You Don’t Know Jack

When Diana Dussan wanted to test her new jackfruit jerky, she knew if she could win over her “sixty-something, retired-military, anti-anything-vegan, mountain-man of a stepdad,” she’d be onto something. In the end, he not only liked it, he didn’t even believe her when she told him he was eating a dehydrated fruit. “It was the texture that got him,” she says. “He didn’t expect it to crunch like meat.”

Snack Jack was born from a three-month restrictive diet Dussan’s doctor prescribed as a health booster. Cooking up snacks that fit the bill revived her dormant dream of starting a food business—preferably one that didn’t involve animal death. Though Dussan sometimes eats meat, she does marketing for a farm-animal-welfare nonprofit, so she didn’t want to be part of the problem. Instead, she says, “I wanted to make something everybody could enjoy.” She grew convinced that that something would be jackfruit—a botanical master of disguise that not only passes as meat, but is also high in fiber, potassium and lots of other good stuff. Plus, it tastes just fine without the junk that gets added to other jerkies. Dussan doesn’t even have to tinker too much with the recipe to produce a separate Paleo version.

Dussan rolled out her original, peppered and sweet-chili flavored jerkies at the Texas Farmers Market at Mueller in December and they sold like crazy, despite the blustery 25-degree weather that day. Since then, she’s launched a booth at Barton Creek Farmers Market, The Wandering Vegan pop-up market and San Antonio’s Vegan Stop Shop. She plans to break into retail stores next, after she moves the cottage-food operation out of her home and into an industrial kitchen.

Her original business plan didn’t call for growth this fast, but she’s rolling with it—especially if it helps her achieve one of Snack Jack’s goals: to stop sourcing jackfruit from Thailand and get it from Brazil, where the plant is an invasive (and, hence, organic) species. “It’s taking over the rainforest,” she says. “We want to turn it into a positive.”

 By Steve Wilson • Photographs courtesy of Snack Jack

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