Dried meat products have been around for hundreds of years, but arguably this snack offering has never been more popular, especially in the convenience store channel. C-stores account for nearly 60% of the $2.8 billion in meat snack sales across all multi-outlet venues in 2015, according to IRI.
C-store meat snack sales outpaced the industry average in dollar growth with $1.5 billion in sales for the 52 weeks ending Jan. 24, 2016, an increase of 8.3%. Comparably, growth in meat snacks sales was strongest in the grocery channel at 13.1%, and drugstores followed behind with at 3.2% growth, according to IRI. Jerky sales grew 5% in c-stores.
Protein is the primary reason consumers are eating more meat snacks. Nearly a quarter of adults say they look for protein on nutrition labels and 50% believe the best source of protein is animal protein. One ounce of beef or turkey jerky can have up to 13 grams of protein, and are generally low in fat.
Susan Viamari, vice president of thought leadership for IRI, agreed the desire for healthful snacking alternatives is part of the equation driving meat snack growth.
“Consumers are still looking to eat fewer carbs and more protein, and they find meat snacks satisfying,” Viamari said. “They also can eat on the go—fill up without slowing down.”
Like other snack categories such as salty snacks, exciting and bold flavors as well as more local flavors and options are engaging consumers in new ways.
“People are intrigued by artisanal and local products….more gourmet and niche focused,” Viamari added. Beef and turkey are no longer the only choices as bison, buffalo, elk and salmon are becoming more common and meeting consumers’ desire for unique flavor experiences.
The typical convenience store owner may not be ready to take a chance with elk or bison snacks, but is open to more exciting flavors.
Richard Speckman, owner of Mobil Marts of Los Angeles, said his convenience stores have experienced a surge in sales of spicy jerky and barbecue flavors. “Those are the primary two trends we’re noticing,” he said.
WHAT AND WHEN
NPD Group data indicated that U.S. consumption of meat snacks has increased 18% in the last five years. Beef is the most popular type consumed, but turkey jerky is growing at the fastest clip with c-store customers.
According to the survey, the most popular times to eat meat snacks are between lunch and dinner and as a late night snack.
Young adults (18-24) are more likely to graze on meat snacks throughout the day and, while men eat far more meat snacks than women, women interested in adding protein to their diets are increasing their consumption as well.
“Meat snacks are an example of not all snacks being equal in terms of meeting different consumer needs,” said Annie Roberts, vice president of NPD’s SupplyTrack. “Knowing the needs products address is important in making sure you’re getting the right products in the right places for the right people.”
Stay tuned to Convenience Store Decisions‘ March issue, where we delve into 38 in-store categories to identify emerging trends and garner retailer analysis to forecast what operators can expect for 2016 and beyond.