think we can do better.”

He brought on Ansh Prasad, now a senior at Northwestern, as co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of the company. Prasad and Teo became certified food handlers and began testing recipes for meat-based snacks.

“We had to learn so much and make so many mistakes,” Teo said.

Teo decided to launch air-dried beef as the first product of Minimal Snacks because of his love of biltong, a dried meat from South Africa. When Teo was growing up, a family friend would bring him biltong back from trips to South Africa.

Teo and Prasad began in their apartments but soon realized they needed a bigger space. They rented out commercial kitchen space in Chicago, but with the commute and the COVID-19 pandemic, they decided it would not be a feasible option.

They later partnered with Stormberg Foods in North Carolina and began perfecting the final version of the air-dried beef with four ingredients: whole-muscle beef, red wine vinegar, shiitake extract and salt.

At the same time, Northwestern junior Liliana Sydorenko joined the company as product development lead.

Sydorenko worked with influencers to distribute samples and said they have received “overwhelmingly positive feedback.”

“People all across the dietary food spectrum are happy to find a snack they can eat,” she said. “The energy and the passion that each of us are bringing right now is enough to feed us, and the positive feedback we have had is a lot of adrenaline that makes me confident that this company has the potential to make waves in the snack industry.”

The air-dried beef is made with whole muscle beef with 23 grams of protein and zero grams of sugar per bag. Even though the first snack launch is meat, Teo said that Minimal Snacks is more than beef.

Keeping it clean and minimal

“Minimal Snacks isn’t just about meat,” Teo said. “It’s about the philosophy of keeping food minimal and having clean ingredients we are so proud of that we can put on the front of the package.”

Sydorenko is now experimenting with other snacks such as energy and granola balls.

Minimal Snacks launched a Kickstarter campaign on Jan. 3 and within the first hour and a half online surpassed its goal of raising $5,000. It has now raised almost $20,000, and Teo hopes to reach $30,000 by the end of the campaign.

But the ultimate goal is to be in the Whole Foods in Evanston so the community can buy the product. After the Kickstarter campaign ends, Minimal Snacks is planning to make its products available on its website and talk to Evanston retailers to get them on local shelves.

“This is an idea that originated in Evanston,” Prasad said. “Now we want to replug it back into the community.”

Sam Stroozas

Sam Stroozas is a reporter and the social media manager at the Evanston RoundTable. She covers small businesses, social justice and human interest stories. Contact her at sam@evanstonroundtable.com and...

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