By Ali Lucia

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — If you work in downtown Minneapolis, chances are you’ve noticed a new tenant in Mayo Clinic Square, the protein snack company Jack Link’s.

The space is now home to a little under 200 employees with room for expansion.

Troy Link, a northwestern Wisconsin native, is president and CEO of the family owned and operated company.

Sausage and smoked meats have been the centerpiece of the Link’s family for generations, dating back to the late 1800s. The tradition started in the family’s Wisconsin general store and now has grown into a dominant brand in the protein snack market.

“This is what I’ve done my whole entire life,” Link said. “My father, this is what he’s done, we work how to find out how to give the consumer a great product for good value.”

As Jack Link’s looks to the future, the Minong, Wisconsin, native says it’s important for the company to have a visible headquarters here in Minnesota.

Known for jerky, Jack Link’s manufactures 89 different flavors of meat snacks that are served up 16 different ways.

“As the business grows, you have to be a part of a bigger population center,” Link said. “Minong is still our hometown, but obviously Minneapolis is a big growth area for us.”

The global healthy snack market is valued at over $21 billion and is expected to grow yearly by about five percent, according to one market research firm. Meat snacks are projected to be a big percentage of that number.

It’s a big reason why Link’s wife, Lorissa, wanted to start a new line that includes grass-fed beef and antibiotic free snacks. Lorissa’s kitchen was born two years ago.

“Jack Links is based on snacking and Lorissa’s kitchen is based on the natural nourisher, which is upgraded snacking,” Link said.

As the grab and go lifestyle continues to evolve, so does the competition. Link said his team is constantly testing out new products.

“The problem is we are using all of our facilities right now, so it creates a lot of inefficiency, we wanted to get all this culinary aspect under one roof, and execute our innovative ideas, quickly get them down the consumer funnel and get them down to the consumer market as fast as we can,” said Link.

Their new Research and Development Center and test kitchen is slated to be complete this spring.

“Back here is basically a mini factory, this going to be our test kitchen, this is going to be our R & D Innovation Center where we can test runs of test product,” Link said.

While Troy Link is getting used to his new office, he hopes consumers follow the company’s mantra “feed your wild side.”

“We wanted really to make our home downtown Minneapolis and become a part of the community and more a part of the all the consumers lives,” Link said.

Jack Link’s has a WildSide store that is open downtown as well. Click here to see more.

Ali Lucia