Andy Fist: KOOEE! All Natural Snacks
What began as an idea on the wild trails of North America – today the KOOEE! brand calls northern Tasmania home.
“Kooee!” It’s the Aussie bush call; an expression of freedom and awe of being in nature. It was first made by indigenous Australians to connect over vast distances. Founder Andy Fist was living in America when his beef jerky vision KOOEE! All Natural Snacks was born – but his calling brought him back to his Tasmanian homeland and some of the best beef in the world.
Andy Fist grew up in northern Tasmania and like many, took flight to check out the world. It was 2003 and with a double degree in Business Economics and Mechanical Engineering under his wing Andy was drawn to the start-up culture of New York City.
While working for outdoor events start-up Tough Mudder, Andy began running with fellow Australian, Shaun Malligan. Out on the trails, Shaun spoke of his growing love for hand-crafting beef jerky (dried lean meat), producing it healthier than the mass-produced options lining gas station and grocery store shelves.
It was on these outdoor adventures, yelling Kooee into the wide American skies, that the brand became official. Andy moved back to Tasmania and bought a factory in the state’s north west, renowned for producing premium grade beef, while Shaun grew the business from America, later also returning to his native Sydney.
“What I liked about the business idea, is that I could see it slotting into the Tasmanian meat industry well,” explains Andy.
The KOOEE! brand has done just that. Supported by innovative, stylish branding, they use premium Cape Grim, free-range and grass fed beef.
“Cape Grim sells their beautiful scotch fillets, eye fillets and premium cuts with ease but what happens to the rest of the animal – the off cuts?” said Andy. ”It makes sense to have a value-added meat snack producer in Tasmania. What’s more, jerky is shelf stable, light weight and value dense, so it’s ideal for export. We can send a bag of jerky anywhere in the world and know it will arrive in great condition and remain stable.”
KOOEE!’s first big break came when Dan Murphy’s opened in Launceston, approaching KOOEE! for some local products to stock. The Australian liquor chain took it from one local store to 220 stores by the next order. In one hit, KOOEE! received a single order that trumped its entire first year of sales. Across ten days, the small outfit had to pull in volunteers and Andy even slept in a swag at the factory, to keep the ovens going through the night.
Before long KOOEE became the first beef jerky sold at 10,000m – after it was ranged by Virgin Airlines. It is now sold in a thousand retailers around Australia including Coles, Woolworths, airlines, airports, health food stores, independent retailers, online, and in outdoor stores. Eighty per cent of the product is sold outside Tasmania, but KOOEE’s best store in the entire country is the Hobart Airport. Turns out beef jerky is a well-suited edible souvenir.
“The growth in meat snacks across Australia is spectacular. Both in the domestic and international markets the demand is there for our product, for instance, it’s become commonplace in children’s lunchboxes as a healthy, protein-packed snack. We’re looking to start exporting as soon as we expand our factory.”
It appears there’s no stopping the growth of the meat snack industry and this means Andy and his team of six full time equivalent staff is set to expand as he looks to acquire new machinery, space and employees at his regional location in Legana.
But when Andy’s not overseeing operations and developing new product lines, he’s out on the trails where it all began. He and fiancé Suzi, love the great outdoors.
Although Suzi hails from America, they met in Sydney and are now happily settled in Tasmania where Suzi is a Research Scientist for the Menzies Institute for Medical Research in the field of Multiple Sclerosis, spending every second week back with Andy in the state’s north. They’re happiest when they’re within a Kooee of each other.
Are you interested in making a move? Make it Tasmania.
Find out more about Kooee Snacks.
For information on starting a business in Tasmania look through our stories or visit Business Tasmania.