The Snack Pack

By Lynn Petrak
Special Projects Editor
As low-carb dieters eschew chips and crackers, meat snacks fill the void.
Americans love their munchies. And as more consumers follow high-protein eating plans, meat snacks are gaining a different fan base.
“The good news is that we have a lot of new people coming in,” reports Mick Tyler, vice president of marketing for Kent, WA-based Oberto Sausage Co. “Historically, users have been men, while the users are now skewing more female. It bodes well for the entire category, which seems positioned for a sustained run of growth.”
Cathy Sturm, marketing manager for Jack Link’s Snack Foods, Minong, WI, has seen a similar shift. “With the increased interest in low-carb diets and healthy-snack options, we are finding more women drawn to meat snacks. As women begin exploring the category, many are surprised to discover the vast variety of flavors and product types and the high quality of the products that are available,” she says. “In turn, more moms are offering beef jerky to their children as an alternative to traditional snack foods that tend to be high in fat and carbohydrates.”
Recent market research on meat snacks underscores the notion of a dynamic category. Information Resources Inc. (IRI), Chicago IL, indicates sales of dried meat snacks are now just below $300 million, up 18.2 percent from last year. Category leaders include the Oh Boy! brand from Oberto, which enjoyed a 26.1 increase in sales to hit the $68.9 million mark, and the Jack Link’s brand, which rose 20.1 percent for $49.4 million in sales.
Notable trends
Within the category, there are a few notable trends. Striking while the proverbial iron is hot, for example, meat-snack manufacturers are promoting the low-carb profile of their products. Jack Link’s recently added a low-carb statement to the front of its packages, while Oberto rolled out a new line of Oberto Edge™ meat snacks in original and cheese flavors in May, with one gram of net carbohydrates and 10 grams of protein.
Flavor is another area of activity for new product development. Earlier this year, Jack Link’s introduced two new co-branded flavored meat snacks: Jack Link’s K.C. Masterpiece Barbecue Beef Jerky and Jack Link’s Kikkoman Beef Steak Nuggets, flavored with soy sauce. Oberto has pursued more intense flavors as well, recently adding steakhouse seasoned jerky and a Flamin’ Hot meat stick to its lineup.
Size and shape also matters in this segment.
“Consumers, especially for new users coming in the category, keep telling us they want something that is easy to eat. They want something bite-sized or more tender,” notes Tyler, who reports strong interest in Oberto Jerky Bites products. Other examples of format changes include new smoked tender beef nuggets from Knauss Snack Foods LLC, Quaker-town, PA, and individually wrapped Mighty Mini Ostrim Sports Nutrition Meat Snacks from Greensburg, PA-based Protos Foods.