BELMONT -- David and Denise Yosso have made some good choices in building their small business, but their best decision was vinyl-wrapping the van.

Ever since they transformed a 1985 Toyota into a rolling green-and-yellow advertisement for their beef jerky and pickles, sales have taken off. The Jerk'n Pickle van is so easy to spot, some people think there must be more than one.

"They'll say, 'Man, I see your vans all over town,' " said David Yosso, 35, who has funded the company with money earned at his job selling and installing park playgrounds.

The Yossos created Jerk'n Pickle in January of 2011 with Denise's brother David Martinez, whose lifelong penchant for jerky and pickles served as inspiration. Martinez also provided numerous recipes he'd developed.

Denise and David Yosso in their kitchen at Jerk’n Pickle in Belmont on Dec 18, 2012.
Denise and David Yosso in their kitchen at Jerk'n Pickle in Belmont on Dec 18, 2012. (John Green/Staff)

"When we were growing up, that was what he liked to eat," explained Denise Yosso, 39.

The Yossos sell eight varieties of jerky, seven kinds of pickled cucumber and four other pickled vegetables online and at farmers markets and Bay Area retailers. They have one employee who handles the food preparation out of a commercial kitchen in Belmont.

The couple have discovered there are global markets for their products, and that pickles especially are subject to strongly held regional and personal preferences. People from the East Coast tend to like barrel-fermented New York deli-style pickles, the Yossos say. Midwesterners -- and Russians -- prefer them half-sour.


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"Everyone has their opinions about pickles -- it's one of the most sensitive subjects," said David Yosso. "It goes back to family recipes, and everybody's searching for that pickle they had as a kid."

As for jerky, South African customers have told the Yossos their black pepper variety is reminiscent of a specialty there known as "biltong." One patron ships the dried meat to family members in China. And a recent mention in Air Canada's in-flight magazine spurred an order by the owner of the Montreal Canadiens hockey team.

That global reach has helped get Jerk'n Pickle off the ground. The next step is turning a profit, which the Yossos hope to accomplish in 2013. Their emphasis on high-quality, natural ingredients -- they use a corn syrup-free Worcestershire-style sauce for the jerky marinade -- has gotten their products on the shelves of nearly a dozen stores, most of them upscale.

Draeger's of San Mateo has picked up the pickles. Keith Myers, director of the store, said in an email that Draeger's tries to support local food purveyors as much as possible.

"It's a darn good product!" Myers said of the pickles. "Fresh and tasty. Has that old 'snap' to it."

With their retail accounts growing, the Yossos continue to experiment with ways to cut costs and expand their reach. On a recent morning at their kitchen, they said a Woodside restaurant has taken an interest in their spicy green beans.

"These are awesome in bloody marys," said David Yosso, pulling a container out of a steel-paneled refrigerator.

"I think we might try to push these in some bars," added Denise Yosso.

Contact Aaron Kinney at 650-348-4357. Follow him at Twitter.com/kinneytimes.