The Snack with a Catch
Innovation born in Fort Worth is everywhere.
If you’ve ever scanned that tiny QR code attached to your seat at a TCU game, you’ve interacted with Digital Seat Media, a homegrown tech company that now boasts the Rose Bowl and AT&T Stadium among its clientele.
Or maybe your college kid has used TimelyMD, a virtual health platform that is addressing the student mental health crisis at 200 colleges and universities. This company, headquartered in the Near Southside, was the fastest growing company in our city last year, according to Inc. Magazine.
But innovation isn’t limited to technology. Innovation is all around us, even in the food we eat. After all, the ice cream drumstick, star of a million summertime memories, was invented right here in Fort Worth.
And innovation doesn’t always require a paradigm-changing, billion-dollar idea. Sometimes it just takes someone who sees a problem differently and dreams up a unique solution.
Meet Quentin Crawford, the entrepreneur behind Good Jerky, a company that makes jerky out of fish.
Yes. Fish jerky.
Don’t count fish jerky out quite yet. I’ve had it and it tastes like that delicious beef, bison, or venison jerky you might pick up on a family road trip. Quentin has created a great product that provides meat lovers like me with a chewy, smoky, fish-based jerky that tastes just like traditional beef jerky.
Crawford got the idea of turning seafood into a snack when he saw several members of his family struggle with health issues, and he realized that he didn’t want to suffer the same fate. He tried to become vegetarian but found himself hungry, needing to increase the amount of protein in his diet. His health coach told him to explore becoming a pescatarian.
“When you think about eating seafood for a snack, what do you think about?” he asked me on the Innovate Fort Worth podcast that I host. I had nothing. “Maybe canned tuna?” he suggested. But that wasn’t practical for someone who traveled for work and was always on the go.
On one of these work trips, he decided to see if he could bring one of his favorite road trip foods, jerky, to life in a healthier way.
And Good Jerky was born.
According to the USDA, nine out of ten Americans don’t get enough seafood in their diet. “People want to live a healthier life and adding more fish in your diet can help you do that,” Crawford said. Eating two bags of his jerky per week provides your recommended omega 3s for the week.
In 2018, Crawford started making prototypes in his kitchen and passed samples out to friends. Some were terrible, but he kept experimenting until he found the recipes that hit the mark. He started with tilapia, but that made terrible jerky. Next, he tried salmon and trout and found success. Now he’s got big plans to bring a newer fish to the American market – swai – an Asian catfish that is catching on in the United States.
Once he had the right catch, he started developing a sweet and smoky flavor that featured a maple glaze with a hint of applewood smoke. The lineup also features habanero honey, pineapple bourbon, and several other flavors.
“Certain types of flavors complement certain kinds of fish. Salmon tends to go well with sweet flavors, for instance.”
Don’t just take it from me that Good Jerky tastes good. Crawford won the Gold Award at the International Jerky Awards (yes, that’s a thing) in 2021.
Crawford said, “We were born in a land-locked city in a place where people love meat, so we had to adjust our process for carnivores. We created the first fish jerky not created solely for pescatarians. If you’re a hard-core meat eater, this is something that you will grab, and you will love.”
Crawford and his wife and co-founder Lauren have continued to utilize many of the resources that are available to startup companies in Fort Worth to help them grow, including accelerator programs. Good Jerky was a member of MassChallenge, a global zero-equity startup accelerator, and DFW-based Impact Ventures.
Good Jerky is now available at Central Market and in grocery stores throughout the state.
So you may scratch your head when you hear about jerky made from fish, but sometimes that’s what innovation looks like. It is seeing an existing product and thinking, “Could I make that a little better?” Quentin Crawford did, and now jerky made from fish is something we can all catch.