As the Whole30 diet continues to gain traction among millennials looking to maintain healthier lifestyles, a Chicago startup is capitalizing on the trend with what it considers a healthier snack that rivals its household-name competitors.

Chomps, the maker of paleo-friendly, gluten-free, Whole30-approved and non-GMO beef jerky products, launched in 2012 after its founder, Peter Maldonado, was looking to create an alternative to his favorite snack, Slim Jim.

(Photo via Chomps)

“I grew up eating a ton of Slim Jims, more than I’d ever like to admit,” Maldonado said. “But I had to stop eating them completely once I realized what was actually in them.”

The jerky products come in four flavors—original, hoppin’ jalapeno, crankin’ cranberry and salt & pepper. And a turkey jerky is planned to launch in April, Maldonado said. To set themselves apart from competitors, Chomps stays committed to its all-natural ingredient label and doesn’t add any sugar to its beef jerky.

“We have the cleanest label in the space,” Maldonado said, adding that while developing the snacks, he has tried to keep the taste as close to what people are used to in a beef jerky stick.

“You could put Chomps up against any one of those conventional brands and we’ll win. Once a customer or a buyer at a big retailer tries the product, they will understand why people are buying it.”

Chomps sources all of its meat products from Tasmania and New Zealand, and manufactures the jerky in Missouri, Maldonado said.

Peter Maldonado, co-founder and CEO of Chomps (Photo via Maldonado)

When Chomps first launched, it was only selling its product through online orders, but in 2016, it began selling its beef jerky sticks in major retailers, like Target, Trader Joe’s, Publix grocery stores and select 7/11 stores. Chomps now sells more than 1 million sticks a month, and is another example of a growing startup in Chicago’s flourishing food scene. Chomps is among other consumer packaged good startups, such as Frönen and Poppilu.

The company currently employs five people in its River North offices, but Maldonado said they plan to have 10-15 by the end of the year. Chomps is currently hiring for positions in marketing, sales and operations.

“Chicago is a really great location to be in,” Maldonado said. “There’s all types of funding and talent.”