Snacks no longer serve just to satisfy a sweet or salty craving. Today’s consumers also want a meal substitute that keeps appetites satiated for a few hours. “They want high-protein snacks that are portable,” said Jared Koerten, senior analyst for Euromonitor International Inc.
It’s this attitude that has made meat snacks one of the fastest-growing food categories. Nielsen reported that meat snacks represented more than 18% of salty items purchased at convenience stores for a one-year period ending mid-October. What’s more, c-stores rank as the No. 1 retailer of meat snacks, accounting for 72% of all jerky purchases, according to market research firm IBISWorld.
“That is where meat snacks really thrive,” Koerten said.
The meat snacks industry is estimated to be worth $2.5 billion in the U.S., and those figures are expected to climb over the next several years as more companies enter the marketplace. Chocolate-giant Hershey is the latest newcomer. It made headlines earlier this year with the acquisition of Krave for a reported $300 million.
Krave is known for artisanal flavors, such as Basil Citrus Turkey Jerky and Five Peppercorn Beef Jerky. “With Hershey buying a relatively niche product that’s perceived to be unprocessed and relatively natural, are they planning on moving it into the mainstream channel and making it more available?” Koerten said. “Hershey did that already with Brookside candies and it just took off. I think they’re hoping for similar success with Krave.”
In addition to new names, analysts expect even more product innovations. Beef remains the top-seller—79% of all jerky—but a variety of meats are making the grade.
“You see non-beef products coming out that will complement beef products. We carry wild boar, elk and buffalo sticks,” said Jon Fleck, merchandising manager for Cenex Zip Trip, a CHS-owned retail business with at least 70 locations from the Pacific Northwest to western Minnesota.
“We’ve got them in about one-third of our stores right now. We’re testing them to see how well they do,” Fleck said. “People are also buying turkey jerky. They think they’re eating healthy because they’re not eating chips or cookies and candy.”
Additionally, manufacturers are spicing up flavor profiles. For example, category leader Jack Link’s offers Kung Pao, Chili Lime and Sriracha.
“Flavors are hitting on the trends that are [gaining popularity] in the broader snacking industry,” said Euromonitor’s Koerten. “For example, the Hispanic cuisine flavor is so popular.”