A year into the pandemic, consumer cravings for meat snacks have kept the snack category’s sales on an upward trajectory. At the same time, the overall salty snack segment has seen little movement, while sweet snacks have struggled for sales.
Meat snack sales increased 12.6% in the 52-week period ending Feb. 27, 2021, according to Nielsen Total U.S. Convenience data. Jerky sales alone climbed 17.5%.
At GetGo, which has 269 locations across Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia and Maryland, meat snack dollars sales have grown by double digits. Megan Chmura, GetGo director of center store, said sales probably could’ve been even higher if it hadn’t been for availability issues and production concerns related to the pandemic.
“We have seen customers trading up to larger packages — 10-plus ounces — in the past year, with the larger ring helping to boost sales dollars,” she said. “But with questionable availability continuing throughout the spring and summer, I’m fearful of being able to meet our guests’ needs during our peak sales season.”
Nouria Energy Corp., with 163 total locations in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, New Hampshire and Connecticut, has also seen significant growth in the meat snack category, up 21% in revenues in 2020 and 21% in 2021 Q1 over last year, according to Badih El-Nemr, the chain’s category manager. With inventory challenges in lower-priced meat sticks this past year, Nouria’s customers have been trading up to premium jerky snacks in the grab-and-go bags.
Joseph Bortner, center store category manager for Rutter’s, which has 79 stores in Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia, described meat snack sales so far in 2021 as “exploding.”
“We’ve been able to leverage some regional brands to help drive the category where other brands have experienced issues keeping up with demand,” he said.
In the salty snack category, Nielsen revealed that potato chips and pork rinds have taken the biggest hits, declining 4.9% and 12.5% respectively. The rest of the category has remained relatively flat.
While Chmura agreed that salty snack sales have been flat, the pandemic saw a shift in product mix in the potato chip category, with increases in larger take-home bags. The stores moved single-serve packages to high-impulse areas. However, she pointed out, none of this was enough to offset the loss in sales of single-serve bags that she attributes to the decline in foot traffic and foodservice transactions around the lunch hour.
So far this year, revenues in salty snacks at Nouria are trending up. El-Nemr explained that the increase is driven by new everyday low-price promotions on well-known brands.
“This program has generated positive growth for us” El-Nemr said. “Although we’re selling a little less in units, we’re making more revenue per product sold because of the upsell to bigger pack sizes and premium brands.”
Last year, Rutter’s experienced a shift in the salty snack category from instant consumables to larger, take-home packaging, Bortner said.
“So far this year, the increase in take-home packaging sales has been sustained, while instant consumable bags have bounced back in full force,” he said.
Sweet snacks are down 1.9% over the 52 weeks ending Feb. 27, 2021, with snack cake dollar sales decreasing 2.1% and granola bars falling 20.2%, per Nielsen data.
But at GetGo, sweet packaged snack sales are on the rise, despite the downturn in dispensed coffee sales caused by the pandemic, Chmura said.
“We’ve seen people eat their stress within the past year, with strong growth in sweet packaged snacks,” she said.
Bortner reported that Rutter’s has also seen “a steady growth” in sweet snacks and foresees “the biggest summer ever” for the overall snack category.