Consumers were stocking up on a variety of goods during the pandemic, and meat snacks were no exception. Bigger bags, flavor options and local products all contributed to strong sales growth and optimism for the coming year.
According to market analyst Nielsen total U.S. convenience data, meat snacks dollar sales cooked along at a 10.8% growth rate for the 52 week period ending Dec. 26, 2020, strongly outpacing its 2019 growth of 4.4%.
Meanwhile, IRI liquid data found that for calendar year 2020, ending Dec. 27, 2020, dried meat snacks sales at convenience stores grew at a savory 5.3%, while unit sales remained virtually flat. Jerky dollar sales in c-stores performed consistently, rising 5.0%, despite unit sales dipping 3.3%.
As with many other categories, consumers in pandemic lockdown tended to stock up. Retailers may be wise to carry the larger bags and offer more options.
“Our shoppers are trading up to higher-value, bigger bags, 10 ounces and above,” said Devon Nitta, category manager for Holiday Oil, based in West Valley, Utah, which operates 63 stores in the state. “We sell jerky that’s 16-ounce bags for retail — it’s like $24.99 — and people are buying it.”
The big gainers nationally for the category last year, according to Nielsen, were meat and cheese combo (18%) and jerky (14.2%), which more than doubled their growth rates from 2019, and sticks (12%).
“Larger bags continue to drive this category — and spicy hot flavors,” said Jodi Leibowitz, center store category manager for Santa Clara, Calif.-based Robinson Oil’s Rotten Robbie chain, operating a mix of 34 c-stores and kiosks throughout Northern California.
Meat snacks haven’t been immune to the pandemic-induced supply problems that have plagued many products across the entire economy. But there are solutions.
“Supply chain has been tough,” Leibowitz noted, “but I work closely with our reps and distributor to bring in new items, different flavors, constantly looking for refreshes.” She also shops her area’s smaller grocery stores to find local vendors to fill open shelf space.
Holiday’s Nitta echoed that advice. He said that while the big-name makers always perform, the home-team products sell, too. “Massive dollar rings out the door,” he noted. “We sold $30,000 in the last three months off two SKUs.”
As 2021 unfolds with hopes of COVID-19 eventually fading, many pandemic-related challenges will remain. Still, Nitta said that the category is looking up for Holiday, with the chain’s meat snacks dollar sales climbing 15% over the past four months.
To say that Nitta is highly optimistic about the coming year may be an understatement.
“I think it’s going to be amazing!” he said.