CLINTON — Beef jerky is 8-year-old Riely Martinez's favorite snack, and he can tell you his favorite flavor without hesitation.
"Teriyaki," he says, though he usually shortens the name to just "yaki."
Riely was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was 4 years old. Beef jerky seemed like the perfect snack for a hungry, diabetic kid: it's chock-full of protein without sugars that would affect glucose levels.
But his dad, Ted Martinez, ran into problems when buying it at stores. He usually bought bulk bags of jerky for Riely, but the bags often barely lasted a week.
"I was sick and tired of paying out of pocket for the jerky that I was getting," he said. "It adds up fast."
Last November Martinez decided to make his own jerky, without preservatives, without sugars, just salt-based spices.
"I want to make it affordable for diabetics," he said. "I wanted to do it for an affordable option for people in the same boat that my son is."
Months later, his homemade jerky business, Bare Meat Snacks, has served more than 150 customers eager for cheap jerky. A handful of customers have recurring orders.
"I didn’t really think my product that I would kick out would be as good as it is," Martinez said.
His wife, Donna, started a Facebook business page in March, coordinating delivery and production with the family's schedule.
One of Martinez's co-workers, Aki Campbell, first tried the jerky when Martinez brought free samples to work.
"I actually fell in love with his jerky, and now I can’t eat any other jerky," Campbell said. "His jerky is absolutely phenomenal."
The "Aki Yaki" beef jerky flavor is named after Campbell when he suggested Martinez create a spicy teriyaki flavor.
"A lot of customers have custom requests, and if it’s a hit, they’ll get a flavor named after them," Martinez said.
Another customer, Thomas Paxton, said his favorite flavor is the turkey jerky Thanksgiving Feast.
"His jerky is like tasting a magic rainbow of meat," Paxton said. "It's like ecstasy for the brain. You just enter a meaty heaven."
Martinez low-balls his prices, charging $4 to $5 for 5-ounce bags, $11 to $16 for 15-ounce bags, and $15 to $22 for 20-ounce bags. The difference in price depends on the type of jerky meat: beef, chicken, pork or turkey. All the meat is USDA approved from local retailers.
Lamb is also available, and customers can donate their own meat for deer jerky.
When Martinez made his first batch in November, he bought a $12 piece of meat, cut it up and used a friend's dehydrator to dry the pieces. The finished product was a big success for half the cost.
"My son devoured it, it was really good," Martinez said with a laugh.
As a disabled Army veteran, Martinez works as a paint sales associate at Lowe's Home Improvement store. Between work and raising five kids, he and his wife stay up late to finish orders.
"The business is solely based on how fast me and her together can get an order out," Martinez said. "There’s days that (we) have stayed up until 4 a.m."
Donna Martinez said her son always asks for any jerky leftovers after the orders are filled.
"He says, 'I’ll help if you can make me some,'" she said.
She is working on a business management degree, as the couple hopes to eventually find a place to sell jerky instead of running the business from their home in Clinton.
"The purpose of the jerky is because of Riely," Ted said. "That was the whole purpose of me starting the business."