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Jack Link, CEO of his eponymous Wisconsin-based Jack Link’s Beef Jerky, was named the national winner of Ernst & Young's Entrepreneur of the Year 2010 awards program in the Retail & Consumer Products category.
Link was recognized for growing his company from a small beef deboning operation in 1986 to the No. 1 U.S. meat snack brand. Awards were given in nine additional categories, and were selected by an independent panel of judges from approximately 300 regional award recipients.
“Entrepreneurs are characterized by a willingness to disrupt traditional ways of seeing the world, a willingness to draw on new ways of thinking about familiar problems, and a willingness to fail,” said Bryan Pearce, Ernst & Young Americas Director, Entrepreneur of the Year. “Jack Link embodies this willingness and more. By constantly pushing the envelope, and responding to consumers’ needs and changing behaviors, Link has grown Jack Link’s Beef Jerky into a snack food powerhouse.”
As a boy, Link followed his father everywhere, learning all about cattle, the meat business and how to make the best meat products possible. In 1987, he formed Link Snacks and distributed meat snacks to local convenience stores. By the 1990s, Link Snacks had begun producing Jack Link’s Beef Jerky and distributed the product to retailers nationwide. As consumer demand for convenient, high-quality snack food increased, so did the company’s offerings, including a wide variety of shelf-stable products in various sizes, forms, flavors and textures.
Less than five years ago, Jack Link’s share of the meat snack category was a respectable 27 percent. Since then, with a strong, strategic marketing program in place, accompanied by a solid sales and distribution network, the Jack Link’s brand has achieved a 50 percent market share. Today, Jack Link’s is the No. 1 brand of jerky. Looking forward, the company has an aggressive plan in place that sees it growing by 15 percent annually through 2015.
Link attributes the growth and significant increase in market share over the past five years to quality, perseverance, timing and an unwavering confidence in his product.
Now in its 24th year, Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year is the world’s most prestigious business award for entrepreneurs. The award encourages entrepreneurial activity and recognizes leaders and visionaries who demonstrate innovation, financial success and personal commitment as they create and build world-class businesses. Ernst & Young is a global leader in assurance, tax, transaction and advisory services.