SANTA FE, N.M. – Don’t call it a comeback. Native American Natural Foods (NANF), a Native-run and owned company created a bison and fruit meat snack called the Tanka Bar in 2007. But competition in the meat snack space forced the company to rethink its strategy of keeping the loyal brand following Tanka Bar had earned.
As part of this effort, Tanka is looking to increase demand for its meat snacks by sourcing bison from Native suppliers of indigenous supplies. At the Edible Institute 2020, Tanka and Niman Ranch, a leading producer of certified-humane meats raised by independent farmers and ranchers, announced a partnership aimed at supporting Native producers of bison, cattle and hogs.
“Today’s announcement represents long term systematic change. We are investing in our children and grandchildren with the help of Niman Ranch and their commitment to our Native people,” said Dawn Sherman, CEO of Native American Natural Foods and member of the Lakota, Shawnee and Delaware tribes. “We asked each other, at this stage of the business, how do we protect what is there? How do we support the re-emergence of Native culture? Niman Ranch had that aligned vision, the experience, markets, and support to make this happen.”
Through the partnership with Niman Ranch, NANF’s ambitions are to gain access to new markets and capital and expertise with current Native producers in addition to incentives for new Native ranchers to join the initiative.
“Niman Ranch hasn’t forgotten what it’s like to be a young company trying to build something meaningful. We are proud to share with Tanka what we have learned from our experience growing from one cattle rancher, then one lamb rancher and later one hog farmer to a network of 740 and growing,” said Chris Oliviero, general manager of Niman Ranch. “It has always been a part of Niman Ranch’s foundation to support rural farming communities and we understand many of the hurdles. We felt we could align and support the Tanka mission.”
Tanka products currently are available at retailers and distributors including REI, United Natural Foods and Natural Grocers. Tanka bars are available in three varieties including: Slow Smoked Original, Spicy Pepper and Apple Orange Peel, featuring ingredients such as prairie-fed bison, tart-sweet cranberries and Native American grown wild rice. Tanka products are minimally processed, with no nitrites or nitrates, antibiotics or added hormones. The bars and bites are free of gluten, MSG, nuts, trans fats, soy and lactose and rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. The bites and bars retail for under $5.
“We created the Tanka Bar to return the land, lives and economies to the Native people. Today’s announcement kick starts the legacy we dreamed about,” said Mark Tilsen, president and co-founder of Native American Natural Foods. “We knew we needed an operational partner, and synergies with the Niman Ranch mission make it ideal both strategically and as an active participant with a shared vision. When you restore the bison, you are restoring a keystone species to the great plains which helps restore indigenous economies, prairie restoration and cultural revitalization to benefit us all.”