A Local Snack that Packs a Punch

The inspiration behind Backattack Snacks was more incidental than intentional. A few years ago, Brian Back entered a 30-day nutrition challenge and followed a diet that orbited around eating gobs of almonds and beef jerky. But he didn’t lose weight—on the contrary, the scale’s needle nudged farther to the right. When Brian reviewed the myriad ingredients on the back of the plastic packages, a light bulb went on.

Brian thumbed his nose at the mass-produced protein snacks and set out to make his own nut and jerky recipes, formulated with sustainably raised beef, spices, vegetable aminos, and local sweeteners.

“I took some samples into the gym, and the people were blown away by how delicious they tasted,” he says.

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Backattack Snacks, helmed by the husband-wife duo of Brian and Lauren Back, officially formed in January 2015. A panel of judges in May selected Backattack Snacks as the winner of Heinen’s SharkBank Competition, an annual contest that affords the winning food entrepreneur the opportunity to distribute and sell products throughout Heinen’s stores in Northeast Ohio and Chicago.

“Lauren and I got pretty emotional when we made our final pitch to the judges,” Brian says.

Their pursuit is closely tied to their efforts to fund research for arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC), a rare heart disease that afflicts Lauren, who is at risk of cardiac failure. A sudden episode a couple years ago prompted Lauren and Brian to move from Dayton to Cleveland so Lauren could be closer to her family.

Meanwhile Brian, a former chef and CrossFit Challenge coach, channeled his hobby into a business pursuit. He formulated recipes for his jerky and almonds from the Cleveland Culinary Launch and Kitchen.

His two flagships—the beef jerky and original almonds— are crafted with a straightforward list of ingredients. The jerky is made with Certified Angus Beef, cayenne pepper, red pepper, garlic and onion powder, smoked sea salt, and black pepper. The jerky’s marinade serves as a coating for the original almond variety. Additional riff s on the almonds include the Chocolate Firecracker (local raw honey, pink Himalayan sea salt, cayenne pepper, and organic cocoa powder), Wasabi Ginger, Sweet Stingers (cayenne pepper and local honey), and Pumpkin Spice, fortified with local maple syrup.

“We keep our recipes simple, and they don’t have all that sodium and those artificial sweeteners that you see so often in other products,” Brian says. “Our philosophy is that you shouldn’t need a PhD in chemistry to know what you are eating.”

The products pack a delicious, nutritious punch as a handheld snack, or to enhance the flavor and texture of meats or veggies.

“The original almonds are smoky, garlicky, and have a hint of spice,” Brian says. “I like to crush them up, coat them over raw chicken breasts, pan sear them, and finish in the oven.”

In the works are one-ounce energy balls of dried fruit with a combination of chocolate, sea salts, and spices.

“My vision it to make these half-pound bags that have a sustainable meal with 40% jerky, 30% carbohydrates, and 30% fat,” he says. “When you go hiking or work a 15-hour day, you can open up the bag and get everything you need for a nutritious meal. That’s the ultimate Backattack Snack.”

Along with Heinen’s, Backattack Snacks are sold at various locations throughout Northeast Ohio, including Mustard Seed Markets, North Union Farmers Market at Cleveland Clinic, and Zagara’s Marketplace.

For more information, visit BackAttackSnacks.com.