How an obscure beef jerky company was acquired by Hershey

Mallory Schlossberg

Krave jerky's business is booming.

Hershey recentlyannounced that it would be purchasing Krave, a company known for its uniquely flavored jerky. 

Just a few years ago, Krave was an obscure brand found in just a few select markets.

Business Insider spoke to founder and CEO Jon Sebastiani about how the brand grew so fast. 

Krave was born out of a desire to solve a problem.

In 2009, Sebastiani was a marathon runner who enjoyed eating jerky products, but he saw a lack of innovation when it came to what was available in stores.

Sebastiani grew up in wine country in Sonoma, California and with a long history of a family of foodies (his great grandfather started a winery and his mother wrote a cookbook).

He also has a business background. He has dual MBAs from Columbia and UC Berkeley and has been influenced by companies in tech.

"I've always been interested in starting companies, building them," Sebastiani said.

He said he always intended to sell the company once it was big enough.

"I did not start this company to pass it down to my children," he said.

Still, he was picky about a buyer.

"I think I held in my heart more of an emotional attachment, but I wanted the brand to be in the hands of a company that I had absolute respect for," Sebastiana said.

It was also important to him that the company that acquired Krave shared similar values.

So it was going to take an attractive offer before Sebastiani put his young brand in the hands of another company.

It came together rather quickly — and serendipitously — for both Hershey and Sebastiani — in Las Vegas last fall.

Hershey approached Krave at a trade show.  At the time, selling the company was not on Sebastiani's mind. "I was not shopping for business, the business wasn't for sale," he said. But Hershey had other things on its mind.

The innovative Hershey was exploring the meat and protein product sectors, Sebastiani informed BI. They had reportedly been considering Krave as a viable acquisition for awhile.

Hershey  presented Sebastiani with an offer that Sebastiani could not refuse. "I reflected on the opportunity, where Krave is going," he said. "I felt like this is a tremendous opportunity for the brand, for me personally, that Hershey would be an incredible shepherd of this brand that I started."

He also mentioned that teaming up with Hershey's "world class" team of salespeople and supply side are serious boons. 

"We are an entrepreneurial culture," Sebastiani said. "We are a team that lives and breathes growth."

Sebastiani has described how he envisions Krave's relationship to jerky to be analogous to Ben and Jerry's and ice cream and Starbucks and coffee ("certainly smaller," he notes) — but with the same goal of innovating a food product. Now that Sebastiani and his team in Northern California are reporting to North American Hershey President Michele Buck in Hershey, PA, he may begin to see the growth that is synonymous with Ben & Jerry's and Starbucks, too.

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SEE ALSO: Hershey Just Made Its First Acquisition That Isn't Candy