MANCHESTER, NH – Huyen Tran and Triet Le don’t have backgrounds in food production, but they love – and are serious about – snacks. So, when Le began to wonder if there was a better way to make beef jerky, they went all in.
The result was Holy Moly Snacks, which has been producing thin, crispy high-protein beef chips on the city’s West Side for the past year after incorporating in September 2021.
The company produces five flavors of chips, as well as dog treats. Aside from Tran and Le, who is the company owner, they have two full-time employees, and have become a fixture at farmers markets, craft and art fairs, and events like the Great American Ribfest, in Merrimack, and the Made in NH Expo. As the business evolves, Tran has kept her full-time job and Le, an engineer, is also a real estate investor.
“We’re busy bees,” Tran said in a recent interview with Manchester Ink Link.
They hadn’t intended to start a snack business, but, like many innovators, saw a way to improve a product, then they had to do it.
“It was my husband’s idea,” she said. “We love snacks, and usually beef jerky is a little chewy. He said, ‘Let’s try to make it nice and think and crunchy, and that’s how it started.”
When they initially made the beef chips and had friends taste-test them, people loved them and wanted more. Before they knew it, they were in business. Tran said that the journey has had many “unexpected” twists.
Though they started out winging it, when they decided to make it a business, Le wanted to do things the right way. The goal was to make a snack that uses locally sourced natural ingredients, with no preservatives, and make sure that the product followed all the requirements of commercial food production.
By late 2021, they’d rented space at 270 Amory St., and invested in a commercial oven and dehydrators.
Tran said that the amount of licensing and regulation that come with turning beef into chips was “another unexpected thing,” but they forged ahead, working with the city’s health department to make sure that they were producing the chips correctly.
Over the past year, they’ve spent evenings, weekends, and weeknights, perfecting, making and selling, beef chips.
The chips, made from Angus beef, water and salt, come in five flavors, with the only additional ingredients being the flavors, like teriyaki or black pepper. They are similar to beef jerky in that they are dehydrated beef, but the company’s slogan is “I’m chips. Don’t call me jerky.” They are light and crispy, not the chewy jerky product people are used to.
Aside from snacks, Tran said the chips are also good on salads and as a topping. Some of the flavors are gluten-free, and the Lightly Salted and No Seasoning flavors work well with a Keto diet.
The chips are packaged in sealed 1-, 3- and 6-ounce bags, and available for sale on the company website, as well as at the Amory Street location.
Another of the many unexpected twists over the past year – the No Seasoning flavor became so popular as a dog treat, that they now make and market it as a “human grade dog treat.” They were already making the No Seasoning, but Tran was also bringing home the leftover Angus beef scraps that were too small to use as chips, freezing them and using them for family food. But you can only fit so many beef scraps in your freezer.
Once the No Seasoning chips caught on as dog treats, they began using the scraps to make them as well.
“We can’t keep up,” she said.
The Amory Street location was the right size, and close to their Manchester home. They’re one of a handful of new businesses, including William & Sons Coffee Co., 489 Amory St., to locate on the West Side recently.
The plan has always been to focus on online sales, and Tran was wary of people dropping in at the Amory Street production plant to buy or pick up orders.
But in another unexpected turn, the foot traffic has become a fun and useful part of the business.
“They come in and check us out,” she said. Customers and potential customers not only like the free samples, but can see how it all works.
“A lot of people like the idea of seeing the kitchen,” she said. “They say, ‘I like how I can see the product being made.’ “
Tran said that people at first aren’t sure about the product, but the free samples, which they also offer at their events booth, do the trick. Once people try it, “A lot of people love it.”
The biggest plan for the future of the business is that they focus more on online sales, and less on spending every weekend at vendor booths, Tran said. But other than that, they don’t really have a long-term plan laid out.
“It’s all been so unexpected,” she said. “So we’ll see what happens.”