At Clark’s Pump-N-Shop the meat snack category has been performing so well that Mark McCarty, director of category management, doubled most meat snack sections this year from four feet to eight feet in the chain’s 67 stores in Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia and Florida.
Numbers from market research firm IRI concur that meat snacks sales are booming. For the 52 weeks ending Oct. 6, U.S. dried meat snacks sales are up 6.8% overall. Interestingly, though, jerky sales only rose 3.8%. The category’s remaining products jumped an impressive 10%. Translation: Consumers are looking for — and are willing to purchase — a variety of meat snacks.
“We stock jerky, meat sticks, etc.,” McCarty said. “But I’m just now ordering in some of the meat bars to try them.”
Bars are the next big thing: handheld, smaller portions and big on protein. On the manufacturing side, the trend is for meat snack makers pushing to expand the market through new products that appeal to millennials, non-meat-eaters, athletes, moms and their kids. And they may be on to something.
There’s a confluence of demographics at play that will likely lift the category’s growth. According to the “Healthy Snacks Market Size, Share, Industry Growth Report, 2019-2025” by Grand View Research, a demand for high vitamins and proteins with low calories; increasing need for on-the-go snacks; and hectic consumer lifestyles will drive growth in healthy snack consumption at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 5.2% through 2025.
Last year, the global healthy snack market reached $23.05 billion. Meat snacks accounted for 27% of that revenue, the Grand View Research report said.
Expanding the Market
“Based on where our stores are located, I feel that our core customer is still male,” McCarty said. “But I am looking to add a couple of new items, and test them, that should appeal to the female consumer.”
The NPD Group’s Executive Director and Food Trends Expert Darren Seifer agreed that the segment skews male but said meat snacks offer something for that female consumer as well.
“So, yes, it is a little bit more male,” said Seifer, “but women are seeking the properties that exist within these (products), so perhaps that’s an opportunity.”
For the health-related reasons above, athletic women are prime candidates for the protein and energy that meat snacks offer. They’re also more apt to gravitate toward snacking indulgence. And that could really drive market growth.
“I know there’s been a lot of spicier and savory flavors,” said Seifer, “but there’s an opportunity to innovate in a way that’s maybe not exactly savory, but also gives the consumer a sense that they are treating or rewarding themselves. The convergence of those two motivations are going to become even bigger over the next few years.”
Don’t forget the moms looking for the healthy side of what their children eat. Busy moms (and often dads) want to grab items and quickly drop them into kids’ lunches or backpacks. To fit that bill, there’s been an upswing in small, individually wrapped, lunchbox-friendly meat and sausage sticks, as well as flat cheese-and-meat combinations.
While seeing cheese sticks and meat sticks wrapped together is nothing new, packaging them in smaller portions and different forms appeals to the family demographic.
Avoid a Bum Steer
Like so many other c-stores, Clark’s Pump-N-Shop is careful not to jump on bandwagons. When it comes to new forms and flavors, McCarty prefers to look before he leaps. Clark’s tests new meat snack items to see how they perform. The chain has tried some unusual flavors in the past, McCarty said, but they didn’t perform as hoped. Still, he’s open to trying again.
“We’re testing a regional brand out of Louisville that has some different taste profiles,” he said, “but it’s too early into the test to make a determination on whether or not to roll out companywide.”
Retailers will still need to walk a line between tried-and-true meat snack movers and innovative items that lure new consumers into the fold. Find the right balance, and you’ll keep them biting.