Skuhna's Beef Jerky takes off by sending punters into a chilli frenzy

Leah Stefanou packs the jerky for sale while Ron Kuhna slices the topside before it is marinated and then dried for nine hours. That would be the chilli seeds in foreground. Picture: Adam McLean

Leah Stefanou packs the jerky for sale while Ron Kuhna slices the topside before it is marinated and then dried for nine hours. That would be the chilli seeds in foreground. Picture: Adam McLean

A Wollongong father and daughter duo’s extraordinary success with their homegrown beef jerky has closed down her cafe and put his retirement plans on hold.

After a career working in mines and operating a fishing charter boat Ron Kuhna intended to retire and dry a little beef along the way.

But since he decided to sell his own-recipe jerky, its popularity has made him a busy man once again. 

Now Skuhna’s beef jerky has caught a wave of popularity for its high-protein snack. Its searingly hot chilli flavours have become a talking point in pubs and bottle shops, displacing more established big-company brands from the shelves. 

My daughter teethed on jerky, right here in the shop - Leah Stefanou

“It started as a hobby,” Ron Kuhna explained. “There’s never a shop when you’re out on a boat or in the bush so jerky is perfect.”

But he couldn’t find one good enough so he developed his own recipe using home-grown chillies.

And people love it.

Ron’s daughter Leah ran the long-time cafe the Buttered Bun on Keira St, and he made some jerky there as a side project. But when their product took off she closed down the cafe to concentrate on producing Skuhna’s – and there’s barely enough room.

While its initial popularity was with fly-in, fly-out miners and truck drivers (some smash through 1kg a week), Leah said it has spread to families (for school lunches and HSC study snacks) and even infants.

“My daughter, who just turned one, she teethed on jerky, right here in the shop,” she said.

Grass-fed yearling topside beef is sliced thinly by hand before being marinated for about 24 hours, after which it spends about nine hours in a dehydrator.

Skuhna’s makes mild chilli, honey soy, black pepper and barbecue flavours. But by far the most popular is the “Fear” flavour, made with Carolina Reaper chillies – rated by Guinness World Records as the planet’s hottest.

Jerky is well placed for the rush to high-protein foods, and while some brands push 20 per cent sugar, Skuhna’s has just 4 per cent – because Ron is a savoury man and that’s the way he likes it.

Bottleshop manager at The Oaks hotel in Albion Park Phil Papanicolau estimated they would sell about 150 packets in week, with the hot chilli varieties by far the most popular with the punters.

“We used to have another brand of jerky in but we introduced this one and it outsold it comfortably, so we got rid of the other one,” he said.

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