Alternative Meat Pioneer Brings Plant-Based Jerky from New Zealand to the World

Could the next big disruption in sustainable food be happening in the paradise-like setting of Waiheke Island, New Zealand? If Jade Gray has his way, the answer is a resounding yes. After selling a successful Beijing pizza chain in 2019, Gray returned home eager to tackle New Zealand’s biggest source of greenhouse emissions - agriculture and livestock.

Drawing from 20 years in China’s meat industry, Gray puzzled over how to shift meat-loving Kiwis towards plant-based alternatives. His eureka moment? Use pea protein and food technology to mimic the taste and texture of familiar meat snacks, launching the aptly named Off-Piste Provisions.

Targeting “Meat Reducers” for Maximum Impact

Rather than preaching to vegans and vegetarians, Gray focused Off-Piste on meat-eating “reducers” looking to cut back for health or environmental reasons. As he explains, “Our target market shops the jerky aisle but wants plant-based options.” Bright packaging resembles traditional jerky brands, then calls out it’s pea protein difference.

This market positioning propelled rapid retail growth across mainland New Zealand and Australia, even amidst pandemic disruptions. Local expansion also enabled tapping major e-tailers and US retailers through a niche distribution strategy connected to their outdoor adventurer consumer.

Leveraging Media and Government to Support Credibility

As a pioneering product in a fledgling category, Gray knew credibility would be critical with retailers and consumers. He focused early PR efforts on mainstream media over social platforms for quicker validation.

“I leveraged government grants and approvals to establish legitimacy so media would share our story,” Gray explains. Profiles in national newspapers, magazines and primetime television cemented Off-Piste as a serious player in record time despite miniscule marketing budgets.

Once exposed to the mission and product, retailers hurried to stock shelves. Market access secured, Gray reinvests sampling budgets to enchant in-store shoppers. He will soon support ongoing consumer education through targeted digital campaigns.

Continuous Cultivation Key to Startup Fundraising

Raising nearly NZ$5 million to date across multiple rounds, Gray demystifies the process for fellow entrepreneurs. “The best time to raise money is when you don’t need it,” he suggests. Rather than intermittent asks, he provides regular email updates to past advisors and investors, keeping them engaged for when investment invitations align with their interests.

This cultivation strategy enabled rapidly securing NZ$1.5 million in pre-seed funding literally overnight. “It wasn’t a great idea or gifted entrepreneur,” Gray humbly shares. “I kept in touch so when I had traction and showed commitment, people backed me.” Existing investors repeatedly reinvested as well, providing powerful social proof.

Now closing a Series A round to scale globally, Gray welcomes potential partners to help transform global diets for planetary health, one plant-based jerky strip at a time.

Key Takeaways

  • Target meat-eating “reducers” not just vegan/vegans

  • Use mainstream media for credibility before social media

  • Develop consumer education in-store until digital budgets allow

  • Always cultivate investors; raise money when you don’t urgently need it

Jade Gray
Jade Gray