Thanks to the increased interest in eating keto, paleo, and low-carb diets, jerky and other meat snacks have become wildly popular in recent years. New brands are popping up every day in the hopes of capturing some of that market magic.

Old Trapper is one producer that arrived on the scene long before low-carb snacking was trendy. Snack Food & Wholesale Bakery recently spoke with Robert Leary, Old Trapper’s chief marketing officer, to learn about the company’s history, and how a producer past the half-century mark keeps current in a competitive field.

Jenni Spinner: Could you please share a bit about the history of Old Trapper—the beginnings in the little grocery store, to the nationwide presence it has today. Feel free to include any notable milestones along the way.

Robert Leary: Founded in 1969 by a family with a roadside grocery and convenience store in Oregon, Old Trapper was sold locally in response to the growing requests for smoked meat and was a favorite stop for road trips to the Oregon Coast or back to the Mountains. Beef jerky was just starting to be known and grow in popularity, which created demand for a larger facility to season and smoke and package it on the property where the store was.

As requests by other stores and wholesalers poured in through the next decades, the family eventually closed the store and relocated the production facility to Forest Grove, Oregon in the Willamette Valley farming region in order to meet demand. With a major modernized expansion in the 2020’s and more planned for the future to meet the increasing demand, Old Trapper has remained a staple in the Pacific Northwest while growing to be the #2 largest smoked meat and beef jerky company in the country world.

JS: Please tell us how Old Trapper has grown since the brand got started half a century ago.

RL: Our beef jerky is the mainstay of our product line and we have expanded to provide customers with other options for portability, convenience, and variety. In addition to our original flavor, we have peppered, teriyaki, and hot & spicy, and we also have introduced snack sticks and varying size formats to meet specific needs and requests from our customer base.

Our experience in owning our own store has helped us to understand the unique needs that convenience, grocery, wholesalers, and large format stores have, and we’re always learning new ways to meet the requests of the stores who enjoy working with us. They know what their customers want and we’re here to help them deliver it.

In order to meet demand and growth, we expanded in recent years into a state-of-the-art 80,000 square foot manufacturing facility that is one of the largest of its kind in the world.

JS: Could you please share your insights about how consumer preference and behavior in the meat snacks category has evolved in recent years?

RL: Consumers are consistently looking for the highest quality product at a fair price. They would rather pay a higher price for a bag of jerky where every single piece is tender, delicious, and perfectly seasoned. They are also asking for larger format bags to accommodate the entire family and for storing to have on hand in the future. We have also seen trends towards meal replacement with our jerky due to its portability and because it is so satisfying.

JS: With things like the low-carb diet fueling cravings for meat snacks, lots of new brands have popped up—how does Old Trapper stand out from the rest of the pack?

RL: We don’t pay a lot of attention to the trends in the category as we stick to what we do best: producing the highest quality product at an affordable price for our customers. We prefer for our end product to speak for itself and we think it’s done a great job of doing that for over 50 years.

JS: What do you think the company’s secrets of longevity might be—there aren’t too many snack producers in any category who’ve hit the 50-year mark, including meat snacks.

RL: Our focus has always been on providing a consistent and quality product for our customers. We have designed our signature packaging that lets them see exactly what they are getting in each bag. Despite increasing materials and logistics costs, we have bucked the trend of downsizing to protect margins. Our longevity is based on our consistency to provide a widely available and superior product at an affordable price.

JS: Do you have any plans for the future you might be able to share with us?

RL: We plan to continue to scale the company as needed to meet consumer demand and of course we will always be ready with our relatable mascot, the Old Trapper himself, and our relationship with our customers to snack where they snack!

JS: Anything to add?

RL: We appreciate the industry media covering the growth and innovations in the meat snacks market and look forward to keeping you informed of our progress in the future.