Business Monday: Founders of Island Jerky Crunchy Munchies bring flavor, love to every bag

Listen to this Article
4 minutes
Loading Audio... Article will play after ad...
Playing in :00

Alicia and Jarren Tsukamoto come from hunting families. For years they would bring home pig and goat meat, which they made into goat jerky.

Island Jerky Crunchy Munchies original flavor bag. (Photo courtesy: company website)

Seven years ago, they decided to try their jerky recipes using beef. This was a way to make extra money to pay for their new mortgage when they moved from Ka‘ū to Kona to be closer to Jarren Tsukamoto’s job.

The used beef bought at Costco and sold the jerky to family and co-workers.

“It just blew up,” Alicia Tsukamoto said. “We decided to make it legit.”

From that side hustle, Island Crunchy Jerky Munchies was born. Now, it is a thriving business using only 100% grass-fed local beef with the Tsukamoto’s four daughters actively involved in the production and sales.

The company is in the process of trying to get their jerky USDA certified, which would allow them to sell it in stores like Costco.


So what makes the Island Crunchy Jerky Munchies so special?

It’s thin, crunchy and is made with a lot of love, said Tsukamoto’s eldest daughter, 21-year-old Jacia Tsukamoto-Gouveia.

Alia Tsukamoto-Gouveia helps her younger sister, Alacia, stock bags of Island Crunchy Jerky Munchies at their store on Pawai Place in Kona. (Tiffany DeMasters/Big Island Now)

She added that the flavor stays consistent, no matter how much you eat.

A cattle rancher by trade, Sen. Tim Richards, who represents North Kona to North and South Kohala and North Hilo, discovered the local jerky, that breaks and crunches like a chip, a couple years ago while he was in the Hawai‘i County Council.

“I liked the flavor and I liked the quality,” Richards said, adding the product showcases Big Island quality beef and is a good local business.


The senator took the crunchy jerky to the U.S. State Capitol and shared it with the Hawai‘i Delegation. He also keeps bags of it in his office on O‘ahu as a snack for those who come to see him.

“I always have it in my office because it’s big island beef and it’s really good,” he said.

At their Kailua-Kona store, at 74-5606 Pawai Place, shelves are stocked with flavors that include the family’s original recipe, pepper and teriyaki. They also do beef strip jerky, which they cut by hand.

Alicia Tsukamoto said it took a few years to get their recipes perfected. There was a lot of trial and error, but they got the flavors down by keeping it simple. Some of the ingredients include sea salt, garlic powder, paprika, Hawaiian chili pepper, lemon pepper and curing salt.

Richards said he likes all the flavors, but as a traditionalist he prefers the original.


The Tsukamotos make multiple batches of jerky throughout the week. They start with cutting the beef with a meat slicer and soaking it the ingredients from their recipes for 10 to 24 hours. After it’s soaked, the beef is placed in a dehydrator and dried for eight hours.

Producing about 400 bags per week, the end results is the creation of crunchy, delicious jerky.

“We love what we do, every step of it,” Alicia Tsukamoto said.

The Tsukamotos also make jerky from venison procured from Moloka‘i and with local goat meat.

To make their business official seven years ago, they built a commercial kitchen at their home where they continue to produce their jerky. In the kitchen, the family divides and conquers the responsibilities of making the product, while Jacia runs the store.

Tsukamoto runs the business and kitchen with only her daughters. No one has one job. They take turns doing everything.

Her husband also runs his own business: Jarren T Plumbing.

Jacia said making jerky is fun and it’s “not something most girls do,” from cutting slabs of meat, to soaking it in the flavors to dehydrating it.

Daughter Alia, 19, remembers the first time she started helping with the jerky. She was in the seventh grade and didn’t like doing the work after school, but said: “I grew to really appreciate working with family.”

Mom is happy her daughters stick around to help.

“I love I can work at home and share the moments with them and seeing where this goes,” Alicia Tsukamoto said.

Alia said doing the business with her family is a blessing.

“It’s like working with your best friends every day,” Jacia said.

The Kona family also has branched out with a food truck called All Fresh Hawaiʻi, where they make burgers with the same flavors as their jerky and have a goal to support local products.

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a full-time reporter for Pacific Media Group. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat.

Tiffany can be reached at [email protected].
Read Full Bio

Sponsored Content

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Stay in-the-know with daily or weekly
headlines delivered straight to your inbox.


This comments section is a public community forum for the purpose of free expression. Although Big Island Now encourages respectful communication only, some content may be considered offensive. Please view at your own discretion. View Comments