Once beefy, sales of meat snacks at convenience stores are being sliced away by customers’ declining interest in limited flavor and texture options.
Dried meat snacks sales in convenience stores experienced a dramatic drop in the last two years. Dried meat snack sales jumped 11.16%, according to Information Resources Inc. (IRI), total All Scan c-store dollar sales data for the 52 weeks ending Nov. 29, 2015. Jump ahead one year, and dollar sales fell to $1.52 billion, a dollar sales percentage change of nearly 10 percentage points, according to IRI sales data for the 52 weeks ending Dec. 25, 2016.
Broken out, jerky sales rose 2.19% during the same period.
Steve Magestro, president of West Bend, Wis.-based Mad Max Convenience Stores, wouldn’t likely have any beef with those figures. The beef sticks and jerky category accounts for less than 1% of total in-store sales.
“That is down from the year before, and that year was down from 2014,” he said.
Mad Max sells single packs and combo packs of sticks and jerky, and also markets combo packs of meat and cheese at its 12 c-stores. Meat snacks are sold in endcaps, inline and in counter displays. Promotions are limited to two-for-one and sale prices.
As for new items, Magestro said Mad Max intends to start carrying the new flavor group being introduced by Jack Link’s Beef Snacks.
Several factors underpin the falloff in meat snacks category sales, according to Magestro. “As we get more into foodservice at our locations, we are seeing customers buying fresh sandwiches, fresh food or buying combo meals for less than a bag of beef jerky,” he said. “Price is a major consideration for our customers.”
In addition, meat snacks have been impacted by an apparent demographic shift, he reported. “The younger people—meaning the 25 and younger crowd—don’t seem to like it as much. So you have an increase in cost and retails. With people not buying or buying less, that category is shrinking and we are adjusting our locations to that.”
But don’t count meat snacks out, said David Bishop, managing partner of the sales and marketing practice Balvor Inc. in Barrington, Ill.
“It’s still a product that aligns well with increasing snacking occasions, and need for portability as people snack on the go. In addition, it has a health and wellness aspect in that it provides something consumers are increasingly seeking: protein,” Bishop said.
To meet that demand, growing brands such as KRAVE are adding to in-store sales offerings such as turkey jerky and pork jerky, and featuring such flavorful combinations like Basil Citrus, Black Cherry Barbecue and Chili Lime.
“When consumers come in and purchase that meat snack, often times that snack is a meal replacement. The person might be on a high-protein diet, or want to get needed nutrients without having a complete meal.”
What’s next? That depends on what meat snack manufacturers see as the next trend, whether it’s reduced sodium, new and organic flavors or other, Bishop said.
“Nuts, seeds and meat snacks tend to be adjacent and occupy similar space because they’re pegboard items,” Bishop added. “So what’s coming next in nuts and seeds will determine how much space meat snacks get.” <