By Jason DeRusha

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s an incredible success story, still being written, that started with 100 pounds of brats at the Minneapolis Farmers Market.

“We sold out right away,” Nick Beste, CEO of Man Cave Craft Eats, said. “I brought 150 pounds the next week, and sold that out right away. It just progressed from there.”

Beste was a sophomore at the University of Minnesota. His post-college plans were already in motion. It’s taken eight years to go from the market to an agreement to be in local Lunds & Byerly’s stores, to 500 stores, to now more than 5,000 stores around the country.

“We want to be a household name with a rabid fan base. We want to be the Sam Adams of meat,” Beste said.

His company has changed over the years — originally it was very manly, just called “Man Cave,” a macho brand for dudes who loved meat. The company underwent a rebranding and repackaging process, changing the name to Man Cave Craft Eats, and using bold, pastel colors.

“Our customers who we’re appealing to are women. It’s the 40-year-old soccer mom. She’s elevating her barbeque,” Beste said.

Elevation is the culinary goal, too. It’s not just a chicken sausage, it’s a Rielsing, Kale & Smoked Gouda Chicken Sausage. It’s not just Italian sausage, it’s sold in a raw coil and made with prosciutto. The burger had to be different as well.

“If we’re going to do a burger, what’s the craft beer version? Craft beer is IPA. What’s our version when it comes to meat?” he said.

His answer is quite tasty — they blend together sirloin, brisket, short rib and a tiny bit of bone marrow. It’s carefully formed into a patty, not pressed.

“We use a roller system, take a big clump of meat, it gently rolls it down,” he said.

Man Cave knows it can’t compete against the giant companies on price — most of their products are priced around $6 or $7 — so instead, it’s gone up-market.

“We don’t talk about Man Cave versus Hormel or Johnsonville, we talk about the butcher up the street. That’s who we’re competing with,” Beste said.

They have an incredible number of products, and that’s part of the process of being a younger company. Innovating, trying to find out what consumers want, trying to be in front of trends. Right now they see a future in turkey burgers. Theirs isn’t normal, of course; it’s an extremely juicy turkey patty with queso fresco and jalapeño.

It’s a craft meat, whatever that really means.

“To us it’s obsessive attention to detail. We taste our food every day, making sure it’s close to perfection. It’s a finish line we know we’re always chasing, because we’ll never be perfection. But we’re always innovating,” Beste said.

Man Cave is also raising money to fight childhood hunger. For every package they sell, they donate money to buy a meal for a child.

“I’m passionate about great food and helping people,” Beste said.

You can find Man Cave Craft Eats in Lunds & Byerlys, Fresh Thyme, Cub, HyVee and Costco in the Minnesota area.

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